Collocations and N-grams - Update

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0212  Wednesday, 30 May 2018


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

Date:         May 30, 2018 at 10:35:59 AM EDT

Subject:    Collocations and N-grams - Update


Last year I announced here that I had published lists of N-gram and collocation matches between more than five hundred early modern plays. With Hardy’s permission I would like to announce an addition to that work.


For those who don’t know, an N-gram match is a matching set of consecutive words between two plays; for example, the phrase “the story of my life”, which is found in both The Comedy of Errors and The Tempest. A collocation match is a set of matching words with gaps allowed and not necessarily in the same order; for example, “frame of things disjoint” in Macbeth is a collocation match with “disjoint and out of frame” in Hamlet


My aim last year was to list N-gram matches, with snippets from the matching plays shown side by side. I did this completely for 4-grams and above. However, as there are so many millions of 1-grams, 2-grams and 3-grams involving very common words such as “the”, “and”, “of” etc., it was unfeasible to list them all.


What I have now done is to produce counts of all N-gram matches between all plays, including even the most common words. I have done this separately for all values of N from 1 to 10. 


Some scholars consider unique N-gram matches to be useful for authorship attribution. I have therefore produced a separate set of counts for unique matches; that is, N-grams found in just two plays.


Other scholars consider function word skip N-grams to be useful. For those who don’t know, a function word skip N-gram is found by skipping over any word that is not a function word. For example, we treat the opening line of Richard III as if it read “Now is the of our”. I have also produced a separate set of counts for function word skip N-grams.


Finally, I have done all of the above counts twice, once with tokens and once with types. I have also provided Concordances, which are lists of all N-grams, in alphabetical order, stating how many times each one occurs in each play.


I hope researchers find this enormous amount of new data useful. It can be downloaded by visiting my website: . If you have been using the data I published last year, then be assured that it has not changed in any way, it is still correct, to the best of my knowledge, and you can continue to rely on it as much or as little as you were doing before. I have only moved it to a new folder called Lists_of_N-gram_and_Collocation_Matches, to separate it from the new data.




Sunday Funny

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0211  Wednesday, 30 May 2018


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

Date:         May 28, 2018 at 1:14:08 PM EDT

Subject:    Sunday Funny 



Brad Berens, Ph.D.

Chief Strategy Officer, Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg

Principal, Big Digital Idea Consulting, Inc.




From TLS - 'Shakespeare’s sisters'

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0209  Tuesday, 29 May 2018


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

Date:         May 28, 2018 at 8:11:36 AM EDT

Subject:    From TLS - 'Shakespeare’s sisters'


[Editor’s Note: I will provide excepts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. -Hardy]


‘Shakespeare’s sisters’


May 15, 2018




Liverpool Everyman, until July 10



Shakespeare’s sisters

By Marchella Ward


It’s a dark night in London sometime after 1660 and Charles II is sitting in his royal box waiting for the curtain to rise. He is full of anticipation – his favourite boy actor, Edward Kynaston, is playing the role of the queen – but he is also becoming anxious. The performance ought to have started by now, and the actors seem to be taking an unusually long time to prepare themselves. Eventually the Master of the Company approaches the royal box. The play could not begin on time, he says, because “the Queen was not shav’d yet”. Charles shifts awkwardly in his seat. From the mutterings around him he can make out a phrase that by now he knows all too well: “unnatural vice”. He begins to wonder whether Edward Kynaston really ought to have been cast in the role of the queen at all.


That evening weighed heavily on Charles’s mind. His luxuriant penchant for all things theatrical and in particular for watching young men play female roles had earned him a reputation among his subjects. The theatres that he had only recently reopened were already being accused of immorality, of promoting the sexualized gazing of men at men, and of staging queens too often reminiscent of “queans” (early modern slang for a person of low sexual morals). In order to keep the theatres open, Charles had to rid them of their reputation for homosexuality, and by 1662 he had licensed the appearance of female actors on the English stage.


The first female actor to tread the boards appeared in a production of Othello at the Vere Street Theatre, now the London School of Economics’s real tennis court. Precisely who this woman was remains a matter of some debate (Margaret Hughes and Ann Marshall seem the two most plausible candidates among scholars of the theatre of this period), but Pepys would later register in his diary the effect that these women actors had on him. The tone of his diary entry has become typical of reviews of women actors ever since. He has very little to say about their performance, focusing instead on their looks and calling Hughes “a mighty pretty woman”. The first appearance of a female Desdemona was presumed to be so shocking to audiences that Thomas Jordan was commissioned to write a prologue, preparing them for what they would witness. Jordan clarifies that the casting choice is not a gimmick, and has been made in good taste: “we have intents to civilize the stage”.


That the first female actor makes her appearance in the role of Desdemona should not come as a surprise to modern audiences of the play. Othello has always been at the centre of debates about the relationship between the identity of the actor and that of the character because of its title role. Although Restoration audiences quickly bought into the idea that female roles ought to be played by female actors, it would be another two centuries before the role of Othello was played by a black actor. When Othello first opened in 1604, it starred Richard Burbage in blackface make-up, and when Laurence Olivier played him at the National Theatre in 1964, very little had changed, though the role had been played at an off-West End venue by the African American actor Ira Aldridge in 1833. Aldridge was the exception that proved the rule. In fact in the 1800s, the role of Othello was more commonly played by women than by black men. Women such as Miss Percy Knowles and Mrs Selby apparently “enacted the part of the valiant Moor to the satisfaction of a numerous audience”.


Gemma Bodinetz’s production of Othello at the Liverpool Everyman maintains the tradition of Othello firsts. Golda Rosheuvel is the first woman of colour to play the title role in a major production in the UK, though Debra Ann Byrd played it at the Harlem Shakespeare Festival in New York in 2013. Unlike Byrd, who played a male Othello, Rosheuvel carefully crafts a female figure for Shakespeare’s general, engaging her in a straightforwardly lesbian relationship with Emily Hughes’s Desdemona, complete with swapped pronouns and a jumpsuit military uniform. The effect of this casting choice is simple but effective. Shakespeare’s play is full of assaults on Othello’s masculinity (“are you a man?”), and in this production the audience are invited to take these insults literally. When Iago (Patrick Brennan) soliloquizes that “Cassio’s a proper man” (and therefore a more likely suitor for Desdemona) in comparison with Othello, it is not racism that we hear between these lines, but homophobia. Rosheuvel’s Othello becomes part of a Shakespearean sisterhood that includes not only Lady Macbeth (a comparison made explicit when a hand-washing basin is brought onto the stage) but Rosalind, Kate, Hermia, Imogen and all the other characters who struggle in a Shakespearean world that is prescriptive about their sex and sexuality.


[ . . . ]




WT Question for the List

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0210  Tuesday, 29 May 2018


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

Date:         May 23, 2018 at 5:07:26 PM EDT

Subject:    Winter's Tale


I agree that in this case, “Best” refers to Christ by way of an allusion to Judas. Here is Polixenes’ full response to Camillo:


O, then my best blood turn 

To an infected jelly and my name 

Be yoked with his that did betray the Best! 

Turn then my freshest reputation to 

A savour that may strike the dullest nostril 

Where I arrive, and my approach be shunn'd, 

Nay, hated too, worse than the great'st infection 

That e'er was heard or read! (1.2.417-424).


Polixenes was just told by Camillo that the king has “appointed” him to murder Polixenes (1.2.413), as Leonates believes Polixenes has “touch’d his queen / Forbiddenly” (1.2.416-417).” In 1.1.21-31, it is made clear that Leontes and Polixenes are old friends, together since childhood; Polixenes even calls Leontes “my brother” (1.2.4). In light of their long, close relationship, for Polixenes to “touch” Leontes’ queen would be a stunning betrayal - hence this allusion to Judas: “my name / Be yoked with his that did betray the Best.” This is reinforced by Polixenes’ further exclamating that if so, he should be “shunn’d” and “hated.” A quick check of the OED has “judas” as a word for traitor or betrayer “frequently under the guise of friendship” as far back as Ælfric of Eynsham (c950–c1010).


Susan Rojas




CFP: Kingston Shakespeare Seminar

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0208  Tuesday, 29 May 2018


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

Date:         May 26, 2018 at 4:14:25 PM EDT

Subject:    CFP: Kingston Shakespeare Seminar


Dear Fellow SHAKSPER Colleagues, 


Please join Kingston Shakespeare Seminar and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for a colloquium, “Shakespeare and Presentism,” at Kingston University, London, on Sat., 28 July 2018. It’s conveniently scheduled immediately following “Radical Mischief” and ISC in Stratford upon Avon. Please see the CFP and submit an abstract by 29 June 2018 --




CFP: Shakespeare and Presentism, July 28, 2018




SHAKESPEARE AND PRESENTISM at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, on Saturday July 28 2018 

A decade and a half since Terence Hawk…


Foucault and Shakespeare Symposium, June 23 [Shakespeare at the Temple]


with participation from Tom Brockelman, Jonathan Dollimore, Stuart Elden, Kelina Gotman, Jennifer Rust, Duncan Salkeld





David Garrick built his Shakespeare Temple beside the Thames at Hampton in 1755 as a place where ‘the thinkers of the world’ would meet to reflect on the plays. He hoped Voltaire would come. Now the Kingston Shakespeare Seminar is realising the great actor’s vision, with a series of symposia on Shakespeare in Philosophy. Each of these Saturday events features talks by leading philosophers and Shakespeare scholars, coffee and tea in the riverside garden designed by Capability Brown, and lunch at the historic Bell Inn.


On Saturday June 23 2018 the Temple symposium will be on



To register for the symposium go to:


All the best,

Evelyn Gajowski

Barrick Distinguished Scholar

Professor of English

University of Nevada, Las Vegas



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