Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The Reign of Edward III - Definitely Co-Authored by Shakespeare?
Posted by JaneGS
After checking my Yahoo mail this morning, I saw an article on Yahoo (that wasn't about Colorado's own "balloon boy"!) that caught my eye. It's from Time magazine and it's entitled How Plagiarism Software Found a New Shakespeare Play.
The gist of the story is that Sir Brian Vickers, a literature professor at the University of London, used a software program called Pl@giarism to compare writing patterns between Edward III and the undisputed works of Shakespeare. His conclusion is that Shakespeare definitely wrote parts of The Reign of Edward III and Thomas Kyd wrote other parts.
My problem with this approach (i.e., matching strings of words--the more matching strings the more likely that the author of the compared works is the same person) is that it doesn't account for the fact that other playwrights probably lifted Shakespeare's phrases and incorporated them into their own works just as he did theirs. Imitation is the highest form of flattery and plagarism in the Elizabethan world was rampant.
Furthermore, Shakespeare invented so many words and phrases that attributing authorship based on matching phrases seems to ignore a distinguishing characteristic of Shakespeare as an author. I'm not suggesting that the literary detectives should look for unique phrases rather than matching phrases, but I do wonder whether the methodology holds true for Shakespeare.
I would be more convinced that Shakespeare was the author or co-author of this play if there was any evidence that it was part of the repertoire of one of the acting companies that he was associated with. It's significant to me that it wasn't part of the First Folio.