Shakespeare Fans discussion

And So It Goes: Marlowe/Shakespeare

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod
I can't believe you all haven't been fighting about this yet! What do you think? Is this going to be painful adjustment...or same old same old? I know a number of people here already believed this to be the case, that several people wrote his plays or co-wrote them...

message 2: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments I was just going to start a thread on this! You beat me Candy!

Here's the story from the New York Times in the U.S.:

message 3: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments By the way, I find it fascinating (especially as I do textual analysis in my day job). But, I think the controversy over authorship will simply never end. It's just too juicy and fun to speculate...

message 4: by Candy (last edited Oct 24, 2016 02:21PM) (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod
Yes I think the argument will go on and on.

As the NYTs quotes "Oxford University Press is known for bold interpretations of Shakespeare and authorship. In 2005 it attributed two plays with disputed authorship — “The Reign of Edward III” and “Sir Thomas More” — to Shakespeare. The New Oxford Shakespeare edition attributes “Arden of Faversham,” which also has a disputed source, to the playwright and a co-author.

“We don’t expect that this will be the end of the conversation,” Mr. Taylor said of the findings being published in the new edition. “If we ever stop arguing about Shakespeare, then Shakespeare will be dead."

I can't help but think...that the people who work for Oxford...are trying to find ways to make money off of Shakespeare and market new books. Sorry, I'm cynical and feel as if I like to "follow the money" when it comes to this sort of thing....the guys interviewed are the guys who are working for Oxford Publishers. It's like the people who claimed Francis Bacon wrote the plays....were the descendants of Francis Bacon.

Here is NPR....

message 5: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments lol, good point Candy!

message 6: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments I'd say that the very first line of the trilogy has Kit Marlowe written all over it:

"Hung be the heavens with black! Yield day to night!"

And the rest of that opening speech is in a Marlovian vein as well, I'd argue:

Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky,
And with them scourge the bad revolting stars
That have consented unto Henry's death!
King Henry the Fifth, too famous to live long!
England ne'er lost a king of so much worth.

message 7: by Martin (last edited Oct 29, 2016 04:40AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Ah, David, that is interesting! Six years ago I put in a longish post arguing that these lines really were by S in the Henry VI read. And yet I agree that the lines do sound Marlovian. I think it shows how easily we can be drawn in different directions by reasonable, but necessarily somewhat subjective, judgements. I'd be interested to know what you thought of my post. message #15

(It was in answer to Everyman. A whole lot of things don't change in this group.) :-)

message 8: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments A good post, Martin. And I too long presumed Shakespeare wrote all of 1Henry6, and I long saw the first line of the play as one of the best opening lines ever writ. The thought that Marlowe penned the opening only occurred to me when I read that the Oxford press was putting his name on the title page. It was, I freely admit, a gut reaction, not one based on any specific evidence (and certainly not based on any computer analysis). At the end of the day, I do not think it's possible to take a line, or a speech, and say for sure it came from the pen of WS or the pen of Marlowe. Assuming no 'smoking gun' comes to light, we mainly have our hunches--and our admiration.

I for one am glad that the collaborative nature of play-writing at the time is getting more publicity. Maybe it will help turn some of our attention to the other writers of the time. Shakespeare didn't write in a cultural or historical vacuum, after all--not by a long shot.

As for the historical inaccuracies in the play (or any of the history plays), I find it odd that people expect a two-hour dramatization of historical incidents (incidents perhaps spread out over years) would ever be 'accurate.' As an audience, what we want is 'drama,' not a history book. Or to put it another way: what we want is the truth of fiction, not the fact of non-fiction.

message 9: by Martin (last edited Oct 30, 2016 02:29PM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Yes, I think the whole thing is so difficult . . . If this was the first thing S wrote, there isn't really anything else to make the comparison with. Marlowe's own writings have come down to us in very messy shape: The Jew of Malta was (I've read) modified for later audiences, and that's the version we have; Faustus exists in two forms, with clumsy "clown" sequences thought not to be by Marlowe; The Massacre at Paris, which I've tried to read, seems to be a clumsy pirated edition. None of Marlowe's plays were published with his name on them before he was killed. And then scholars try to shoehorn him into Henry VI. And there used to be a theory that H6.1 (Henry VI part 1) was written after H6.2 and H6.3. In the Arden edition of 1962 this is discussed at length.

I've been thinking about these three lines, all imperatives to get the heaven to change:

Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

Stand still, you ever moving spheres of heaven!

Gallop apace, you fiery footed steeds!

The problem is, they're so well known. But suppose we'd never heard them before. I think I might give the second to S, and the third to Marlowe!

One of the editors of the new Oxford S mentioned in the article linked above is Gabriel Egan. I remember he wrote a book called "The struggle for S's text", which I didn't buy because it was so expensive when new (about $100, and fairly short). But he is a distinguished S scholar I believe. His research has led to the conclusion that Marlowe was involved in Henry VI. Here is an abstract of a paper explaining the work:

"This article reports the invention of a new means of authorship attribution based on the relative distances (measured in intervening words) between functions words in the texts being analysed. The data about distances are stored in Markov chains (with each function word represented as a node and the summed distance between a pair of words being represented as a weighted edge between their respective nodes) called Word Adjacency Networks (WANs). The method is applied to the problem of determining the authorship of the three plays called Henry VI Parts One, Two, and Three that are traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare, and we find that Christopher Marlowe had a hand in each of them."

It is, at a general level, incompehensible, at least to me, but we can recognise it as an attempt to create a mathematical model of writing style. It may, for all we know, be impossible to express the model for style in terms of anything we can recognise, as human beings, in the text. What sort of credence should we give this, in attributing authorship?

So I go with Candy, in finding it all an Oxford Press publicity gimmick.

message 10: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Martin wrote: "Yes, I think the whole thing is so difficult . . . If this was the first thing S wrote, there isn't really anything else to make the comparison with. Marlowe's own writings have come down to us in ..."

Martin, A great choice of three lines! I had to Google the second one because I didn't recognize it. Though I like Marlowe, I have not read him nearly as often as I have WS. I think, also, that Marlowe has not been nearly as well served by our era's actors, and it is by no means easy to find good productions of his plays (in audio form only, or on film).

As for the statistical method of analysis, well, I can offer no informed opinion. But maybe that in itself is telling: how credible is an announcement from on high if those who most read and enjoy WS cannot understand the reckoning? Candy could well be right about the commercial motive. I noted, too, that Gary Taylor was heavily involved in the Henry VI decision, and he's always struck me as one all too willing to make cocksure decisions.

message 11: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments I can comment on the statistical analysis because I perform textual analysis in my day job. I've published more than one paper that uses it. And I can tell you that it isn't perfect. So there is lots of room still for disbelief if you choose, feel free!

message 12: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments P.S. I love your line "what we want is the truth of fiction, not the fact of non-fiction. " !!!

message 13: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments Lea wrote: "I can comment on the statistical analysis because I perform textual analysis in my day job."

Hey, brainy Professor Kosnik, you should certainly be leading the discussion here!

message 14: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments I should? Goodness, I much prefer to siphon off everyone else's knowledge and selfishly remain quiet here in the sidelines. It's much more time efficient. :-)

I can try and find the actual studies and read them and comment for everyone. I have read textual analysis papers on Shakespeare before ( and for some examples).

As an FYI, what textual analysis does, mostly, is just statistical analysis on word frequency. And we all write with a certain style, a linguistic thumbprint so to speak. Some of us use pronouns statistically more often. Some of us use certain adjectives and catch-phrases in predictable ways. All text analysis does is analyze and look for patterns like this in the words of authors. There have been some interesting studies! Like the one that looks at how suicidal versus nonsuicidal poets differ in their word choices ( ). Or, the one that identifies separate authors in the bible ( ). I could go on with the interesting studies here... on how men versus women use language, how politicians use language, how songs in the Top 10 use language differently than nonpopular songs (yes, these are all published papers). The overall point is that it is just pattern recognition and statistical numbers. So, if you disagree with the patterns. Or, knowing that statistics always has degrees of error, you can argue with the results if you choose to.

I'm busy at work right now, but if I can find the time I'll look up these most recent studies on Shakespeare and comment on them!

message 15: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments Thanks Lea, but hey, I was joking a bit. I can see you must be terribly busy, and I (or we) certainly wouldn't want to push you into unpaid extra-curricular work!

message 16: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments I would LOVE to do it Martin! And I'm honored there is even interest in having me do it!! It just may not be done tomorrow, that's all...

I am actually on leave next semester. So worse comes to worst, I'll have the time in December/January...

message 17: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Lea wrote: "I would LOVE to do it Martin! And I'm honored there is even interest in having me do it!! It just may not be done tomorrow, that's all...

I am actually on leave next semester. So worse comes to wo..."

Let me add to the chorus of appreciation. I think what might be especially useful for us would be if you could single out one specific example of analysis/pattern in the Henry the Sixth studies (leading to the idea that Marlowe had a hand in the composition of the three plays) and walk us through it.

message 18: by Martin (last edited Nov 01, 2016 02:11AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Meanwhile, this is interesting, and the pdf linked therefrom:

I had not heard of Gary Taylor before David mentioned him.

Again going back to the 2010 read of Henry VI, Candy mentions the exciting promise of Don Foster's Shaxicon project. I followed it at the time, and came to the conclusion that Foster was a bit of a crazy guy. (There was a huge amount of anger and accusation being thrown around on usenet.) Here is what Egan says about it all on his website:

"SHAXICAN is a collaborative project to test Donald Foster's theories--allegedly embodied in his never-revealed SHAXICON database--about Shakespeare's rare-word usage being influenced by the vocabulary of the acting parts he took in his own plays. Now that Foster has been revealed as a charlatan, this project is moribund."

see Once you lift the lid off academia it's amazing what you see underneath. (I imagine Lea would confirm this!) :-)

message 19: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod
Hip hip hooray for Lea,

how wonderful!

Yes, please lead us through this issue and it's research Lea, how amazing.

You could also delegate some reading out to us? Like you read the anaysis...and if you could you could delegate support reading.

We can wait till December for real. Give us stuff to read...maybe background reading so we can try to keep up with you.

Reconvene here for more?

Martin, I have tried to keep up with Foster's work over the years. He is controversial...

And I have several theories on his work and the critical reception. He may be a bit of a flamboyant or crazy guy. And his privacy and secrecy around his search engines and programs is troublesome.

I think Fosters biggest weakness is that he is so emotionally verbal and not that he is a charlatan. I think he was pressured by the demands of academia and legal implications of "grammatical fingerprints" that his work was too quickly absorbed.

the approach that Foster takes combining computer search and concordances...with looking at unusual wording and grammar connections is valuable. However...his mistakes are more the mistakes of someone working far too quickly to draw conclusions, and the nature of his analysis unfortunately does rely on intuition, and personality speculation. that sort of thing...needs to be utilized in looking for clues rather than for definitive forensic accounts.

He may have been wrong about Shakespeare sonnet, he may have been wrong about identifying the anthrax terrorist....but his methods were actually very very useful.

His methods, Identifying the anthrax letter-writing attacks he identified that the person was not Arabic, or an immigrant...he identified things that did point to the profile and habits of the terrorist. He was wrong about the person he identified and pointed in Vanity Fair (I mean...he made a terrible mistake publishing this stuff pointing to someone, outside of court...ina magazine. Obviously, the magazine, the media pressure to find terrorists influenced Foster moving way too quickly and gave him the sense of stature. False sense of authority)

Foster did identify writers based on his theory of "grammatical fingerprints"...however the work involved is not conclusive.

When it comes to evidence and toking for clues...we do want police, and academics to use these skills of analysis and intuition...and study of writing nuances...thse are valuable "deep reading" skills...and we use them when reading novels or news. We need to be able to allow that subconscious and intuitive side to help us read....but they need to be clues. They need to be doors opening to research

I think foster has been so vocal and he made a mistake of being too trusting...perhaps he got seduced by the fame he received...and he got carried away...

But we are too hard on the people who research both literature, art, art forgery...and murderers. We need to allow them to use their the search for clues and patterns. However.....when it comes to life and death in the real world...and notarizing definitive proof that instinct needs to be backed up by proof. for me....Foster brought an incredible new excitement to reading. I have totally experienced the practical use of identifying someone's patterns of grammar. I use it in my own writing as much as possible to stretch the use of words and to avoid pitfalls of repeating. On a creative level Foster is amazing. He really did read rigorously and figure out and identify sources of writers, and I believe there is some value to a lexical analysis.

In that process, academically people make mistakes. that why peer review is so important...however...I'd like to imagine a community that didn't jump at fame and money (Don Foster...probably under pressure form law enforcement and corporate publishing houses) or that didn't punish peoples entire oeuvre because of some fails.

Stephen Jay Gould, paleontologist...wrote some essay about failed scientists. He wrote about "Crazy Old Randolph is a summary of that essay...

"Randolph Kirkpatrick was a scientist and curator at the British Museum from 1886 to 1927, and continued to work until his death in 1950. One of his areas of expertise was sponges, both living and extinct, and he frequently traveled to obtain specimens. In 1912, he went to a small volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco. He was after a puzzling species of sponge that seemed to have both calcareous and silica components. [Marine life makes “hard parts” out of only three substances: silica, which is silicon dioxide, like quartz and glass; calcium phosphate, known mostly for vertebrate bones and teeth although also found elsewhere; and calcium carbonate, which makes up almost everything else, including shells and coral skeletons. The term “calcareous” refers to calcium carbonate.] Many sponges have no hard parts at all. Some have “spicules” (small, sharp rods or “stars”) made of silica; others build more massive calcareous structures. At the time, it was believed that no sponge could include both silica and calcite structures; yet this, and a few other species from the Pacific, appeared to. (More have been found since then, Gould reports.) Others had argued that the silica spicules had contaminated the clearly calcareous sponges in some way. Kirkpatrick effectively showed that they grew within the sponge; they generated both materials.
The coral-like characteristics of the calcareous skeleton reminded Kirkpatrick of something he had seen elsewhere: the extinct, mysterious fossil stromatoporoids and chaetetids. These fossils were grouped with corals due to their structure and calcareous composition, but had many anomalous features, and were one of the major taxonomic puzzles of the day. Kirkpatrick’s creative mind sparked, and he looked for something in
a preserved stromatoporoid that no one else had thought to look for: silica spicules. He found them, and thus resolved the mystery; stromatoporoids were sponges. However, his work was ignored at the time, and not rediscovered until the 1960’s. The reason is that, on a separate front, he began to argue for a theory that was so crazy that it discredited everything he did.
While on that volcanic island in the Atlantic in 1912, a coworker brought him a piece of volcanic rock from the island’s summit. Examining it, Kirkpatrick believed he saw traces of nummulites. Nummulites are a type of calcareous fossil, associated with single-celled forams, but can grow quite large – an inch or more in diameter. They are disk-shaped, resembling coins. (They are actually tight spirals, comprised of thousands of separate, adjoining living chambers.) Finding these objects in sedimentary rocks is quite common; there are types of limestone that are entirely composed of them. But finding them in volcanic rock was certainly unexpected; the heat associated with the formation of igneous rocks is sufficient to preclude the preservation of fossils of any type. Also, volcanic rocks are made of mostly silicate materials. Somehow, Kirkpatrick concluded that the volcanic rock did not simply contain nummulites; he convinced himself it was entirely composed of them. Therefore, he continued, these rocks could not actually be “igneous” in origin, but must reflect a sedimentary process. He proceeded to examine volcanic rocks from all over the world, and everywhere he saw the characteristic disk-shapes of nummulites. (Apparently no one else could. He began publishing his papers himself when all of the reputable journals appropriately refused to publish his work.) On a roll now, he established a new paradigm of early life: that the seas, free of predators, had originally been packed nothing but nummulite-producing forams, which he named Eozoon (“dawn animal”). The seafloor was not comprised of igneous basalt, but rather of the heated, compressed, and silica-infused remnants of trillions of Eozoon skeletons. Much of this ancient sea floor was now land.
This is all just plain crazy, Gould acknowledges. But he defends Kirkpatrick the man, if not the nummulitic theory. It is the same attributes of assembling seemingly disparate facts, and sticking to his conclusions in the face of general (if not universal) resistance from his peers, that allowed him to solve the problems of coralline sponges and the puzzling fossil stromatoporoids. Gould notes that the final price that Kirkpatrick paid for his “crackpot” theory of nummulites was not to be vilified, but forgotten – even for his legitimate accomplishments."

From here:

message 20: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments Very interesting about Don Foster, Candy. I never realised you followed that story so carefully.

message 21: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod
I don't know why...but that approach really stuck with me. He had me convinced when I read his book. I used to work in a book store on Vancouvers Granvilles Island...and I often read a lot of books that would pass through. Blackberry Books!!! Ana awesome experience!!!

He has made a lot of mistakes. But he did clearly influence in a positive way literary studies.

He was the one who correctly ideifiy the authour of "Primary Colors" by cashing word usage that the anonymous author had used as a journalist in news stories. For example...He basically noticed that hardly anyone used the word "zombie"....but it was in the book as well as his news stories. The authour denied that he wrote the book...and Foster was a laughing stock. But then the writer eventually admitted he did write the book.

There were aspects of his work that really seemed valuable to me.

Yes, it seems part intuition but again I feel that the function of clues isn't to go to court...but rather to investigate a clue to find evidence.

It seems to me we have lost touch with this intuitive side to literary analysis or pattern recognition in favor of JUST evidence. Well evidence comes out of all kinds of research

I say the more the merrier....but Don Foster's lesson for me is about getting caught up in the hype....letting media or group mob think...take advantage of ongoing research techniques...not cool.

message 22: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod

I just took a quick look at reviews and here is one that says what I was thinking so much better...

"Foster is a good writer and does a good job telling his "detective stories". Unfortunately, in 2002 Foster admitted that the main feather in his cap, his attribution of the "Funeral Elegy" to Shakespeare, was wrong; other Shakespeare scholars had demonstrated that it was almost certainly written by John Ford. Another widely touted "discovery" from this book, that Clement C. Moore plagiarized "A Visit From St. Nicholas", has been subject to fairly convincing counter-arguments by several writers, including Stephen Nissenbaum, that I haven't seen Foster respond to at length. Even before then I thought Foster's case against Moore was weak because most of it seemed to center on the argument that Moore wasn't the right type of personality to write the poem, rather than any strong textual evidence. What next, argue that Dr. Seuss couldn't have written any of the books attributed to him because he never had children? Foster seems like a sincere person, and he has a very innovative methodology, but you have to wonder whether being in the spotlight has led him to pick up some very sloppy research and scholarship habits. This is still a book worth looking at if you happen to find it in a library or bargain table, but make sure you have some grains of salt handy."

message 23: by Martin (last edited Nov 10, 2016 04:32AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night!

A most appropriate line for the mood created by recent political developments. Incidentally, what happened to the thread on the Presidential election?

message 24: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Great pic, Martin----but how did you manage to post it? I haven't seen any way to post pictures with our comments. I think it would be a good idea if more people posted pictures to accompany their comments--they really liven up things (even with the heavens are dark!).

message 25: by Martin (last edited Nov 11, 2016 12:59AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments (David, read the note "some html is ok" top right of the post box. It is tedious, but you find the url of the pic you want to display -- usually ends .jpg, and type in, for example,

{img src=""}

but you use angle brackets, not curly brackets. I worked in software so it's easy for me, so don't be discouraged if you find it tricky!)

message 26: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Thanks, Martin. I'll give it a try:

[image src="https://corrispondenzerecensioni.file..."]

message 27: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments So what am I doing wrong? The link leads to the pic, but that's no fun when we wan to see the picture here and now!

message 28: by Martin (last edited Nov 11, 2016 09:22AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Edit your post, put "img" in place of "image", and use not

square brackets, [ and ]
but angle brackets, < and >

message 29: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments One more try:

message 30: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Thanks, Martin. I think I've got the hang of it now.

message 31: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments Hooray!

And onthe subject of authenticity, did you know there is no proof that this is a portrait of Marlowe? See

message 32: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Yes, I do remember reading that the portrait turned up in the last century and there's no real evidence it's Marlowe. I guess Marlowe's lucky that the face is appealing! (OK, maybe not one to launch a thousand ships, but still . . .)

Shakespeare has not fared so well on that score. As you doubtless know, there's not much evidence for most of the portraits that now bear his name. I find myself most intrigued by the Chandos portrait, the one where he's sporting an earring. It seems to be good for marketing purposes, but I don't know how compelling the evidence is that it is indeed of WS. Might you know anything on this topic?

BTW, is there a way to change the size of a pic one posts here? Is there some magic HTML that'll do the trick? The size of the picture you posted is just right for a forum like this, but Marlowe is way too big.

message 33: by Martin (last edited Nov 12, 2016 02:00PM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments Last point first, you change the pic size with width, height settings (in pixels), following the example in "some html is ok". But it is tedious, and the best bet is to search for an image of just the size you need. image search is useful: if you restrict the search to size medium or whatever, it gives the pixel dimensions of each retrieved image.

There's a good chapter about the S portraits in Schoenbaum's "S's lives". I believe they are all spurious except for the 1st folio image and the Stratford monument. It has often come up in S fans, and Candy takes a keen interest, but I don't think we've ever devoted a thread to the whole subject!

message 34: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Thanks, Martin. I never noticed that 'some html is ok' is actually a link.

I read Schoenbaum a long time back and don't recall what all he had to say about the Chandos portrait. But you're right that the only two images that are definitely WS are the Droeshout engraving in the First Folio and the bust in the Stratford church, neither of which is very flattering!

message 35: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod

message 36: by Don (new)

Don Satalic (donsatalic) | 6 comments I have joined the discussion a little late, I see.

In 2011, I wrote a short book on this very topic with some rather surprising information. I think you will find it compelling. (Twenty-one reviews on Amazon 4.5 stars.)

The Masque of William Shakespeare - An Essay by Don Satalic

message 37: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod
Hi Don, I hope you consider joining us in our group discussions.

Why don't you post your book promotion in our section for self-promotion Don?

message 38: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments Hello Group!

It has been awhile but I got through the end of the semester, I got through the holidays, I got through a work conference, and then, I got through my surgery at the Mayo Clinic. That's why I am on leave this semester at the university, nothing fun like a sabbatical, but medical leave!

Anyhow, if anyone is still interested in this thread, I am now able to get to it. (And, I am very much hoping to do the reading that starts February 5).

I was able to read two academic pieces: 1) a review by Peter Kirwan of "Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship" (2009), and 2) "'We, John Cade': Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the authorship of 4.2.33-189 2 Henry VI" (2015) by John Nance, which is the academic article that is the basis of some of the discussion on Marlowe's potential partial authorship of Henry VI. I tried getting a copy of two other academic articles on this same topic, but the library at my university doesn't have them, and apparently can't even inter-library loan them! That doesn't happen often either. It generally only happens when the article is so rare, in a journal that has such small circulation, that even universities in a rather wide radius from my own does not carry it either. That was a disappointment, but I will keep looking and trying to get other academic articles on this subject.

So, what I can initially comment on is based on only a little bit of academic research. I wish it were more.... Though at the same time, I doubt there is a ton in total on this topic.

Ok, I was going to write a lot, but my 6 year old son is bugging me and I have to tend to him. I promise, will write some actual analysis soon!! Stay tuned...

message 39: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments I'm back. A couple of points:

1. The computer analysis done in these articles (the Nance article explains the methodology in some of the other academic works on this issue as well) is really rather basic. I was surprised. Sometimes nothing more than basic word counts are done, and from these simple statistics authorial attribution is given. For example, how often is the word “shall” used, and if Marlowe uses it in similar frequencies to parts of Henry VI, he must have written that part! Other academic analyses do engage in slightly more complex analyses, including collocations and word strings, not just single words. But still, it all felt rather basic to me. And nowhere does it appear that any of these analyses consider context or placement in the story. Let me add, however, that this does appear to be an issue in the academic literature itself. For example, Nance brings up the point that maybe prose should be analyzed one way, verse another. On that thinking, maybe dialogue differently as well. Should we be looking at word patterns differently in different sections of writing? I do not know the answer to this question, but the point is that no one has even tried. No one is bringing *context* into these analyses AT ALL – it is all simply word frequency counts. And maybe that is because we are just starting this kind of computer aided authorial analysis. Start small, research often does. Look for patterns. Try to go from there. I think the other reason the academic studies do not go anywhere near context is because they are trying to sound as statistical and objective as possible. The desire for objectivity leads to a reluctance to even tangentially bring in subjective analyses like character choice or context for the word choices. This is a tough one. Again, I don’t know the right way to do things here, but what I can tell you is that all of these articles stick to statistics and statistics ONLY. No interpretation or literary context influences the results at all.

2. Having said the above, the Nance article arrives at the conclusion (based on statistics of word frequencies only) that Marlowe wrote parts of Henry VI Part 2, 4.2.33-189, and that Shakespeare wrote other parts of it, but an interesting conclusion appears to be that Marlow worked primarily on the prose heavy parts, and Shakespeare the verse. Through word frequency alone he concludes that Marlowe favors prose, Shakespeare verse. Interesting!

3. Another interesting thing about the Nance article is that he investigates other authors as well, not just Marlowe, including Dekker, Heywood, Lyly, Chapman, and others. Anyone else, actually, that didn’t also write religious tracts (I’m not sure I understand that exclusion) and was alive and writing in the time period around which Henry VI, Part 2 was presumed to have been written. Nance concludes that Marlowe is a co-author with Shakespeare because certain two, three, and four word sequences that occur in 4.2.33-189 of Henry VI also occur uniquely most often in Marlowe’s writings, and not any other author. Earlier in this thread someone asked for examples of the type of phrases that are identifying Marlowe and I will provide some below, but I warn you that it may be disappointing. As I said earlier, context, tone, lyrical-ness, etc. have NO bearing here. All that matters is series’ of words and their repetition. The words don’t even have to be a complete sentence or phrase. They are simply strings of words in Marlowe and in Henry VI – the strings themselves don’t need to have much meaning. Examples:

“hope to reign” near the word “crown”
“come to age” near the word “I”
“therefore he shall” near the word “my”
“he shall be king” near the word “in”
“deny it not” near the word “are”
“get ye gone” near the word “will”
“hath taught you this”
“be protector over him”

(Note that when it says “near,” Nance never really defines what he means by that. It is a Boolean operator, the default of which is a distance of no more than 10 words.)

I could give more examples than the few above, but I think you get the idea. Nothing exciting. This is computer frequency analysis of short word series' ONLY. Context and interpretation are NOT considered.

I hope this post wasn’t too dense. Any questions, fire away.

As for my personal thoughts after the few readings I did: there likely was collaboration between Shakespeare and Marlowe, and I’m glad that is getting more attention than it has in the past, but why this obsession with identifying exactly who wrote what? What if they each wrote initial drafts of sections, swapped the drafts, and then heavily edited each other? What would it even mean to identify people as particular authors of particular (and often small) sections in such an instance? Some of the statistical results were intriguing (I hesitate to use the word convincing) but in the end, like the academic that I am, more research needs to be done. (And most definitely better methodologies need to be developed! This is still a relatively young type of research.)

message 40: by Martin (last edited Jan 30, 2017 05:38AM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments This has been enormously interesting, Lea, thank you so much for posting.

The work does not even seem to me to be very scientifically rigorous. Surely the proper approach is to try a test case where you already know the answers: for example, take a sample of Ben Jonson's plays -- Alchemist, Bart. Fair, Everyman in his Humour (say), plus a sample of contemporary non-Jonson plays, use this as a control set, and get from it a test system, statistical or otherwise, that separates the two. Then apply this test system to remaining Jonson plays, Sejanus etc, and see if it can identify them as being by Jonson. Ideally this should be done "blind", so the test system is developed by research operatives who don't see the contents of the control set or know what the test system they come up with will be applied to. In other words do the experiment like a clinical drug trial.

Has something like this been done? I rather doubt it. But only that would give full confidence in their techniques.

More later (my wife wants her computer back to sign some anti-Trump petition . . . )

message 41: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2724 comments Mod
Wow, wonderful to "see" you back Lea!!!! I have missed you!

And I am very sad to see that the only correlation of word groups is so utterly underwhelming.

I do not think that is any kind of "grammatical fingerprint" AT ALL.

I think that is like saying because I use the adage "tow the line" and Martin uses the adage "tow the line"....we both wrote the same essay.

"come to age" seems the most unique combination of words....that could be attributed to one person...

"shall be king" comes from English standard translation of Ezekiel. (I know how to google)

Doesn't that seem more likely that it confirms an English person who used biblical phrasing wrote the plays....not the same person?

message 42: by Martin (new)

Martin | 39 comments -- The prose / verse distinction: Nance suggests prose and verse might be looked at separately, but suggests in H6-2 (Henry 6 part 2) than Marlowe concentrated on the prose bits, S on the verse bits, in a section or sections where joint authorship is suspected. This means he's got to compare prose in H6-2 with the prose of Marlowe's plays. But where is that prose? Dido, Tanburlaine, Massacre at Paris contain almost no prose. There is quite a lot of prose in Faustus, but they fill up inferior scenes, and there are two versions of these scenes corresponding to two text publications. These "infills" look like the work of someone other than Marlowe. That only leaves Edward II, which does contain some prose but really not very much.

There are clumsinesses in H6-2, or at least passages that might be found clumsy. The "Cade" sections can be seen as a bit crude (Nance's 4.2 is one of these). 2.3 has a comic fight between drunken master and apprentice in a court of law -- very peripheral to the main action. In 2.1 the gullible King is taken in by a rogue pretending to a miraculous healing (this is somewhat anti-Catholic). So H6-2 is fair game for claims of mixed authorship.

The involvement of Marlowe is an old idea. Malone, in 1797, published his belief, based on little evidence, that S 's H6-2 was a revision of an older play by Greene and/or Peele, or (as he later thought) by Marlowe. [The whole episode is explained in Cairncross' Arden edition of 1957.] This became the general wisdom of the 19th century, giving rise to a huge amount of speculation. Green + Peele wrote it, S + Marlowe revised it etc. Of course, it may be true, but it's worth noting that these statistical/computer analyses are using new techniques to try and crack a pretty old chestnut.

message 43: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments Two thoughts. First, Martin, your suggestion of a gold standard data test (i.e. like a "clinical drug trial") is ideal, yes, but can not be done I think because there simply isn't enough data. As you note in your second post, there aren't exactly a ton of Marlowe texts here to be working with. The kind of test you describe has been done in computational text analysis, but generally only when there is a LOT of data to work with. For example, categorizing U.S. senator's speeches as left leaning or right leaning. We've got 100 senators, over many years, and many speeches. First train a computer on hundreds/thousands of those speeches, and then use it to guess the rest. That would be hard to do here.

I would say that, were I to personally dip into this academic area myself, what I would concentrate on is publishing research that establishes better methodological techniques. I wouldn't bother trying to determine who authored what - not yet. I would instead gather a lot of data (maybe from google books) and start trying to test authorial theories on that very large dataset. Were I to come up with any consistencies in what worked, prediction-wise, then I might return to the Shakespeare question.

Candy, good to see you too!! I understand about your disappointment in the phrases, but I am not as concerned by that as you are. Having read a lot in the textual analysis literature at this point, it really does appear that people have linguistic thumbprints, and that those thumbprints are actually often on seemingly non-important phrases/words. For example, there was a study on male versus female writers. And the hypothesis that men would use more active verbs, or more strong words, or something very stereotypical. It turned out that men and women used most verbs, nouns, and adjectives the same. You know where the statistically significant difference came? In use of contractions. Women use "but" and "and" WAY more than men. I found that interesting and hilarious all at the same time. Similarly, a study of top ten song lyrics over time showed that what's changed from the 1960s till today is, simply, pronouns. In the 1960s singers sang about "us" and "we." Today it's all about "me" and "I". My point is that very small phrases, even single words, can be identifying. So I understand your disappointment, but not so much your concern in the phrases they identified.

message 44: by Martin (last edited Jan 31, 2017 12:01PM) (new)

Martin | 39 comments "There simply isn't enough data." Yes, you explain that very well.

But of course, as the size of a data sample shrinks to zero so does the significance of any observable pattern within it. In this sense I am with Candy, "underwhelmed".

And surely the "observable pattern" should be something one can see repeating to be plausible? Take for example, the indicator,

"hope to reign" near the word "crown". The example in H6-2 is easy enough to find, in 4.2, the section of Nance's enquiry,

Cade: As for these silken-coated slaves, I pass not:
It is to you, good people, that I speak,
Over whom, in time to come, I hope to reign;
For I am rightful heir unto the crown.

(In a verse section, so forget what I said above about the limited extent of Marlowe's prose.) Then you search for the same thing in Marlowe's complete plays -- more research needed, but there is an etext of the complete plays, where I find one and only one example,

Usumcasne: For as, when Jove did thrust old Saturn down,
Neptune and Dis gain'd each of them a crown,
So do we hope to reign in Asia,
If Tamburlaine be plac'd in Persia.

Marlowe's plays fill a book of 500 pages -- so what is one to make of the evidence provided by this single link?

message 45: by Lea (new)

Lea (learachel) | 197 comments Yeah, Martin, I'm with you.

I suppose Nance or a similar academic might say, then how else should we proceed?

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