Computerized Analysis Helps Researchers Define Shakespeare's Work Using 'Literary Fingerprint'





A team of researchers that includes scholars from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is using computerized analysis of the writing of William Shakespeare to dispel lingering doubts about his authorship of many works and to trace the outlines of his total body of compositions.

Using a method called computational stylistics, the researchers count the frequency of common words, and rare words, to detect Shakespeare’s writing style, producing his distinct and unmistakable “literary fingerprint” that can be used to determine if and when there have been collaborations and what exactly Shakespeare wrote. The Shakespeare “fingerprint” also provides strong evidence that he, and not other authors, wrote the works generally believed to be his, because each of the other authors has a unique literary “fingerprint” that is different.

For example, Arthur F. Kinney, director of the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies at UMass Amherst, and one of the lead researchers says, using this method, “I have now proven that Shakespeare is part-author of Arden of Faversham. They guessed that in the 19th century but no one would believe it in the 20th century. Now we know.” The methodology will now be used to look into whether Shakespeare revised King Lear or whether he was in the habit of having other authors revise his original works.


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