MV Dialog

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.378  Wednesday, 26 August 2015


From:        Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 25, 2015 at 9:36:15 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: MV Dialog


Pervez Rivzi doesn’t appear to understand the issues involved here at all, from the fact that “man” appearing twice in the same line was simply an example, chosen because it’s easy to find with WordCruncher, to the fact that the issue is whether or not that if Shakespeare thought of the word “man”, it could cause him to think “Mantua” instead of “Padua”. This would occur because of “man’ in  both but also because “Mantua” sounds like “Padua”.


I don’t know where Pervez is getting his claim that the results I obtained for “man” in the same line were not “statistically significant”. The Chebyshev inequality is easy to calculate for the results in question. The probability that the number of occurrences of “man” is greater than say, 37, is the standard deviation squared divided by 37 squared, or 0.021, assuming the standard deviation is 5.4. So the fact that the actual value is 38 appears significant to me. The counts in Shakespeare were done using WordCruncher and searching the folio plays only, since it is easy in WordCruncher to limit the search to only certain plays.


Pervez wrote:

I just did a search of the Folio text [see note 1 below], looking at words that occur between 1500 and 3000 times, and for which the actual number of lines with two or more occurrences is more than 3 standard deviations away from the expected (using the same method to work out the probability that you used). I found 15 such words. For example, ‘come’, ‘their’ and ‘loue’ (i.e. love) which occur twice on a line far more often than we’d expect by using your technique. Or, if I look at all words that occur more than 1500 times and require only 2 standard deviations, the number of hits rises to 56. For how many words are you going to claim that Shakespeare had some ‘association’ in his mind?


Quite a few, in fact, probably most of them, since the occurrences of those word associations are a marker of his style, and if you consider different writers you will find different associations, both in the numbers of words and the words themselves. The same goes for the negative associations you mentioned. It should be pointed out that the probabilities for “man” before “Mantua” don’t take into account the probability that some other word could be used in its place (synonyms and near-synonyms like “wight”, “one” etc), and taking that fact into account drives the probability of “man” occurring in the same line even lower, and the significance of 38 becomes greater.


I should emphasize again that the example of “man” in the same line is an example. What really should be counted should be the occurrence of the syllable “man” in the vicinity of “Mantua” (“vicinity” being perhaps up to 4 lines away), since it is the sound of the syllable that triggers the recollection of the next word. That’s not so easy to do, which is why I used the “man” twice in the same line example.


All in all, I see no reason to change my mind concerning whether or not “man” could cause Shakespeare to think of “Mantua” instead of “Padua”. I still say it’s obvious it could have; someone will have to work hard to demonstrate that it couldn’t have.



Jim Carroll


Review: Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Hamlet’

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.377  Wednesday, 26 August 2015


From:        Hardy Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        August 26, 2015 at 12:23:08 PM EDT

Subject:    Review: Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Hamlet’


Review: Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Hamlet’

By Ben Brantley

Aug. 25, 2015


London — He is, he complains sulkily, “too much in the sun.” That is correct on so many levels.


When the title character of “Hamlet” offers this self-diagnosis early in the highly pictorial production that opened on Tuesday night at the Barbican here, the image matches the word. For the Prince of Denmark is at that moment standing at the exact center of a lavishly appointed banquet table. And while it is presumably nighttime, the sun’s rays seem to have followed him there, and haloed him.


It’s not just that he’s the only one wearing black, or scowling, that sets this guy apart. He is cocooned in his own special (and literal) radiance, the celestial equivalent of a spotlight devised by the lighting designer Jane Cox. He looks, for all the world, like a saint in an old-master painting, embracing both martyrdom and apotheosis.


Well, what better way to frame an actor whose appearance in Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy has turned the Barbican into an international shrine? That actor, of course, is Benedict Cumberbatch, star of stage, screen and “Sherlock,” and the object of a vast, worshipful cult whose raison d’être I have never quite fathomed. (I think you might have to be female to fully understand.)


Before I go any further, let me say that Mr. Cumberbatch is good enough as Hamlet to make me wish he were even better. But about that blinding glare that has fallen upon him and this production, which has been staged with stately pomp and madcap flourish by the director Lyndsey Turner (“Machinal” on Broadway) and the set designer Es Devlin.


[ . . . ]


It began to seem as if stupefying fame surely qualified as one of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and that this Hamlet would wrestle as much with the shadow of his portrayer’s celebrity as with the usual issues of vacillation, procrastination and suicidal tendencies.


It thus pleases me to report that at the (officially sanctioned) critic’s preview I attended, everyone behaved impeccably. There was never any hint of Dionysian communion between idol and idolators. There wasn’t even entrance applause for Mr. Cumberbatch, whose Hamlet (in this rejiggered version) is seen onstage alone (listening to Nat King Cole singing “Nature Boy”) in the show’s opening moment. What’s more, the audience sat, silent and respectful, until the final curtain, a brisk three hours later. Nobody ever seemed restless.

Nor should they have. Full of scenic spectacle and conceptual tweaks and quirks, this “Hamlet” is never boring. It is also never emotionally moving — except on those occasions when Mr. Cumberbatch’s Hamlet is alone with his thoughts, trying to make sense of a loud, importunate world that demands so much of him.


Eschewing the chic black-on-black minimalism of London’s last celebrity heartthrob “Hamlet” (starring Jude Law, directed by Michael Grandage), Ms. Turner’s version is an extravagantly royal affair. Ms. Devlin has created a grand, cavernous stateroom in a Danish palace that has seen better days but still looks intimidating. (Katrina Lindsay’s costumes mix timeless ceremonial uniforms with 21st-century sportswear.)


The photo-realist detail of the set might lead you to expect a purely naturalistic production. But wait. This kingdom comes equipped with king-size symbols. So when Hamlet decides to feign madness (to lay a trap for his wicked uncle, Claudius, played by Ciaran Hinds), he dresses up like one of those giant toy soldiers he keeps in what appears to be his childhood playroom, along with what looks a big bouncy castle.


When Claudius sends Hamlet to his death (or so he thinks) in England at the end of the first half, his announcement of these evil plans is accompanied by a tempest of flying detritus. When the audience returns after intermission, the stage is covered in ash and rubble, as if Denmark had been bombed by its enemy, Norway.


All of this looks pretty fabulous, but it doesn’t always correspond to what’s happening. And some of the interpolations are seriously irritating.


[ . . . ]


The supporting cast — I use the term advisedly — scarcely registers throughout except as mobile scenery, though Mr. Hinds’s soft-talking, “Godfather”-like Claudius is at least a defined character. The women in Hamlet’s life — Ophelia and his mother, Gertrude (Anastasia Hille) — are such whispery, self-effacing presences you expect them to evaporate.


Though embodied by the fine actor Jim Norton, Polonius has had his garrulous part so shrunken that it’s hard to credit him as the pompous windbag of others’ descriptions. Leo Bill’s bespectacled, backpack-toting, plaid-shirted Horatio is a geeky sight gag. And it’s never a good sign when those immortal nonentities Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Matthew Steer and Rudi Dharmalingam) emerge as the most colorful of the secondary characters.


[ . . . ]




‘The Media Players Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News’

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.376  Wednesday, 26 August 2015


From:       University of Michigan Press <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        August 26, 2015 at 11:10:44 AM EDT

Subject:    ‘The Media Players Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News’


The Media Players: Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News

Stephen Wittek


News culture in England grew—not coincidentally—as a spectacular era of theatrical production and innovation reigned


- See more at:




The Media Players: Shakespeare, Middleton, Jonson, and the Idea of News builds a case for the central, formative function of Shakespeare’s theater in the news culture of early modern England. In an analysis that combines historical research with recent developments in public sphere theory, Dr. Stephen Wittek argues that the unique discursive space created by commercial theater helped to foster the conceptual framework that made news possible.


Dr. Wittek’s analysis focuses on the years between 1590 and 1630, an era of extraordinary advances in English news culture that begins with the first instance of serialized news in England and ends with the emergence of news as a regular, permanent fixture of the marketplace. Notably, this period of expansion in news culture coincided with a correspondingly extraordinary era of theatrical production and innovation, an era that marks the beginning of commercial theater in London, and has left us with the plays of William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Middleton.


“Stephen Wittek’s The Media Players offers a fine and thought-provoking account of how early modern theater contributed to a proto-public sphere, within which a discernibly modern conception of ‘news’ took shape. His acute readings of The Winter’s TaleA Game at Chess, and The Staple of News convincingly substantiate the argument.”


—Richard Dutton, The Ohio State University


“In The Media Players, Stephen Wittek shows us how present theater was in early modern life, how thoroughly integrated it was in an emerging and burgeoning ‘news’ culture, and how theater, news, and other media combined in the production of an early modern public sphere. Whether he is discussing Habermas or A Staple of NewsThe Winter’s Tale, or the Hispanic crisis that prompted Middleton’s A Game at Chess, Wittek writes with a lucidity and a fluency—in the period and its various media—that are admirable.”


—Steven Mullaney, University of Michigan


Stephen Wittek is a post-doctoral fellow at McGill University, where he received his PhD in Literature.


See more at:





Nancy Pollard Brown, d. August 18 in Oxford

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.375  Wednesday, 26 August 2015


From:        Marianne L. Novy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 26, 2015 at 10:28:33 AM EDT

Subject:    Nancy Pollard Brown, d. August 18 in Oxford


Nancy Pollard Brown taught many students Shakespeare and other courses  at Trinity College in Washington DC from the late 1950s (I believe) to the late 1980s. She won a national teaching award from the Danforth Association, and went out of her way to help me and many other students, who remember her fondly for that as well as her brilliance and dynamism in the classroom.  She ran Trinity’s Oxford program for a while (as her nephew writes below). While at Trinity she did much research at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and had strong connections there. In an example of ecumenical spirit, though she was Anglican her research was mostly on Catholic writers in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, such as Robert Southwell.


There will be a memorial for her in Oxford in St. Barnabas Church the week of August 31. For information contact her nephew and next of kin, Bob Grose, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. +44 (0)1548 821018


Perhaps the Folger will have one as well? Perhaps combined with the college? 


Thank you!


All best wishes,

Marianne Novy (Trinity class of 1965)

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Professor of English, University of Pittsburgh





World Shakespeare Bibliography PhD Fellowship

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.374  Tuesday, 25 August 2015


From:        Laura Estill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         August 24, 2015 at 4:44:20 PM EDT

Subject:    World Shakespeare Bibliography PhD Fellowship


The World Shakespeare Bibliography Online is pleased to announce a PhD fellowship (also posted here:


World Shakespeare Bibliography Online PhD Student Fellowship

The World Shakespeare Bibliography is seeking doctoral fellows interested in early modern literature and/or digital humanities. 


The selected fellow will be an incoming PhD student in English at Texas A&M University. The World Shakespeare Bibliography PhD fellow will serve as a graduate research assistant in the English Department at Texas A&M, which pays a monthly stipend and includes health insurance. The University pays tuition for students holding fellowships and assistantships.


The World Shakespeare Bibliography PhD fellow will work for the World Shakespeare Bibliography for one year. The fellowship is for nine months, with a strong likelihood of summer support. After the first year, students will be shifted to a graduate teaching assistantship in the English Department, at the same funding level. Students are also eligible for many additional funding opportunities, through the English Department, the College of Liberal Arts, the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies, Cushing Memorial Library and Archives and the Melbern C. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research). Graduate assistantships are renewable for a total of five years, contingent on good progress toward the degree.


The successful applicant will have the opportunity to learn about the cutting edge of Shakespeare scholarship and will gain work experience in a longstanding global digital humanities project. Fellows will have the opportunity to work in a vibrant department with strengths in early modern studies and digital humanities. World Shakespeare Bibliography fellows will be encouraged to take advantage of the rare book collection at the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives and opportunities available through the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture. The World Shakespeare Bibliography PhD fellow will be eligible to apply for funded conference travel, a student exchange to Aberystwyth, Wales, and further training programs such as the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Texas A&M is a member of the Folger Institute Consortium, and our students and staff regularly participate in Folger Shakespeare Library events.


Ideal applicants will be strong academic candidates with interest in early modern studies and/or digital humanities. Basic computer skills required: specific training will be given upon arrival. The strongest candidates will be self-motivated, detail-oriented students looking forward to gaining new research skills. Second languages are helpful but not required.


To apply, please complete the application for Texas A&M’s PhD in English (information here). In your statement of purpose, please include a sentence that indicates your interest in applying for the World Shakespeare Bibliography PhD fellowship. Please append a 150-word paragraph detailing why you would be a good candidate for the fellowship and why it appeals to you. Applications are due 15 December 2016 for fall 2016 admission and start of fellowship.


If you have questions about graduate study in English at Texas A&M University, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you have questions about the World Shakespeare Bibliography, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Please share with all who might be interested.   




Dr. Laura Estill

Assistant Professor of English

Texas A&M University

Editor, World Shakespeare Bibliography

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