Daily Archives: February 13, 2010

Is that play by Shakespeare?

Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship, published by Cambridge University Press in September 2009, is not about the authorship question in the sense of questioning the traditional Stratfordian attribution. The book is about the possibility of multiple authors of works attibuted to Shakespeare, and the question of what plays might be included in the Shakespearean canon.

If today’s play-going public were aware of how mutable is our knowledge of that canon, they might be less inclined to accept the Stratfordian authorship attribution as written in stone instead of lemon juice. Any discussion that highlights the limits of our knowledge — such as this technical endeavor edited by Hugh Craig and Arthur Kinney — enhances public skepticism of the traditional Stratfordian attribution. That benefit exists in addition to the hope that linguistic analysis may yet provide insight into attribution to an authentic candidate, such as Edward de Vere, for Shakespearean authorship.

An L.T. Merriam review of Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship in the January 15, 2010 issue of Notes & Queries says:

. . . (the book) makes an incisive case for Shakespearean co-autorship. Despite and enormous hinterland of computerized data on tap, its authors demonstrate co-authorship with skill and elegance of presentation. The analogy that springs to mind is key-hole surgery.

The Cambridge University Press website says, “Craig, Kinney and their collaborators confront the main unsolved mysteries in Shakespeare’s canon through computer analysis of Shakespeare’s and other writers’ styles.” They say the book:

• Presents a detailed examination of a series of attribution problems in the Shakespeare canon, providing a reliable guide to authorship for students and scholars

• Demonstrates several different methods for attribution, which can also be applied by students to other problems

• Fosters a wider understanding of the way individuals create their own distinct patterns within a shared language.

More than fifty searchable pages of the book including the first two chapters — Introduction and Methods — and the complete index are available online at the Cambridge University Press website.

Readers have access to the specialist software for humanities computing used by the researchers in Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship through the Shakespeare Computational Stylistics Facility at the Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing at the University of Newcastle/Australia. The center is directed by Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship editor, Hugh Craig. The site introduction says:

The Computational Stylistics Facility presents a set of Shakespeare play texts with a ready-made apparatus for computational-stylistics exploration. Within its parameters, users can define any number of variations on what is analysed and how. The system has been designed for use by those with no experience in computational stylistics, and is set out so as to work intuitively as far as possible.

Postscript: The cover of the book features an image of the Stratford man’s will. The graphic intrigue of sixteenth-century handwriting makes this an excellent marketing choice. But, that image sends a message that the text analyzed within the covers is similarly handwritten — when, in fact, no such manuscripts linking the Stratfordian hand to Shakespearean production exist. When, in fact, only six meagre scrawls link the Stratfordian to any literary production whatsoever.

Update February 16, 2009
Reply from Shakespeare, Computers . . . editor Hugh Craig to SOS query

SOS: Could you tell us if your methods would be applicable to analyzing letters of Edward de Vere for Shakespearean characteristics?

Hugh Craig: You asked about analysing letters by a given writer for Shakespearean characteristics. This could certainly be done. One would have to be wary about the differences between modes (letters and dramatic dialogue) but one could ask the question, is there anything about the language usage of these letters that puts them closer to Shakespeare dramatic dialogue than to the dialogue of other playwrights of the time? That might avoid the problem of simply seeking resemblances between the letters and the plays — and of course if one looks hard enough one is bound to find *some* resemblances.

Charlton speculates on Greville monument connectons to Oxford

Derran Charlton reports from England about the inspection of Fulke Greville’s monument at Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Warwick:

Professor James Stevens Curl of Cambridge University has discovered what he claims to be powerful evidence that Fulke Greville had several manuscripts buried in his ornate memorial. This is no idle speculation. A radar scan of the monument that stands in the chapter house of the Collegiate Church of St. Mary, Warwick, has revealed three “box-like” objects that are sealed within. Researchers have also uncovered evidence suggesting that the remaining two boxes might contain a previously unseen biography of James I and appreciating that Greville`s most famous work is his Life of the Renowned Sr. Philip Sidney, the priceless literary remains of Sir Philip Sidney. But that is, perhaps, wishful thinking.

In an article titled “A murdered spy and coded messages from beyond the grave . . . Will opening this tomb prove Shakespeare didn’t write his plays?” by Richard Price published February 11, 2010 in the London daily Mail Online, Curl said:

“Until we look inside we cannot know for sure what it is. What is absolutely certain is that the size, cost and magnificence of the monument are intended to speak to us. There are plenty of clues about what it might be, and they suggest this is an incredibly exciting find.”

The discovery has resulted in great excitement, with academics positing that the boxes may contain the holy-grail of English dramatic history — an original manuscript of a Shakeseare play.

The initial search, using ground penetrating radar, has been approved by the local diocese. Under the expert guidance of Professor Rodwell the team of investigators now want to use an endoscope – a tiny video camera on a long thin tube, similar to the type commonly used in surgical procedures.

In a major development last week, Chancellor Stephen Eyre of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Coventry granted permission for an endoscope to be used to examine the monument. A stringent set of conditions have stipulated that the work must be carried out within the next few months. However, those involved expect the work to begin, almost certainly, with the next six weeks.

Greville, four years younger than Oxford, was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1554, ten years before the official birth date of Shaksper. Greville and Shaksper lived on the same street.

According to a mid-seventeenth century biography Greville wished to be known to posterity as Shakespeare`s master. (See Note.)

Greville spent the equivalent of £300,000 on his monument, but his body was placed in the crypt below the church – not in the monument itself. Ben Jonson referred to his friend William Shakespere as “a monument without a tombe”, a precise description of Greville`s monument.

Although Curl posits Greville as a candidate for Shakespeare’s work, I do not think that non-Oxfordians are aware of the possible Oxford connections:

I have always been fascinated by the fact that Sir Fulke Greville (1554-1628), poet, renowned scholar, statesman, soldier, spy, judge, and Army captain, was appointed by Queen Elizabeth as treasurer of the navy, and that James I made Greville chancellor of the exchequer in 1614 and granted him Warwick Castle.

I was particularly interested by the fact that Greville purchased King`s Place (previously known as Kingshold) and re-named Brooke House by Greville following the death of Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford who had resided there. I speculate that Shakesperean documents might have been located there following the death of the earl, and that they may later have been acquired by Greville.

Appreciating that no Shakespearean manuscripts are extant, and appreciating that Oxford most probably wrote them and constantly polished them until his death in 1604, I reasoned that it is not beyond possibility that manuscripts could have been located at King’s Place.

Derran Charlton

The title and author of the biography in which Greville referred to Shake-speare’s master was: Statesmen and Favourites of England since the Reformation, 1665, by David Lloyd. The full quote is: “He desired to be known to posterity under no other notions than of Shakespeare’s and Ben Johnson’s master, Chancellor Egerton’s patron, and Sir Philip Sidney’s friend.” The quote that “He lived on Shaksper’s street in Stratford.” is from The Master of Shakespeare by A.W.L. Saunders.