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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: June ::
Hamlet's Feminine Endings

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0239  Friday, 12 June 2010

[1]  From:      Martin Mueller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      June 10, 2010 9:01:19 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0234  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

[2]  From:      Marina Tarlinskaya < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      June 11, 2010 12:52:23 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0234  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Martin Mueller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         June 10, 2010 9:01:19 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0234  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0234  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

William Sutton makes some interesting observations about feminine endings in various sonnets, but this really is a topic that calls for statistical analysis. There is some proportion of stressed and unstressed endings in Shakespeare (or any author). It may or may not vary. It may differ from other authors: some scholars have drawn plausible inference about the authorship of disputed passages on the basis of such ratios. 

But before you draw any conclusions about the thematic significance of distributional variance, you need to establish whether there is enough distributional variance that needs any other explanation than randomness. The late Stephen Jay Gould was good on this topic when he discussed the alleged hot streaks of three-pointers in basketball or comparable phenomena in other sports. 

There are other considerations. Some unstressed endings are given by the nature of the language, e.g. -ing forms, as Sutton observes. If you play with these, a weak ending is a necessary byproduct and may or may not have any meaning. 

Any argument about the thematic significance of a particular prosodic phenomenon with so loaded a name as 'feminine' or 'masculine' should survive a statistical test at a pretty significant level before anybody wants to make thematic hay with it. 

MM

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Marina Tarlinskaya < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         June 11, 2010 12:52:23 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0234  Hamlet's Feminine Endings
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0234  Hamlet's Feminine Endings

I cannot believe it that now, in the 21st century, anyone can seriously link feminine endings with femininity. There is no immediate link between the two. In general the relationship between verse form and meaning is not that straightforward. Please read some literature on the subject (my "Shakespeare's Verse," my articles on "meter and meaning" and "rhythm and meaning" years ago in the journal "Style." Also, in co-authorship with Naira Oganesova in the "American Journal of Semiotics." A huge literature on the subject exists in Russian (M.L. Gasparov, for example; earlier articles by Kiril Taranovsky, and even earlier works by Roman Jakobson).

Marina Tarlinskaja

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