The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1134  Monday, 9 June 2003

From:           Ward Elliott <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 06 Jun 2003 15:52:54 -0700
Subject: 14.1106 A Lover's Complaint
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1106 A Lover's Complaint

Bill Lloyd writes:

BL: "I think the statistical analyses of Elliott & Valenza, Donald
Foster, and others provides valuable information. Information, not proof
[of Shakespeare authorship or non-authorship of A Lover's Complaint].
This information must then be used as PART of an argument for or against
a hypothesis.  I am more comfortable with the kind of
statistico-linguistic analyses of several decades ago, before computer
technology made possible the massive analysis of function words,
relative position, phrase length, etc. [Good examples would be David J.
Lake's The Canon of Thomas Middleton's Plays and Macd. P. Jackson's
Studies in Attribution: Middleton and Shakespeare, both from the
1970s.]  The pages and pages of tables and charts and tests and odds now
offered us makes it too easy to think that the results we have come up
with are Proof, when they are really just  evidence. [This is not to say
that I don't love the potential for testing that Chadwyck-Healey and
other tools make available to us-- just that we need to keep our faith
in the results in proportion.]"

BL: "What do A Lover's Complaint's five rejections out of fifteen tests
[Elliott & Valenza] tell us?  That in significant ways it is not very
much like the other works of Shakespeare. But we already knew that.
Although it SEEMS Shakespearean enough not to be completely incredible
as one of his works, it also SEEMS [even to its defenders I would think]
different enough from his other works that it is an ill fit. The E&V
stylometic analyses confirms that, quantifies what we were perceiving.
Now come the questions-- why?  how? who? Why would Shakespeare write
like that? Or if not Shakespeare, who? Or why would Thorpe have affixed
someone else's poem to Shakespeare's sonnet sequence? Or if it was part
of the manuscript and Thorpe was ignorant/innocent, how did it get

WE: Who could object to such a calm, balanced, rational, and
comprehensive viewpoint?  We admire those great old guys who could read
and crunch, too.  See my remarks about Mac Jackson in my response to Jim
Carroll today.  I wish there were more like him around today.  Just as
with qualitative evidence, some kinds of quantitative evidence are
stronger than others. Ours seems to be relatively strong for reasons
I've expressed before: redundant proof, few or no glaring
inconsistencies with external evidence, and survival of heavy adversary

BL: "I have several comments and suggestions. I suspect that Thorpe's
copy for the Sonnets already included A Lover's Complaint and that they
are connected works. Is it possible that it was written by William
Herbert in imitation of Shakespeare or under his influence?  Is there
any extant verse or other extensive writing by Herbert available for
analysis?  [Substitute your Mr WH candidate of choice.]  Or, what would
be the effect of Shakespeare taking a piece of juvenilia he had written
c1585 and revising it c1605? How might that haywire the linguistic
analysis?  Or, what if Shakespeare deliberately set about to write in a
style radically different from his usual one? Stylometrics are supposed
to be able to detect the unconscious sub-style of a writer and to a
useful extent this is true. But when we analyse the substyle of
Shakespeare or Middleton, we are almost always analysing works where the
writer was certainly conscious of his characters, the plot, the genre,
the highness or lowness of his style, in other words whatever he wanted
to accomplish with the play or poem he was writing, but not I think very
conscious of his style as a STYLE.  But he could be if he wanted to be.
John Fletcher consciously or unconsciously made feminine endings and
certain colloquialisms [ye, 'em] characteristic of his style when
writing plays.  But not all plays-- his The Faithful Shepherdess,
written in a different genre and with a different aim than his other
plays, does not display these 'Fletcherian' traits. He must have done it
on purpose. {I wonder what function word and relative position and other
such tests would show about Faithful Shepherdess.]  The Priam & Hecuba
speech in Hamlet is an example of Shakespeare deliberately writing in
another style. Of course being only a few dozen lines the speech is too
short to really supply a good sample for testing. But what if those
lines didn't appear in Hamlet, but we found them written out on a single
sheet in some archive would we be able to make a substylistic connection
with the usual works of Shakespeare? Or would he have been able to
disguise his style by purposely trying to write like Marlowe or Peele
[!] or Watson?  What if A Lover's Complaint is Shakespeare purposely
trying to write like Chapman or Breton or Rankins? Would that produce
five E&V rejections?  but not fifteen?

Of course people didn't usually try to write in a foreign style. I
suppose I might be opening a can of worms. Did Cyril Tourneur decide, as
an experiment, to write a play in the style of his friend Middleton? Did
Shakespeare think, "Hmmm...I'll write my new Henry VI play in the style
of that satirical Tom Nashe fellow," and then change his mind after the
first act was done? The speculative scenarios are endless,
unfortunately. Most such speculations will not stand up on examination.
But what about A Lover's Compaint?"

WE:  We haven't tested Herbert, but we have tested Chapman, and he seems
to us a much less probable LC claimant than Shakespeare.  We still have
no idea who wrote it, but it probably wasn't Shakespeare. There were
many postings last year by people who couldn't bear to let go of the
Funeral Elegy, even after Foster did.  Couldn't it have been Shakespeare
imitating Ford?  We were skeptical at the time, and remain so, both
because of the inherent improbability -- why would he or anyone do such
a thing?  And because it's hard to believe that he or anyone then could
have anticipated the tests we use now, such as enclitic and proclitic
microphrases.  No one even knew what these were till Marina Tarlinskaja
showed what you could do with them in the 1960's.  What was improbable
about such theories for the Elegy last year seems to me equally
improbable for LC this year.

Ward Elliott

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