Tag Archives: ideolect

To Be or Not To Be a Romance

Whilst going over older materials I have stored, I came across an article by Witmore and Hope dealing with the Romances or Late Plays of Shakespeare.  It was a journal in Early Modern Tragicomedy (2007), the twenty-second installment of the “Studies in Renaissance Literature” series.   In it, Witmore and Hope write that John Fletcher’s “definition of genre not only specifies what must be in a play to qualify it for membership in a genre, but also what it must lack”.  Fletcher’s postulation of what must be present, but also not present, to belong to a genre is similar to what I tested in my last post by adding and removing the characters that plays were named after.  In review, it was a mixed bag of results leading towards both the idiolects of the play’s main characters and the texture of plays themselves as the primary reasons for clustering.  However Witmore and Hope’s article sparked a new thought process in my head.  Since readers and critics as far back in time as Fletcher have noted the peculiar differences between the Romances and the rest of Shakespeare’s corpus, does that mean by following Fletcher’s formula that adding or subtracting characters will affect a play’s genre classification?  One of Witmore’s earliest views from Docuscope was a simplified dendrogram noting a genre specific clustering result from an unbiased word tagging program.  I have since noticed particular genre related movement in the Romeo and Juliet post, but I am now trying to combine a three hundred year-old literary critic’s mind with a modern machine’s processes.  In sum, I wish to determine if the idiolects of the main characters assist the Romances in clustering differently from the rest of Shakespeare’s corpus and whether or not the isolation of these particular characters’ lines from the whole play reacts with the genre specific clustering already present. Continue reading



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Genre Dependence on Character Ideolects

And yet, we know that when human beings are involved, all findings are provisional. Odd.

To extrapolate on Michael Witmore’s comments in his previous post, it is indeed odd how provisional our results are.  Case in point: I have been examining what John Burrows and Hugh Craig have called the ideolect of characters in connection with the plays in which these characters’ lines occur.  I stumbled upon this idea while looking at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and asking how the characters of Romeo and Juliet help steer this play towards tragedy or comedy. (This was done for a panel I presented on with Witmore  and William Blake (Carnegie Mellon) at a digital salon hosted in at UW-Madison.  Prof. Witmore and Bill Blake are themselves working on an analysis of Hamlet without the prince, and the 1 Henry plays/Merry Wives of Windsor without Falstaff: we’re all interested in this kind of “subtraction experiment.”  Continue reading

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