Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0954.  Friday, 25 November 1994.
(1)     From:   Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 25 Nov 1994 05:02:25 +1000
        Subj:   SHK 5.0945  Authorship
(2)     From:   Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 25 Nov 1994 22:08:16 +1000
        Subj:   Authorship
From:           Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 25 Nov 1994 05:02:25 +1000
Subject: Authorship
Comment:        SHK 5.0945  Authorship
Don Foster writes:
>I don't want to argue with or confuse him with facts...The sequence as
>determined by SHAXICONis indeed wholly determined by
>statistical distribution.  That doesn't, of course, mean that SHAXICON's
>sequence is correct in every instance, and it certainly doesn't mean that the
>actual historical sequence was statistically determined.  That the sequence
>indicated by lexical distribution closely matches the sequence constructed
>through traditional scholarship is a happy correspondence.
Facts don't confuse me.  What confuses me is Don Foster's refusal to
acknowledge that a *mathematical* sequence only becomes a *chronological*
sequence when you superimpose a chronology onto it.
>"Shakespeare" (by whatever name you choose to call him) tends to
>remember and to re-use the rare-word vocabulary of one role in each play; this
>does not prove that he acted the role, only that he remembered it (e.g., King
>Henry in 1-2H4, Adam in AYL, the Ghost in HAM, Brabantio in OTH, Albany in LR).
>I'm happy to entertain alternative explanations for this phenomenon.
No, I don't imagine there are any other explanations for memorising a role.
It's the 'remembering' hypothesis itself I was questioning, dependent as
it is on your prior assumption that mathematical sequence equals
chronological sequence (see above).
>3. "The fact that I don't have an alternative explanation ready to hand is
>hardly surprising, and doesn't vitiate my criticism in any way."
>REPLY:  Oh.
If I think of one you'll be the first to know.
>It makes no difference to me whether these men, or Shakespeare for that
>matter, are said to be "great" writers and/or "great" actors. SHAXICON makes no
>assumptions about "greatness."
Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest it did. That point was directed more broadly.
>If the data were to indicate that Shakespeare
>remembered the lead role in each of his plays, one might be tempted to
>conjecture that he was a talented actor, but the available evidence suggests
>that Shakespeare the actor was, at best, mediocre.
The available evidence suggests *nothing at all* about Shakespeare's
talents as an actor.  Why this abhorrence of vacuums?
Pat Buckridge.
From:           Pat Buckridge <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 25 Nov 1994 22:08:16 +1000
Subject:        Authorship
Thanks to Bradley Berens for his recommendation of Leah Marcus's book.  I
haven't read it, but look forward to doing so in the next week, as I liked
her earlier work very much.  I agree that the authorship discussion had
become a little unproductive in the last week or so as participants dropped
off.  That's bound to happen from time to time, and hardly a reason, I'd
have thought, for complaining about the existence of the thread.
Exercising an influence on the direction of the discussion seems to me a
much more useful and tolerant option.  Nothing 'cavalier' about it at all
as far as I'm concerned.
The question he raises about the utility of settling the authorship one way
or another is a large one, and I might want to come back to it after
reading Marcus, but for the moment I'll limit myself to this:  if it were
generally accepted that Oxford wrote the plays I doubt if that would, or
should, have much effect on how the plays were performed now.  The Oxford
theory certainly  brings a whole host of historical and personal allusions
to light, but it's hard to imagine many of these being of much interest to
modern audiences (or for that matter to audiences in the 1640s).  But I can
imagine, with some pleasure, an enterprising Oxfordian director deciding to
make a point of foregrounding at least some of the original allusions in
theatrical production.  In my mind's eye I see a dignified portrait of
Burghley appearing briefly on the backdrop as Polonius dodders off the
But I take it Berens is not, like Edward Gero, claiming that the
contemporary theatre has a monopoly on Shakespeare.  I like a good
Shakespeare production as much as the next person, but I also like reading
the plays; it provides certain pleasures and insights that a performance
doesn't (and vice versa, of course).  Why should that experience be
denigrated as somehow inauthentic?  To do so diminishes Shakespeare (the
work, not the man), and depreciates the main means by which, undoubtedly,
the large majority of people have gained access to Shakespeare over the
last three hundred and seventy years.  Why do you think people bought the
First Folio/  As a thea tre program? If the Oxford authorship had the
effect of enhancing the value and interest of Shakespeare's work as
*literature*, I don't think that would necessarily be a bad thing.
If it did have this effect, by the way, it would not be because Oxford was
not 'a man of the theatre', as is so often claimed (dubiously - but that's
a separate argument).  It would be because the Oxford authorship makes the
plays so pregnant with historical meaning that their interest as historical
artefacts might, at least for a while, rival their interest as playscripts
for contemporary actors and directors to exercise their interpretive
Ultimately, though, I must say I find it hard to take seriously this
question 'Why do we need to know'?   The writing of Shakespeare's plays
was, by any measure, one of the most important events in the history of
western civilisation, and Berens is suggesting, if I understand him
correctly, that we may as well just not pursue the matter of who actually
created these masterpieces of world literature because the knowledge may
not 'be of any use to anyone interested in the plays', or because it may
not 'make them better'.  Have I got that right?  Fortunately for all of us,
historical curiosity has not generally felt itself to be bounded by such
And finally, what's all this about better jobs, tenure and so forth, with
which Edward Gero so vigorously agrees?  If either of you are so out of
touch with the Shakespearean academy as to imagine that dabbling in the
authorship question improves anyone's prospects in that area, then I'd say
you need career counselling.
I look forward to taking up some of Dave Evett's points in a later posting.
Pat Buckridge.

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