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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: August ::
Two Sets of Controversies

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0383  Monday, 5 August 2013

 

[1] From:        Jed Serrano < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         August 3, 2013 2:24:57 PM EDT

     Subject:     RE: Two Sets of Controversies 

 

[2] From:        Joseph Egert < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         August 3, 2013 3:45:49 PM EDT

     Subject:     Stylometrics/Controversies 

 

[3] From:        Ward Elliott < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         August 4, 2013 6:56:27 PM EDT

     Subject:     RE: Stylometrics/Controversies 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         August 3, 2013 2:24:57 PM EDT

Subject:     RE: Two Sets of Controversies

 

New members seeking context: for curious parallels to the Elliot et al. attribution wager and background to a past but major attribution debate, in addition to the essay in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, see Brian Vickers’s Counterfeiting Shakespeare, particularly its epilogue, The politics of attribution, soberly written, simply said, painstakingly overstated, detailing the hot debate and even the hot humours around Donald Foster’s attribution and his use of media, including SHAKSPER, to coax credibility by way of rhetoric instead of disinterested scholarship.

 

Jed  

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         August 3, 2013 3:45:49 PM EDT

Subject:     Stylometrics/Controversies

 

Ward Elliott writes:

 

>The other week he [Joe Egert] deplored “the circularity that lies 

>at the heart of early modern stylometric methodology,” and which

>certainly lay at the heart of our original bet. He thought our 

>still-open thousand-pound bet offer was too niggardly, shouldn’t 

>really count as a “victory” for us. He urged us to raise it to eighteen

>thousand and make it more enforceable, so, if he takes the bet, he 

>won’t get stiffed. That may be worth some thought. In the old days 

>it took us just a few seconds of reflection to raise it from $25 to 

>$1,000, and two years to raise it again from $1,000 to £1,000. 

>Does it need more?

 

I don’t deplore stylometric circularity; I merely acknowledge it. One may argue philosophically that all evidence is circular and that all ‘facts’ or at least recognitions of them are opinion-based and cannot be otherwise. In practical terms, I find stylometry, when firmly grounded, a most powerful instrument for assessing authorship. I wonder, though, whether any non-stylometric disconfirmatory evidence could by now trump in his own mind clearly confirmatory stylometric evidence. Also, I asked Dr Elliott to up the ante to 36,000 pounds, not 18,000. Portia elsewhere upped it as far as 60,000 (ducats), though even here the hazard may not be all he hath, as demanded by her ‘holy father’. Again I ask: To deserve the victory he so desires to gain, should he not hazard far more? Rest assured, Ward, I’ll not demand an extra pound as forfeit penalty!

 

Dr Elliott later claims, “the gatekeepers’ actions, if not their words, said clearly they didn’t believe in it enough themselves to risk money or time on it.” Ward Elliott cannot have it both ways: he assesses faith by what others are willing to risk, yet exempts himself from that same test. Why not, at a minimum, match any estimated transaction costs with his own bet?

 

Nor does Dr Elliott address who will judge the outcome of his merry bet. Would he agree to yet another mutually acceptable ‘blue ribbon panel’ of three judges with authority to release locked escrow funds to whomever they crown as victor? Any split decision would render the bet null, so both parties would immediately receive back their principal from escrow.

 

Then again, Ward Elliott may not be willing to (1) raise his bet to 36,000 pounds for all comers and (2) agree generally to the decision rules I’ve briefly outlined. Would he then accede to such conditions publicly in my case alone and rest contented?

 

(By the way, Ward, do you believe “A Lover’s Complaint” was authored by Shakespeare? Where do you stand now?)

 

Best,

Joe Egert

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         August 4, 2013 6:56:27 PM EDT

Subject:     RE: Stylometrics/Controversies

 

Dear Joe,

 

I don’t believe our evidence is circular. I do believe it’s testable. I have bet £1,000 on it, and, in ten years, no one, including you, has ever taken me up. Its purpose is to cut transaction costs, not to make money, but I am good for the £1,000. And you don’t even have to be good for £1,000 to win. All you have to do, without risking a dime, is simply pretest scores of untested plays till you find one that fits our Shakespeare profile. Seems pretty generous to me. The same could be said of a hypothetical flat-earth bet, that you can’t find us anybody who has actually fallen off the edge. All you would have to do to qualify is find one convincing example, and then make the bet risk-free. True, most people would consider that too much of a wild goose chase to make the effort. If I’m right in supposing the earth is not flat, and our evidence non-circular, risk-free is not cost-free. If you’re right that all our evidence is circular, the cost should be very low, just enough more flips of the coin to come up heads just once. As always, you are welcome to prove me wrong, and your circular theory right, by capturing the wild goose and bringing it to the table.

 

That seems to me a clear, testable, horse-race kind of bet with very generous terms. Would raising the stakes to £60,000, or a billion pounds make it any clearer? No. Egan wanted a beauty contest, got it, and lost; you seem to want more of a poker game—or is it an auction, or perhaps yet another beauty contest?—where outbidding, or outbluffing the other guy can more easily change the outcome. What it would not tell us, any better than our already-generous bet, is whether our evidence is circular in fact, or the earth flat. All it would say is that one party is looking for a bidding war, with stakes high enough to produce some extra hassle, but the other party is not. If you’re not willing to take us on for £1,000, why should we take you on for £60,000? I don’t see how the higher stakes would make the earth an inch flatter, nor our evidence a particle less circular, than they are now. Let’s stick with the horse-race and the £1,000, which is affordable, non-trivial, and, I still hope, understandable. 

 

As for A Lover’s Complaint, unlike Woodstock, it’s not in a different statistical galaxy from Shakespeare’s unquestioned poems, but it still has too much Shakespeare discrepancy, maybe a thousand times too much, to make it seem to us a likely Shakespeare ascription.

 

Yours,

Ward

 
 

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