Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Shakespeare still fascinates

by Rick Blechta

I ran across an interesting article several weeks ago and found it absolutely fascinating. You should read it before we continue our discussion. Take your time. I’ll go get a coffee while I’m waiting.

So the Bard, like any other writer, seems to have always had his eye out for good material from which to work. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he kept a notebook of source ideas. Unfortunately something like this — if it did exist — has been lost in the mists of time. It would certainly be a most interesting read.

Enter the computer tech guys. Software has existed for a number of years now that is used mostly by college professors and teaching assistants to find out whether assignments are being plagiarized or sources not acknowledged properly. This especially became an issue when various online sites began offering services to provide compositions and even theses for a fee.

Using this software, it’s easy to plug in a few key phrases and find out if they were used previously on things that are now posted on the internet and elsewhere. It doesn’t take long to wheedle out the source if a student has “cut a few corners” in completing assignments. The penalties can be severe.

However, “An yll wynde, that blowth no man to good, men sae.” (A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue; John Heywood, 1546*) So a couple canny literary sleuths plugged in several phrases and connected Shakespeare with a source from which he seems to have “consulted” quite freely in writing his plays.

I’m certain this success is going to inspire more research into how these great plays came into being and who knows, we might find out once and for all if William Shakespeare had help —

No ill wind indeed!
or if he helped others.

*I always acknowledge sources…


Unknown said...

One new source discovered: newsy news. That the Bard took from many sources: old news (it was old news when I studied Shakespeare at a very ordinary state college decades ago). When that elusive notebook is discovered--now that will be brilliant news! Or will it spawn generations of fresh debate about who really kept the notebook? Now there's a premise for a mystery! Any takers?

Rick Blechta said...

Anna, thanks for the comment. Yes, that is a good idea for a literary mystery. I like it! I'll leave it for someone with more knowledge in that area than I have, but I hope someone takes it up.

As for Shakespeare borrowing, I knew he did that, but these two sleuths found an actual source document, or so it seems. That's very cool.