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In the Case of Egan vs. Elliott: A Reply to Larry Weiss et al.

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0064  Thursday, 14 February 2013

 

From:        Michael Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 13, 2013 7:28:49 PM EST

Subject:     Richard II Part One Reply to Weiss et al 

 

Here is my reply to Larry Weiss et al. in the matter of the so-called wager between Ward Elliott and myself: icon In the Case of Egan vs Elliott

 

Michael Egan

 

[Editor’s Note:  

 

New members to SHAKSPER might not understand the debate referenced here, so let me take a moment to explain. (Also see Larry Weiss posting of August 30, 2011: http://shaksper.net/archive/2011/304-august/28082-thomas-of-woodstock)

 

This is from Weiss’s posting: 

 

In 2005, SHAKSPER hosted a debate between Prof. Michael Egan, who asserted that the untitled and otherwise unattributed Renaissance play most commonly known as “Thomas of Woodstock,” which Egan calls “Richard II, Part 1,” was written by William Shakespeare, and Prof. Ward Elliott, who contended that stylometric evidence conclusively ruled out Shakespeare as the author of that play.  Elliott and his colleague, Robert J. Valenza, had offered £1,000 to anyone who could show that any previously untested non-Shakespeare play was stylistically as similar to twenty-nine “core” canonical plays as those plays are to each other. Egan purported to accept that wager on the SHAKSPER site . . . .  As a result of private discussions between Egan and Elliott in 2010, they ultimately agreed to a formal proceeding in which the issue was presented to a panel consisting of myself, as “Convener,” and two other SHAKSPERIANS, Dale Johnson and Will Sharpe . . . .  The submission agreement provided that Egan would pay Elliott and Valenza £1000 if he failed to present “clear, convincing, and irrefutable evidence that the anonymous Elizabethan play known variously as Richard II, Part One, Woodstock and/or Thomas of Woodstock is by Shakespeare,” a very high burden of proof.  The parties agreed that the decision of the panel would be announced on SHAKSPER.

 

The panel were presented with extensive submissions by both sides, including Egan’s four book treatise which attempts to establish his theory.  After reviewing these materials and consulting with each other, we reached a unanimous decision, reflected by a 44-page opinion . . . (Opinion here: icon Egan V Elliott ).” 

 

Michael Egan objected to the report, and I said that I would post his response when he got it ready. Discussion insured again on SHAKSPER through September, October, and the middle of November when I called an end, promising to publish Michael Egan’s “detailed response” to the Weiss et al. brief when I received it.

 

Egan’s response can be downloaded at the link above. The response if 40 pages long with the Notes. As with Weiss’s piece, it is simply too long to be included in a posting. However, I reproduce the introductory paragraphs below.

 

Hardy M. Cook, Ph.D.  

Professor Emeritus 

Bowie State University 

Editor of SHAKSPER: The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference

shaksper.net   

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ]

 

In the Case of Egan vs. Elliott: A Reply to Larry Weiss et al.

 

This matter began as a public challenge issued some years ago by Prof. Ward Elliott, a stylometrician at Claremont McKenna College, CA. Elliott boasted that no one could show that his conclusions about authorial attribution in the matter of Shakespeare’s plays were incorrect. His stylometric methods were infallible and he would pay $1,000 (later £1,000 sterling) to anyone who could prove otherwise. I had just completed my four-volume study, The Tragedy of Richard II, Part One: A Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare, with an Introduction and Variorum Notes (2006), and felt that I could successfully respond, anticipating a spirited debate about an appealing question. The money was of no interest to me—I viewed that simply as decoration. I knew of course that 1 Richard II /Woodstock had already been rejected as Shakespeare’s by Elliott and his colleague, Robert J. Valenza, but after a sporadic exchange of emails Elliott and I agreed to set up a three-person panel of scholars to review our competing claims.

 

Larry Weiss, a former civil litigator, got involved as volunteer convener and began looking for appropriate panelists. Their collective task, as I understood it, was to decide whether Elliott/Valenza or I made the best case for the authorship of the anonymous, untitled and incomplete BL manuscript. If I was right, my case for Shakespeare as the play’s author would gain credibility while stylometry, the measurement of style by numbers, would be shown to be inaccurate in at least one instance. So even without the money the wager, as it came to be called, had worthwhile implications.

 

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