This Thing of Darkness

This post contains three smaller entries, each with their own direction of focus, hence the title.  First, I would like to respond to Prof. Witmore’s comments on my previous post.  Secondly, I would like to make a note about a program created for us by a graduate student at UW, Michael Correll.  Finally, I would like to close with an analyzed response to a post at WineDarkSea labeled Shakespeare Out of Place?

After finishing my last post, To Be or Not To Be a Romance, I discussed both my findings and my methods with Michael Witmore.  In doing so, I ended up realizing more than I had previously about the final image in the post.  That image is shown below.

In describing the image earlier, I chose to focus on the sections of plays that were moving around in the diagram.  Talking with Witmore helped me focus on the characters involved, such as Leontes, Imogen, and Prospero and their respective movement and non-movement.  For example Cymbeline clusters with All’s Well That Ends Well as well as the version without Imogen, but fails to group with Imogen herself.  Instead, Imogen’s lines become relegated to a grouping consisting solely of comedies.  This movement and placement would suggest Imogen’s relative unimportance to the play itself (despite numerical prioritization) and her similarity to plays around her.  Her placement within Shakespeare’s comedies, which are known for their use of stock female characters, would then be no accident.  Indeed, one of the closest correlations to Imogen’s lines is Merry Wives of Windsor which contains two stock female characters in the form of Mistress Ford and Mistress Page.  Could Imogen’s stock characterization have any bearing on her role within the play itself?  Imogen’s character within Cymbeline involves a greater amount of speech than normal; however Imogen never had authority in the play.  Generalizing, her potential authority was never realized, instead always being deferred or transferred to a man.  Could this “stock”-ness of Imogen then suggest a link between characterization, plot, and genre?  For if Cymbeline doesn’t need Imogen to be Cymbeline, does that signify an underlying genre structure inherent in the written lines of characters?

Additional data can be obtained by looking at The Tempest and The Winter’s Tale.  In the Tempest, Prospero remains with his play which can be easily explained with the use of the hard data present in this graph which was also in my last post.  By noting that Prospero contains roughly 30% of the lines and words within the play it is understandable that, by ignoring the meaning behind the numbers, that one-third of the play would cluster highly with the other two-thirds.  However Witmore brought up an interesting point in asking, “but what does that mean about Miranda?”  His comment on the post suggests the lack of raw repetitive, numerical force within her lines.  Miranda is definitely not a stock character however both Ariel and Caliban also possess more lines than her in the play.  Could this be Shakespeare’s sly way of presenting a strong female character, but hiding her beneath a multitude of men?  Or have the negligible amount of Miranda’s lines not be able to flush out innately stock character traits over the course of the play?  I personally find solution in the former rather than the latter.  Her numerically diminutive characterization doesn’t allow Miranda’s lines to influence the play, especially contrasted against Prospero’s largess in one speaking role.  Miranda’s lines within the play are the size of that of a minor character, despite her larger role within the plot of play, hence the unaffected dramatic classification of Tempest when compared to a corpus with and without Prospero.  Comparatively, Prospero’s lines then must run parallel to the genre classification of the play as a whole or don’t affect the genre at all.  But again, Tempest’s proximity to Julius Caesar, which is abundant in large, male dominated speaking roles, would definitely reinforce a similarity to Prospero’s lines rather than neutrality between them.  In sum, Tempest essentially debunks a theory of plot, relative and intrinsic, in the lines of principle characters.  For we have shown that Prospero, although parallel to the language in the rest of play, isn’t needed for Tempest to remain linked to Julius Caesar.  And Miranda’s lines, despite representing a minor character in amount, fail to assert any genre distinction with and without Prospero present.

The implications gained from analyzing the movement of Winter’s Tale within the diagram ultimately support this as well.  Multiple movements occur around this one play, including clustering with Merchant of Venice instead of Cymbeline.  As I mentioned in the last post, this breakup between Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline isn’t novel as Dekker’s works achieved the same result, down to the same clustering seen above.  (The Dekker and Shakespeare diagram can be seen here)  But now this begs the question of what is really going on.  If the two pairs of four plays remain the same between the diagrams, what are Leontes’s lines doing?  One difference illuminates a crucial gap between the primary and secondary portraits; that of the plays present between these two pairs.  The second portrait possesses a trio of Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth, and Coriolanus separating the two pairs of plays when compared to the first.  This space reiterates the meaninglessness of Leontes’s lines, as the with and without versions of Winter’s Tale still cluster with Merchant of Venice, despite the incoming triad of tragedies.   However, now the question becomes related to what Leontes clustered with.  His lines tie the tightest with Othello which, if following the same line of logic as we did for Imogen, contains a relatively uncertain genre classification, particularly due to the role of a the main character in the play.  Historically Othello has walked the line between being a tragedy and a comedy, due to the plot structure as well as the perceivably comic characterization of Othello himself.  If Leontes clustered with Othello, being a similarly weakened male figure (constantly undermined by Paulina, the character with the second most lines in the play), couldn’t this signify a reversal of the decision made earlier with Tempest as plot and characterization would then intertwine?  (With Leontes being a comparable “stock” male)  Possibly.  However when analyzing the Pelican’s  table it should be noticed that Othello doesn’t actually speak the most lines in the play; Iago does.  In effect, this muddles any assumptions previously made about a relationship between Othello and Leontes as any relationship between the two must inexorably include Iago as well.

The results of this second investigation have resolved a long-standing question for me, even if temporarily, about whether or not characters’ lines and plot are related; this is in addition to building off of the feedback from Professor Witmore.


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