The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 30.011  Tuesday, 8 January 2019

 

[1] From:        Darren Freebury-Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 5, 2019 at 12:46:31 PM EST

     Subj:         Nos 

 

[2] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 5, 2019 at 2:01:13 PM EST

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: NOS 

 

[3] From:        Aaron Azlant <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 5, 2019 at 11:05:14 PM EST

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: NOS 

 

[4] From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 6, 2019 at 10:49:30 AM EST

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: NOS 

 

[5] From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 6, 2019 at 10:27:29 AM EST

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: NOS

 

[6] From:        Brian Vickers <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         January 7, 2019 at 9:34:22 AM EST

     Subj:            Re: SHAKSPER: NOS 

 

 

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

From:        Darren Freebury-Jones <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 5, 2019 at 12:46:31 PM EST

Subject:    Nos 

 

Dear SHAKSPERians,

 

Gabriel Egan predictably writes:

 

‘The rest of Freebury-Jones’s response engages with nothing of substance from my review so I’m happy for readers to be able to compare the review as it stands with Freebury-Jones’s response to it and to make their own judgements.’

 

I also encourage readers to compare my response to his review, but more importantly his review to my actual co-authored article. 

 

I am confident that most readers are by now aware that there is seldom anything of genuine substance in Egan’s self-published critiques, which amount to online trolling of the numerous scholars who disagree with him and his NOS comrades.

 

 

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

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

Date:         January 5, 2019 at 2:01:13 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: NOS

 

Gabriel Egan criticizes me for objecting to the NOS's radical revision of the citation form for early editions of the works:

 

Larry Weiss is unconvinced that naming the printer or publisher of an early edition in the siglum is more useful than naming the format, although he hasn’t yet said why he finds the format information more useful.

 

I thought I had been clear; the old form is superior because it is familiar and requires no re-education to put things in order. It seems to me that when there is a radical revision of the style of citation, the burden is on the reviser to show that its utility outweighs the cumbersomeness of having to learn the new form and translate it to the familiar old form.

 

I am not sure I follow why it is helpful to “foreground” the name of the bloke who owned the printing press. What does that add to our understanding? Citation conventions should be convenient; they usually carry no intrinsic meaning. To illustrate, I just pulled a law book off my shelf, which is commonly cited as 19 NY2d, which means that it is the nineteenth volume in the second series of reports of decisions by the New York Court of Appeals. If we wanted to foreground the contribution of the person who made the physical book, we could cite it as Flavin C/A 1967, Flavin being the official reporter who compiled the cases and formatted the book. But why would we want to do that?

 

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

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

Date:         January 5, 2019 at 11:05:14 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: NOS

 

Just a note, slightly orthogonal to this conversation, in case there are any other computer science-minded people on this list.

 

I’ve wondered for a while how an ML algorithm might locate patterns that (I think) recur only in the authentic plays. Many of the below probably exist in some form in most Elizabethan theater, though I think that the degree to which these manifest is probably unique to Shakespeare. All of these are second-order patterns that are probably a level of abstraction up from how I understand AI is ordinarily used in this context.

 

1. I’ll lead with one of the hardest patterns to locate: King Lear is indebted to The Book of Job in several clear ways, including the use of aesthetic order to demonstrate political / interpersonal disorder. Less obvious is the way in which Job’s many references to animals recurs in Lear and provide one possible source for the play’s extended riffing and punning on “nature.” Given known sources for a play, it might be interesting to see which items beyond spellings are re-used, and how, and if a signature could be formed that way.

 

2. The degree of multi-dimensional punning - i.e. “nature” or “nothing” in Lear,” “bear” (“bare” / “bore”) in many of the plays but especially in The Winter’s Tale, “dun” and “done” in Macbeth. 

 

3. The use of overlapping, pun-like language, such as:

 

HAMLET

O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for a

thousand pound. Didst perceive?

HORATIO

Very well, my lord.

HAMLET

Upon the talk of the poisoning?

HORATIO

I did very well note him.

HAMLET

Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!

 

4. The use of twos/doubles generally, from repeated phrases (“double, double toil and trouble,” “too, too solid flesh”, “’tis twice two months”) to rhetorical doublings (see Wright on “Hendiadys and Hamlet”) to the structure of speeches (“Neither X nor Y,” “To be or not to be,” “look upon this picture and on this”, etc.) to double characters (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are one kind, viola and Cesario are another) to the use of actors playing multiple characters (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern -> the ambassadors and Voltemond and Cornelius). 

 

5. The use of contranymic metaphor (i.e. metaphors that mean their own opposite): “There’s husbandry in heaven; their candles are all out” (playing on double meanings of “husbandry,” and of “out”), or “when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”

 

There are also ways in which I think that patterns recur across Shakespeare’s body of work generally, but those would be even harder to train an AI to see. I think, for instance, that there are subtle ways in which Hamlet 1.2 is a reimagining of Julius Caesar 3.2, but I don’t know how you teach a computer to understand the idea, for instance, of audience sympathy and the way that it’s being managed (though it might be easier to get it to see when stylistic elements like speech lengths or number of characters, etc. recur).

 

Happy to explore any of the above further for those that are interested.

 

--AA

 

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         January 6, 2019 at 10:49:30 AM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: NOS

 

Dear SHAKSPERians

 

Pervez Rizvi has helpfully set his objection to the New Oxford Shakespeare’s sigla for early editions within the context of his objection to a wider set of changes he finds in new editions. “Shakespeare editors”, he writes, “are still messing about with book abbreviations, play titles, play title abbreviations, act-scene boundaries, and line numbering systems”. This is quite true, and editors are also still messing about with new readings for uncertain words and phrases, new allocations of speeches to speakers, and new interpretations of what the works meant in their own times and what they mean in ours.

 

The ongoing scholarly debates about what the words of the speeches consist of have the same origins as the ongoing scholarly debates about what the correct titles are, where the act and scene boundaries fall, and where the line breaks should be placed. These disagreements come about because in many places the raw materials—the early editions—are ambiguous or clearly wrong about these matters and where we have multiple early editions they disagree about them. We can no more fix for all time the play titles, act and scene boundaries, and line numbering than we can fix for all time the words of the speeches.

 

Rizvi takes as his reference point the act and scene numbers of the Victorian Globe edition and uses a “lookup table” to move between that standard and the act and scene references in “the Oxford editions, old and new”. If that serves him well, no one could object. But why treat the Globe edition as one’s standard? The Globe edition made decisions about scene breaks that represented the state of theatre history 150 years ago but which no theatre historian would defend today.

 

For example, when Kent falls asleep in the stocks in ‘King Lear’ 2.2 the Globe edition marks the end of that scene and starts a new scene, 2.3, for Edgar’s entrance to give his speech about being pursued and deciding to disguise himself as a mad beggar, and then ends that scene when Edgar exits and starts another new scene, 2.4, for Lear’s entrance with the Fool and a Gentleman.

 

The Globe’s breaks are clearly not suited to the staging for which the script was written. The stage has not been cleared in that Kent does not leave: he falls asleep on stage in the stocks. The Globe’s editors were perhaps imagining Victorian ‘alternating’ staging in which curtains closed on the scene of Kent falling asleep in the stocks, Edgar entered to give his speech about his pursuit and disguise in front of those curtains, and then he left and the curtains reopened to take us back to Kent asleep in the stocks and the entrance of Lear, the Fool, and the Gentleman. The Globe edition reports that the space to which Edgar enters is not shared with Kent, it is not somewhere just outside Gloucester’s house, but instead is “A wood”. In the Globe edition’s division of the scenes, there can be no irony in Edgar failing to notice the sleeping Kent, as there most likely was in the staging for which these speeches were written.

 

The quartos and Folios did not give the Globe editors warrant for their scene breaks creating 2.3 and 2.4 of ‘King Lear’. Amongst the editions they consulted, Samuel Johnson had put in so many breaks that his numbering was up to 2.9 by the time Lear, the Fool, and the Gentleman enter. For the same entrance, Alexander Pope was up to 2.8 but Edward Capell was still on 2.2.  Experts disagree on the things that Rizvi wants set in stone.

 

150 years of scholarship in theatre history give reasons for editors to depart from the Globe scene divisions.  Rizvi thinks that editors have “changed the established scene boundaries, without a care for the impact on the people who actually use them”. The truth is precisely the opposite. Editors want their editions to reflect the latest state of our knowledge about Shakespeare, his works, and his times, in order to better serve the readers who actually use them. If this means making changes that disrupt habits of thought that readers have inherited from older editions, that is simply the price we pay for updating our editions to reflect the ongoing changes in our state of knowledge. There was nothing special about the state of knowledge attained by the Victorian editors of Shakespeare, since they of course in their own time were overturning prior habits of thought, were “messing about with” things that some readers felt should be left untouched.

 

Regards

Gabriel Egan

 

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         January 6, 2019 at 10:27:29 AM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: NOS

 

Dear SHAKSPERians

 

Those following the discussions here about the New Oxford Shakespeare may also want to look at these articles just published in the form of a special issue of the journal ‘Authorship’ guest-edited by Brian Vickers:

  1. Brian Vickers “Introduction [to a special issue on] authorship attribution and Elizabethan drama: Qualitative versus quantitative methods” Authorship 7.2 (2018)
  2. Brian Vickers “The ‘Dial Hand’ epilogue: By Shakespeare, or Dekker?” Authorship 7.2 (2018)
  3. Darren Freebury-Jones “In defence of Kyd: Evaluating the claim for Shakespeare’s part authorship of ‘Arden of Faversham’” Authorship 7.2 (2018)
  4. David Auerbach “’A cannon’s burst discharged against a ruinated wall’: A critique of quantitative methods in Shakespearean authorial attribution” Authorship 7.2 (2018)
  5. David Auerbach “’A cannon’s burst discharged against a ruinated wall’: A critique of quantitative methods in Shakespearean authorial attribution” Authorship 7.2 (2018)

I haven’t given page-spans for these articles because the journal ‘Authorship’ is an Open Access online-only journal (ISSN 2034-4643) published by the University of Ghent and each article’s pagenumbers run from “1” to whatever number the text reaches.

 

Obviously it will take time for those whose work is critiqued in these articles to read and ponder them and perhaps respond. But one problematic matter caught my eye as I looked over them.

 

I have mentioned before that much of the critique that Vickers makes of the New Oxford Shakespeare depends on work that he attributes to Martin Mueller and his ‘Shakespeare His Contemporaries’ project. Vickers and others have given web addresses for this project that lead to “HTTP 404 page not found” errors because ‘Shakespeare His Contemporaries” appears to have disappeared off the Worldwide Web.

 

In his article “In defence of Kyd” in the new special issue of ‘Authorship’, Darren Freebury-Jones writes that “’Shakespeare His Contemporaries’ was subsequently renamed Early Modern Print. Its latest incarnation is available at: https://earlyprint.wustl.edu/ [accessed 4 October 2018]” (Freebury-Jones p. 3n18).

 

That would certainly be good to know, since a mere change of name would mean that those of us wanting to see how Mueller’s work bears on the New Oxford Shakespeare could just turn to the ‘Early Modern Print’ project. But following the URL that Freebury-Jones cites takes one to a project that seems to make no mention of the name-change from a former incarnation as ‘Shakespeare His Contemporaries’ and makes no mention of Mueller.

 

That didn’t seem right to me, so I asked Joseph Loewenstein, Director of the ‘Early Modern Print’ project, to clarify the relationship between ‘Shakespeare His Contemporaries’ and ‘Early Modern Print’. He wrote back:

 

The Early Modern Print site at https://earlyprint.wustl.edu/ is a small set of tools for searching a linguistically tagged version of the TCP corpus. It is being expanded to include more tools and its expansion is part of a larger effort to correct and otherwise enrich EEBO-TCP. ‘Shakespeare His Contemporaries’ was the original portal to the transcription-correction component of that effort. That original portal was focused on play-texts, hence its name. The expanded text-correction component is now accessible at https://texts.earlyprint.org/exist/apps/shc/home.html

 

That makes a lot more sense. The page Loewenstein gives the URL for, https://texts.earlyprint.org/exist/apps/shc/home.html, refers to Mueller, Loewenstein and others. But notice that this is a project called “Early Print” and is not the same as the “Early Modern Print” project that Freebury-Jones names and gives the URL for.

 

Regards

Gabriel Egan

 

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         January 7, 2019 at 9:34:22 AM EST

Subject:       Re: SHAKSPER: NOS

 

Letter to Shaksper 7.1.19

 

In an earlier contribution to this discussion (6 October 2018) I observed that the nineteen contributors to the NOS Authorship Companion “used several different methods and should any of them prove deficient, Gabriel [Egan] is not responsible.” Since then, however, he has defended the NOS against all comers, like an old-time bare-fist boxer at a fair. He has an insatiable appetite for controversy, but I am reminded of a Neo-Latin proverb, “Not even Hercules could take on two combatants at once”. Egan has a riposte for every critic of the NOS, but they are getting increasingly feeble. At the end of my recent account of how Gary Taylor had selfishly allotted 20 pages of the AC to his own datasets, trying to bolster his attribution of “Shall I die?” to Shakespeare while denying other scholars any space for theirs, I asked “How will Egan defend it?” He now does so with two derisory ripostes, first trying to catch me in a contradiction: 

 

Brian Vickers simultaneously objects to the printed Datasets section of the New Oxford Shakespeare Authorship Companion being too small (“the provision of datasets is inadequate”) and in the case of one essay, Gary Taylor’s study of the manuscript “Rawlinson Poetry 160”, being too big.

 

That facile debating trick wholly ignores the substance of my complaint, that Taylor had seized the space to list the contents of the manuscript miscellany containing that poem, data that is irrelevant to evaluating the unknown scribe’s Shakespeare attribution (the other copy of this poem, at Yale, has no attribution), which Taylor notoriously endorsed.           As for that ascription, this is Egan’s second riposte:

 

 According to Vickers, there is no need to discuss this 17th-century attribution to Shakespeare since all one has to do is quote a bit of “Shall I Die?” to convince everyone that “such banal lines” aren’t Shakespeare’s.

 

Egan ignores a fact which he knows full well, since he reviewed my book 'Counterfeiting' Shakespeare for YWES, that I devoted over 50 pages in it to discussing Taylor’s claims, giving my own and other scholars’ evaluation of the poem (most probably dating from c. 1610 as a text to be set to music). There’s happily no need to “convince everyone” since no-one has ever accepted Taylor’s attribution, a rejection that evidently still rankles. Those evaluations discussed a wide range of issues, from the fact that, in an age where collectors regularly exchanged manuscript poetry, a scribal attribution to a famous name would increase exchange value, to the demonstrable facts of its unlikeness to any other poem by Shakespeare (apart from Bottom’s ludicrous love-song to Thisbe) in prosody, rhyme, and diction. Egan then attempts the killer blow by dredging up from the New Shakspere Society’s proceedings of 1876 the instance of an author who thought it sufficient to quote some verse tests with the injunction “Behold!”. Donning the weighty robes of authority, Egan pronounces his verdict:

 

The New Oxford Shakespeare rejects on principle the “Behold!” school of authorship attribution. There isn’t any point in trying to debate evidence and analysis with someone who adheres to this school since they privilege their sensibility over their reasoning.

 

Over the last 17 years I have published four books on authorship attribution in the early modern period, and numerous articles, and might feel insulted, if Egan hadn’t delivered his parting shot in such crude terms. I lay claim to possessing both sensibility and reasoning power and will continue to debate evidence and analysis until it is clear to everyone that, in attempting to justify every NOS attribution, Egan is defending the indefensible.

 

 

 

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