Current Postings

Announcement - Edna Boris

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0254  Monday, 16 July 2018


From:       Richard Boris <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 14, 2018 at 6:06 AM EDT

Subject:    Announcement - Edna Boris



Dear Friends,

Edna suffered a massive and unexpected coronary on 4 July, cutting short the vibrant energy she brought to the world and shared with us during her 75 years of life. Her own words described the life she had lead as good and happy. Her passing was peaceful and easy.

There will be a celebration of her life 6 September at The Roosevelt House, Hunter College in New York City. Specific details will follow, but please mark your calendars now. 


Should you want to honor her memory, please make a donation in her name to Médecins Sans Frontières.


Thank you all for your kind words, messages, cards.

Richard and Nicholas


Announcement - Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0253  Friday, 13 July 2018


From:       Susan St. John <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 11, 2018 at 10:58 AM EDT

Subject:    Announcement - Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival


Flagstaff, Arizona is about to become a major player in Shakespearean performance! Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival ( is a company about to open its 4th season: Taming of the Shrew, July 12-22; Titus Andronicus, July 20-29, and The Tempest, Oct 5-14. 

In their short 4-year history, they have used several performance spaces throughout Flagstaff, and are currently under an open-air tent at the edge of a pine forest behind the Museum of Northern Arizona. 

But this amazing young company just revealed plans to build their very own Wooden-O, all local timber, on Mars Hill, next to the world-renowned Lowell Observatory. This $2 million project is almost halfway funded and should be ready by summer of 2020. 

Full disclosure: I am NOT on staff of this company, and I live 125 miles away; but I have seen all of their shows, played Mistress Page last summer, and will be appearing as Signora Baptista Minola in Shrew. I am so impressed with the quick growth and amazing support generated by this company, and the quality of their productions, attention and dedication to the text, and the beautiful surroundings of their outdoor performances spaces. Please give them a look and visit them when you are near the Grand Canyon!

Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0252  Wednesday, 11 July 2018


From:       Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 11, 2018 at 6:54 AM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet


Patterns are absolutely fundamental to the way we process all that changing data that flows into our brains. From what I remember dimly about "information theory," we have many different ways to discriminate "signal" which we want to understand from "noise" which interferes with the signal. We have to have a pretty accurate understanding or prediction or expectation about the signal before we start on it. If we are expecting a signal in English that was actually sent in Mandarin, our English signal/noise discriminators aren't going to work. I remember being assigned to read Hamlet when I was in high school. I'd had lots of experience reading many different kinds of things, but Shakespeare? Not a clue. Mr. Bloom at the Bronx High School of Science didn't provide any. Those plays were opaque to me because I had none of the code-breaking tools. The grammar and the vocabulary of 1950s science fiction didn't help when I was hit with the grammar and vocabularies of 1590s drama. After many years of searching for and eventually finding meaning-bearing patterns in Hamlet, now I finally can extract the purposes behind things like rhymes signaling, "Get ready to exit at the end of the rhyme pattern," even though sometimes the rhyme may be a purposefully false indicator or some other use for rhyme entirely. Similarly, a third speaker appearing in a long exchange between two primary speakers in a dialogue meaning or implying "Ah, right here you have to pull the audience's attention away from the line strictly connecting the two primaries. This way the audience will have a new dimension to think through. Variety is good!"   


Now to the authorship-ascription issues. The various authorship-discriminating engines do their stuff to extract "authorship-signals" from the noisy patterns embedded in the language of the scripts. For many people, authorship is a very, very important signal of value. For me, not so much. If a dramatic script "works" onstage, whether finalized by William Shakespeare in 1600 or by Joey the Play Butcher in 2018, I'm happy if I can watch it "work" magic on an audience (and on me too).  


Steven Urkowitz

Announcement - Timon of Athens Performance

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0252  Wednesday, 11 July 2018


From:       Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 10, 2018 at 7:06 AM EDT

Subject:    Announcement - Timon of Athens Performance




Shakespeare at Pendleton is a performance group formed at the Pendleton Correctional Facility in 2013. The Pendleton Correctional Facility is a maximum security prison located about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis. So far, Shakespeare at Pendleton has performed Coriolanus and scenes from Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night's Dream. On Friday evening, July 27th, we will be doing our third show, what I believe is the first ever performance of Timon of Athens within a prison. The men have been doing excellent work preparing for this show. If you live reasonably near Indianapolis, Indiana, you may contact me, soon, for details on attending. 




Jack Heller

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please use this address to contact me about the performance)

Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0251  Monday, 9 July 2018


[1] From:        Thomas Krause <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 6, 2018 at 9:08 PM EDT 

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


[2] From:        Thomas Krause <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>     

     Date:         July 6, 2018 at 9:31 PM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


[3] From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 6, 2018 at 11:58 PM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


[4] From:        William Rubinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 7, 2018 at 12:51 AM EDT      

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet/The Date of Hamlet 


[5] From:        Ward Elliott <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 7, 2018 at 2:23 AM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


[6] From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 8, 2018 at 10:19 PM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


[7] From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>    

     Date:         July 8, 2018 at 10:44 PM EDT    

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


[8] From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 9, 2018 at 5:40 AM EDT    

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet/King Lear 


[9] From:        John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 9, 2018 at 5:49 AM EDT

     Subj:         Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 




From:       Thomas Krause <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 6, 2018 at 9:08 PM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


Steve Roth, in response to my suggestion that the differences between Q1 and the other versions might be seen as trying to avoid offense to King James:


“I’ve only spent a bit of time with the argument in this paper, so I’m agnostic. But will say that I’ve seen many similar suggestions about different Hamlet versions vis-a-vis James and Anne over the years.”


Thanks Steve–would you mind providing a listing of some of the similar suggestions? If there are others out there that have used the differences as a basis for fixing the sequence of the versions (i.e., the topic of this thread) I for one would be interested in seeing them.


Like others, I haven’t had a chance to read Bourus’s book yet, but I’ve read Ron Rosenbaum’s article and all of the posts here, some of which shed some light on her argument. The basic structure of her argument is quite similar to mine–we both propose a logical reason for the differences. Hers is that a play that is chronologically closer to Belleforest will be more similar to Belleforest, and mine is that one consideration in publishing in 1603 would have been to avoid offense to King James. She says the differences between Q1 and Q2/F support her hypothesis–and certainly they do–but as shown in my post, they support mine as well, and (at least from what I have heard so far) I don’t see any reason to prefer hers over mine. 


So, I’m just providing one more reason (in addition to those of others on this list), employing reasoning similar to Bourus’s own, for disagreeing with Bourus’s conclusion. And again, my theory explains some changes that Bourus’s does not; e.g., the new scene, not in Belleforest, Q2, or F, between Horatio and Gertrude in which the Queen’s learns of Claudius’s misdeeds and allies herself with Hamlet. 


My previous work focused only on the differences involving Gertrude and debasement, and I haven’t had time to systematically review all the differences between Q1 and Q2/F, but thanks to Rosenbaum's piece and some earlier posts on this thread I’ve stumbled on three additional differences that all tend to support the “avoid offense to King James” theory.


1) The “alluring” business of the missing pirates in Q1. Even before King James took the English throne, the Scots were complaining about depredations by English pirates, and James at one point proclaimed that he would “hang the pirates with my own hands.” See, e.g., Mark G. Hanna, Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740 (2015), p. 54. He followed this up with “A Proclamation to repress all Piracies and Depredations upon the Sea. [Winchester 30 September 1603]). If you’re trying to curry favor with a sworn enemy of pirates, it only makes sense to remove references to pirates being helpful.


2) The fact that Q1’s Hamlet is more resolute than the Hamlet of Q2/F. This is likewise a sensible edit when you are worried about offending a king who has been plagued by criticism for not being sufficiently resolute. See Lilian Winstanley, Hamlet and the Scottish Succession (1921), pp. 76-87 (discussing similarities between the irresolute Hamlet and James, through letters from Queen Elizabeth to James).


3) The alteration of the prayer speech to “No King on earth is safe if God[’]s his foe.” This more overt reference to the relationship between kings and God could well have been a nod to King James’s Basilikon Doron, the first part of which concerns that relationship. 


It is true that both (1) and (2) above support Borous’s theory as well–there were no pirates in Belleforest and Belleforest’s Amleth was quite resolute. But once again, I think I’ve offered an at least equally plausible explanation for these differences. 


If I’m wrong, it should be pretty easy for someone else to prove it–all you have to do is find a way that Q1 differs from Q2/F in a way that would offend King James. So, if you can find that, I might have to take it all back.


As a final note, and because nobody has said it yet, I don’t see the change in Hamlet’s age to be nearly as supportive of Bourus’s position as she reportedly thinks it is. Even apart from this debate, I had thought it was generally agreed that the age given in the gravedigger scene is inconsistent with the impression of a “young” Hamlet given by most of the rest of the play. If someone was editing the play anyway to remove references that might offend King James, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to believe that the same editor might have seen fit to “fix” the problem of Hamlet’s age.  


Tom Krause



From:       Thomas Krause <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 6, 2018 at 9:31 PM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


Reacting to my theory of Hamlet, as laid out at, Pervez Rizvi cites dialogue from Massinger’s A New Way to Pay Old Debts, in which the phrase “picture in little” is used to describe the resemblance of a son to his father. He contends that this is evidence against the notion that Hamlet is talking about coins when he says “picture in little” in the following passage:


"It is not very strange; for my uncle is king of Denmark, and those that would make mouths at him while my father lived, give twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece [a peece]  for his picture in little. ‘Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.”   


But if anything, the Massinger passage supports me. I think we all agree that the primary meaning of “picture in little” back then was “miniature portrait.” Just as Hamlet punned on this phrase by using “picture in little” to refer to coins, Order puns on it to describe a son’s resemblance to his father. Massinger’s “cold bake-meat” signals the Hamlet parallel, and Massinger delivers by echoing Shakespeare’s pun on “picture in little.”


Pervez also thinks that even assuming I’m right about coins, the fact that people are “paying” large numbers of ducats for coins means the currency is worth more and thus not debased. I think we’re talking past each other here–my point is that the 20, 40, 50, 100 ducats are the denominations of the coins. If there is a debasement, the denominations go up. The specific example given in the paper is that the Scottish pound was once worth the same as a English pound, but by the time of James’s accession, had been debased to the point where it was only worth 1/12. A King James Scottish pound would have had the value of 20 English pence.     


Pervez likewise finds the idea that Hamlet is showing Gertrude two coins in the closet scene “interesting” but not persuasive absent the debasement point. I personally have always thought it persuasive even without the debasement point–if Hamlet has shown Gertrude coins, it makes Gertrude’s later line (when Hamlet sees the ghost but she doesn’t) “this is the very coinage of your brain” so much better. In cases where one interpretation makes the scene better, I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to Shakespeare. Of course, it’s not “provable” either way but most people that have engaged with my article have agreed me on this point (James Shapiro is perhaps the most famous of these).  


For those of you who were reading this list 14 years ago, yes this is the same article, but that debate mainly concerned the Measure for Measure aspect of the debasement theory, and only touched on Hamlet a little bit. So, Pervez’s comments are most welcome, and I’d enjoy the opportunity to properly defend the Hamlet coinage and/or debasement theory against any and all comers, or–even better–have a constructive discussion about it, as I think we are doing now.


Tom Krause



From:       Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 6, 2018 at 11:58 PM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


Steve Roth almost quoted me:


“Bourus exemplifies Laurie E. Maguire’s method of textual inquiry: compare texts as little as possible. I advise reading Q1 against Q2 at every spot cited (including before & after transpositions).”


This strikes me as superciliously dismissive. As I highlighted in my post, Bourus’s argument stands atop Margrethe Jolly’s work, which embodies precisely Downs’ recommended method: “reading Q1 against Q2 at every spot cited.”


But Steve forgot the preceding, including my “if”. Supercilious, itself dismissive, is not argument. I’ll look into Jolly. Whether either writer properly compares texts is an ‘if’ I hope to answer of all the evidence.


>"mistakes also betray theatrical reporting"


Whether these “mistakes” are from memorial or shorthand reporting, this could certainly be part of the story whereby an early Shakespeare (and Kyd?) Hamlet came to us as Q1. But to add other possible sources from my original post: “(yes, presumably with transcription, composition, and even editorial intercessions to muddy things up).” 


By mistakes I specified those of performance. To be clear, shorthand reporting is memorial transmission by performing actors. Transcription would include text affected by a stenographer’s memory, accuracy, revision, punctuation, deduction, and guess. I referred here to actor-errors more or less identified as such by textual analysis. They are powerful evidence if other explanations are wanting.


The trick is not only to recognize causes of contamination but to order them chronologically. Printing, reporting, performance, memorial reconstruction, and theatrical revision must be analyzed before a go at attribution. Retrograde comparison of all textual variation at each step comes before that.


For example, after much intelligent comparisons intended to learn Q2’s F-copy role, usually described as compositorial Q-to-Ms. head-swiveling, Jenkins suggests what I’ve come to believe of Q1’s Lear and R3:


[B]etween the annotation of Q2 and the printing of F a transcript intervened. It is a hypothesis that has . . . serious difficulties . . . But at least it affords an explanation for those F errors which betray a misreading of handwriting . . . One thing we cannot know is how much annotation of a copy of Q2 may have been specifically undertaken in preparation for F and how much may have already been done . . . With any or all of the group of plays having widely divergent texts there may have been some factor in the transmission of which we know and can guess nothing. What, however, is certain, on the evidence . . . is that F combines the authority of an independent manuscript with derivation in some way from Q2.


And that’s the first step. Although Q1 served only a minor role as Q2 copy, the earlier quarto must be compared in every respect to the later texts. If Q1 is determined to be a bad quarto, what kind is important. But it would not be an originating text. Any pre-performance revision would have to be segregated from text indicated by late editions to be derivative. That would make a Kyd attribution hard to show. There’s a body of Kyd study not countenanced by the NOS; I don’t know if Steve uses it. My take on Nashe is that ‘whole Hamlets’ refers to Kyd’s ability to ‘afford’ imitative Senecan tragedies such as SpTr. I’m not troubled much at this time by a Q2-/F-like text early origination. Speculation about the text of any Ur-Hamlet is much less to the purpose than relating the texts we have.


Last guesses: young may at times appear before character names to provide an unstressed syllable, both as poetic and to satisfy English ‘iambic’ habit. The same may be said of ‘cosin Hamlet.’ I don’t recall anyone announcing his age in sum as ‘man and boy,’ which is hardly necessary.


Gerald E. Downs  



From:       William Rubinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 7, 2018 at 12:51 AM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet/The Date of Hamlet


Concerning the date of the composition of Hamlet, Edmund Malone

pointed out, and Lilian Winstanley also restated in her unfortunately

forgotten work, Hamlet and the Scottish Succession (1921), that the

celebrated lines "Now cracks a noble heart...And flights of angels..." etc., 

are apparently an echo of the words of the Earl of Essex at his trial, "And when my soul and body shall all part, send thy blessed angels to be near unto me which may convey it to the joys of heaven." Essex was executed on 25 February 1601; if the lines in the play are based on Essex's trial speech, by definition they could not have been written before then, and nor the play, in the form we know it.


William D. Rubinstein



From:        Ward Elliott <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 7, 2018 at 2:23 AM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


Steve Roth asks for a less garbled version of our test outcomes on our mid-sized sample of HamQ1, “Q1HU,” which was chosen for its apparent discrepancies with Q2 and F, stripped of speech headings, stage directions, and prose, and modernized for us, all by Mark Hulse. Mark wanted to know whether Q1 was all-Shakespeare or co-authored with someone else (SHK 29.0243  Sunday, 3 July 2018). Our tests say it’s co-authored.


Steve Roth wonders if Mark’s choice for Shakespeare’s dissimilarity was circular, whether Q1 could be co-authored with Kyd, and whether the rest of our 2017 Shakespeare birthday letter, from which our analysis was taken, has been published. Steve Urkowitz wonders if Mark’s choice and editing of the text might not have somehow biased the outcome and needed to be redone based on David Bevington’s unfiltered, modernized Q1 text from the University of Victoria archive.


Let’s try again with the test outcomes. Those were sent in a Word table, but did come out garbled in the posting. Here’s another try in plain text. Hope it works. Wonder if it can be retrofitted to the prior posting, to which it was the keystone?


Table 3.  Four Series-2 Rejections for Hamlet Q1HU in 29 tests


Test                                                   Shakespeare Pre-1600 Range       Q1HU Score

Grade Level                                       4-9                                                       12

Proclitics per 1,000 lines                   235-561                                                188

ShDavLx BoB                                   .342 to .633                                          .297

Thisted-Efron New Words                -32 to 41                                               -147

Total Shakespeare rejections           0-2 in 29 tests                                      4 in 29 tests

Sh. discrepancy, yrs.                        NMT 35 weeks                                     30 years


Table 3. Four Shakespeare rejections for Hamlet Q1HU block in 29 Series-2 tests. Grade-level is too high for Shakespeare, other scores are too low. The odds of more than three Shakespeare rejections in 29 Series-2 tests occurring by chance are about one in 400. At Shakespeare’s normal rates of writing and generating discrepancy from his own default ranges, it would take five weeks, on average, to write a block as long as Q1HU, 35 weeks at the outside--but 30 years to produce a block as full of Shakespeare discrepancies as Q1HU. Source: Sh Othvs 3K 816.xlx. For descriptions of most of the tests, see our 1996 and 2004.


Tests failed:


Grade level: words and sentences are longer, text scores 3 grades higher than Shakespeare’s profile maximum for plays.


Proclitic microphrases: stressable leading monosyllable loses stress for metric reasons in verse (Tarlinskaja). Lower than Shakespeare’s profile minimum.


Sh/Davies Lx BoB: derived from ratio of Shakespeare’s most-favored lexical words to Davies most-favored lexical words. Score is lower than Shakespeare’s profile minimum but higher than Davies profile maximum. It suggests that neither Shakespeare nor John Davies of Hereford, whom no one has ever associated with Q1, is a likely solo author of Q1HU.


Words new to Shakespeare canon:  We found 4.6 times more of these than Shakespeare’s profile maximum per like-size text block. It’s a gross discrepancy which strongly suggests the involvement of another author with a working vocabulary different from Shakespeare’s.


The answers to Steve’s questions are: 1. Could it be by Shakespeare solo? Not likely.


2. Was it circular of Mark to choose for Shakespeare dissimilarity? No. No one denies that Q1 is full of text very similar to Q2 and the Folio, but also has text not so similar to Q2/Folio. The burning question is not whether Old Shakespeare could have written his own look-alike passages--nobody doubts that--but whether Young Shakespeare could be a likely author of the not-so-close Q1 passages. Our tests say he couldn’t. If you want to measure for dissimilarities, it makes sense to look where they seem greatest. You don’t have to drain the whole swamp to catch this fish, just put down a line where the fish seems to be rising. 


3. Has the rest of the “article” been published? No. It’s from our 2017 Shakespeare Birthday Letter, a kind of informal annual report to alumni and friends of our Shakespeare Clinic on the year’s happenings. Such letters are much quicker and require a lot less explaining and working out, again and again from scratch, than either conventional publications or SHAKSPER postings. The further working out, I hope, will come along in due course. The rest of the letter had to do with our reactions to the monumental, then-new New Oxford Shakespeare Authorship Companion (NOS AC, 2017)–our joy to have it in hand, our reflections on its methodological differences from ours–we test more for differences, NOS AC’s experts test more for resemblances–and our expectations of agreement and disagreement of our own evidence with NOS AC’s. At first impression, we expected full concurrence with about a third of NOS AC’s conclusions on the three-dozen or so most knotty perennial authorship questions; partial agreement on a middle third; and varying levels of complete disagreement on the last third. These expectations were based on our old, well-validated 14 or so Series-1 tests, which in aggregate seem to be 97% accurate on mid-sized passages of around 3,000 words. 


The next step is to take a closer look at NOS AC’s and others’ evidence case by case and continue validating our new, 29 or so Series-2 tests. So far these seem to be 99% accurate on mid-sized passages, enough better than Series-1 to look worth the trouble of another round fleshing out, validating, and comparing with others. That will take some time to work out, and we hope it will eventually be published. In the meantime, if anyone wants published highlights of our views on various leading authorship methodologies, as of about 2011, check our “Language and Authorship” entry in The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare. T. Hoenselaars, Bruce Smith et al., eds. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (2016). I wouldn’t be above sending Steve a copy of the pertinent Birthday Letter offline as a progress report, if he wishes, but it’s too early to look for a general discussion on SHAKSPER.


4. Could Kyd have co-authored Q1? It’s not the kind of question our methods are good for answering. We have plenty of validation for single-authored texts, including Kyd’s whole plays, but discrepancy studies like ours work a lot better on single-author texts than co-authored–and a lot of Q1 is obviously co-authored by Shakespeare, not Kyd. Would anyone be surprised if our tests came out “unlikely Kyd solo?” We wouldn’t. Again, it’s not worth draining the swamp to find that out. Occasionally someone makes a plausible separation of one co-author from another, permitting us to test each section separately for solo authorship, but our normal rule is to try to take on just one author at a time.


Steve Urkowitz has similar concerns about which of our tests show differences and which do not, and whether looking for dissimilarities biases outcomes. Why didn’t we test all of modernized Q1 against all of modernized Q2 or modernized Folio Hamlet? The short answer is it asks us to drain too much swamp for too little fish. I’m 80, care about return on investment, and prefer higher-quality yields to lower. We’ve gotten consistent, high-quality returns on testing for aggregate discrepancy, but much shakier ones looking at mountains of evidence of “unique” similarities which always turn out to be less unique than they look at first. For us, it’s the four Shakespeare rejections listed in Table 3 above which best test Mark Hulse’s intuition, not the passes observed on the other 25 tests. Anti-Stratfordians and hyper-Stratfordians to the contrary, resemblances are a dime a dozen and do much less to prove common authorship than differences do to disprove it. Fitting Cinderella’s slipper, and even having the right height, weight, hair color, eye color, and a dozen other matches, doesn’t make you Cinderella if your blood type doesn’t match. But not fitting the slipper is strong evidence that you are not Cinderella.


Was it circular of Mark to look for differences? No. He went where he could see the fish rising. Could it have affected the way he edited the modernized text? Not likely, unless he knew the 29 profiles we tested for.  Can differences in modernization conventions affect the outcomes of some tests? Yes, but only for some tests, and it’s manageable if you consistently apply the same testing and editing rules, as we try to do. Editing takes a lot of time, but once you’ve done it it’s a hundred times more rewarding and productive than using original spelling. Should we have used David Bevington’s modernized e-text of the entire Q1? The fish-rising, Shakespeare-discrepant part of Q1, probably, if either of us had known about the Bevington text. Thanks to Steve for bringing it to our attention. It could have saved both us and Mark Hulse a lot of time and effort, especially with the spelling.


If we had re-edited Bevington’s text and tested the whole Q1, perhaps not just with our 29 tests for mid-sized blocks but with 70-80 tests validated for whole plays, would we have found anything different from what we think we already knew–that Q2 and F are similar to each other and seem uniformly Shakespeare-like, while Q1 is loaded with differences, many of which are at odds not only with Q2 and F, but with the entire single-author core of the Shakespeare Canon? I doubt it, and, again, at my age it seems like draining too much swamp for too few fish, just to confirm that Shakespeare had a hand in Q1. Hence, I’m neither volunteering to do the extra editing myself, nor volunteering Mark Hulse for the job. 


But I wouldn’t stand in the way of someone else who wanted to take on the extra editing, perhaps Steve Urkowitz himself, nor hesitate either to give him our software, which has been available free for 30 years but has had surprisingly few takers, or to do some testing ourselves. A focused, low-budget response on our part, which might satisfy much of Steve Urkowitz’s curiosity, would be to invite him to re-create Q1HU himself, using the same passages that Hulse chose, but with Bevington’s spelling, line divisions, and whatever other editorial quirks might affect outcomes, trim it of prose, speech headings, and stage directions, and have us rerun just the same four tests which produced our telling-looking Shakespeare rejections. In the past, we’ve done something like it with several different editions of Julius Caesar and retired some punctuation tests which seemed oversensitive to editorial variations. I should note that, though our once-prized custom Riverside spellchecker died with Word Perfect for DOS and hasn’t been replaced, as far as I conveniently could, I did conform Hulse’s spelling rules to match ours. And ours do mostly match those of the 1974 Riverside Shakespeare, our default since we began our archive in the 1980s.


Would either a pure Urkowitz/Bevington version, or one, like Hulse’s, further conformed to our conventions, change any of our Shakespeare rejection scores? Could be, I would guess, but probably only slightly. Enough to change any of our rejections into a pass? I doubt it, though in this case neither of the inquiring Steves is trying to play gatekeeper on us, and we no longer have to bet on the outcome to get our point across (our 2004, 363-65). It’s an interesting question, and, with just a few hours of editing by someone other than us, it looks testable.    


For a description of our Series-1 tests, see our:


 “And Then There Were None: Winnowing the Shakespeare Claimants,” 30 Computers and the Humanities 191 (April 1996).  


“Oxford by the Numbers: What are the Odds that the Earl of Oxford Could have Written Shakespeare’s Poems and Plays?” 72 Tennessee Law Review 323 (2004).


For a published discussion of author-identification methods as of 2011, see our:


“Language and Authorship” entry in The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare. T. Hoenselaars, Bruce Smith, et al., eds. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. (2016).


Hope this helps,


Ward E.Y. Elliott

Burnet C. Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions, Emeritus

Claremont McKenna College



From:       Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 8, 2018 at 10:19 PM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


From Steve Urkowitz, on Q1 Hamlet:


Suppose there’s a “reasonable” explanation other than memorial reconstruction for some of your examples that you and the majority 

. . . believe in. Here’s the instance you chose . . . :


Q2: King.  How fares our cosin Hamlet?

       Ham. Of the Camelions dish, I eate the ayre,

           Promiscram’d, you cannot feed Capons so.

                                                                                              (a play?

Q1: King  How now son Hamlet, how fare you, shall we haue

       Ham.  Yfaith the Camelions dish, not capon cramm’d,

Feede a the ayre.

I father . . .


Q1 here [isn’t necessarily] memorial nonsense . . . [T]his passage could instead . . . result from . . . typesetting of a manuscript on which someone . . .  inscribed “shall we have a play?” and “I father” . . . as a late addendum that was supposed to be a second question-and-response as it appears properly set in Q2.


Steve, where in Q2 are ‘shall we haue a play’ and ‘I father’?


But then try imagining the gyrations and jugglings of words necessary for Q1 to have been the product of . . . recall and inscription . . .


That’s not hard. As van Dam and Hamlet say, actors were to ‘fit the word to the action.’ In Q1 the rule was followed quite a bit, perhaps because performances and venues weren’t uniform. If, for example only, the player-Claudius speaks on approaching Hamlet, he may avoid a vocal gap by adding ‘shall we have a play’; which ‘Hamlet’ answers first by a badly memorized line, and then with ‘I father.’ Many signs in Q1 point to such matter.


I’m surprised that Steve passes over the exchange’s real problem. Hamlet feeds on promise-crammed air (to trap a King): not chicken-feed. Saying his repast isn’t a bellyful of Buffalo wings and drumsticks simply misses the ‘promising’ joke. Q1 originality here is not reasonable.


There’s another moment . . . when the Corambis part . . . degenerates into incoherent spluttering: 


Cor. Madame, I pray be ruled by me:

And my good Soueraigne, giue me leaue to speake,

We cannot yet finde out the very ground

Of his distemperance, therefore

I holde it meete, if so it please you,

Else they shall not meete, and thus it is.


The last two lines just don’t make sense . . .  But the [author] . . . has [written] this incoherence, not a dumbo actor . . . We can tell because . . . Q1 has . . . / King What i'st Corambis?


The incoheren[cy] and the King’s response . . . characterize Corambis as someone who can speak nonsense . . . We need not say that Shakespeare was responsible for every textual variant . . .


But Steve says it anyway. It’s wrong to attribute nonsense to Shakespeare merely because it’s nonsense. Cause and effect gets its due. The lines may result from textual circumstances, though recovery of exact sequence can’t be expected.


Q1 redactors fell occasionally to revision. A major textual difference transposes Hamlet’s encounter with Ophelia from Q2, 3.1 to Q1 immediately after Polonius hatched the plan (Q2, 2.2). This induced changes to Q1; the Queen, having disappeared with the transposition, was written into the last lines remaining in ‘3.1,’ as guided by remembrance of Q2: 


   Pol.                   . . . How now Ophelia?

You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said,

We heard it all: my Lord, doe as you please,

But if you hold it fit, after the play,

Let his Queene-mother all alone intreate him

To showe his griefe, let her be round with him,

And Ile be placed (so please you) in the eare

Of all their conference, if she find him not,

To England send him . . . 

   King. It shall be so . . .  (Q2)


Here Polonius is coherent as can be; ‘. . . my Lord, doe as you please, / But if you hold it fit . . . (so please you)’. Q1 continues:


           King  What i’st Corambis?                                         (done,

           Cor. Mary my good lord this, soone when the sports are 

         Madam, send you in haste to speake with him,

And I my selfe will stand behind the Arras,

There question you the cause of all his griefe,

And then in loue and nature vnto you, hee’le tell you all:

My Lord, how thinke you on’t?

   King  It likes vs well, Gerterd, what say you?

   Queene  With all my heart, soone will I send for him.

   Cor.  My selfe will be that happy messenger,

Who hopes his griefe will be reueal’d to her. (Q1)


After the play, before Uncle Claude’s prayer, Polonius reports in Q2:


           Pol.  My Lord, hee’s going to his mothers closet,

        Behind the Arras I’le conuay my selfe.

        To heare the processe, I’le warrant shee’le tax him home,

        And as you sayd, and wisely was it sayd,

        Tis meete that some more audience then a mother,

        Since nature makes them parciall, should ore-heare

        The speech of vantage . . . (Q2, 3.3)


Q1 is pieced out memorially from Q2. The likelihood is, ‘Corambis’ was meant to deliver something like ‘tis meet that someone else should overhear,’ but vague recall of ‘if you hold it fit’ and ‘so please you’ caused him to say, ‘I hold it meet, if it so please you, / Else they shall not meet’; by which he tried to convey, ‘As you say, Hamlet and his mom should not meet without lawful espial.’ Tongue-tied as he was, the King helped him get back on track.


It’s hard to believe the concentrated mass of Q1 repetition and what not would be spread over Q2 in revision. It’s surely the other way round; Q2 usage was accommodated to Q1 shiftings. To argue from Q1 nonsense and unartful dialogue to Q2 requires one both to ignore evidence in each instance and to suppose Shakespeare would compose his masterpiece from such beginnings. 


Gerald E. Downs



From:       Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 8, 2018 at 10:44 PM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet 


Larry Weiss asks why none have:


        observed the advertisement on the face of Q2, published in 1604 by 

        Nicholas Ling . . . “Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much

        againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie.” It strikes 

        me recalled or sloppily printed version of the same . . . On the other 

        hand . . . Q1 seems to support the memorialists’ argument: “As it hath 

        beene diverse times acted by his Highnesse servants in the Cittie of         London . . . and elsewhere.”


I agree with Larry, but the title pages can’t be pressed. That Q1 is memorial is Q+ self-evident; reported by shorthand, Q1’s claim ‘as acted’ would be true, but by whom and where needn’t be. It’s hard to think the King’s Men, or any troupe competent to play a Q2-like text would perform the different version near the same time. A knock-off production is more likely and a report could stem from a former time.


Roberts entered Hamlet 26 July 1602 “as yt was latelie Acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servantes.” His delay in printing may have been for practical reasons or it may relate to the circumstances of the list “to be staied” found on the fly-leaf of a Stationers’ Register book dated 1600. AYL, first printed in F, is a likely report, as is Every Man In. Of H5,  there’s no doubt. If the players attempted to halt publication, as some (like me) believe, the ease with which any play could be printed (no entry, no permission) allowed Trundell (and Ling) to scoop Roberts. Ling’s Q2 publication, printed by Roberts, indicates an agreement was reached. The great probability (to my thinking) is that players hadn’t control over procurement (or staying power) for any extant text; what was in publishers’ hands was likely all that mattered. Derivation is mostly a textual problem; despite what printers knew, what they said is unreliable. The products were also in their control, as quarto reprints in F plainly show. My hypotheses for now include nearly all texts as reports (given variable performances and variable reporting), which have a lot of explanatory power; the easier cases (going by evidence) strongly suggest others.


Gerald E. Downs



From:       John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 9, 2018 at 5:49 AM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet/King Lear


Gerald E. Downs wrote: 

I would also like to ask Ron what he thought about Blayney’s review of Vickers; especially his revelations about the Q-cramping Quote Quads. As Rosenbaum and I’ve each corresponded with the recluse, I wonder if Ron had questioned his teasers about the ‘quads’ (as I had done.)


Perhaps the clearest exposition of the quad issue is D.F. McKenzie, “‘Indenting the Stick’ in the First Quarto of King Lear (1608)”, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America Vol. 67 (2) pp. 125-130 (1973), reprinted in his posthumous collection: Making Meaning: “Printers of the Mind” and Other Essays (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002).


John Briggs



From:       John Briggs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:        July 9, 2018 at 5:49 AM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Young Hamlet


Steve Roth wrote:

I completely don’t understand this argument: The Ur-hamlet can’t have been written by Shakespeare before 1590 because Shakespeare started writing plays in the 1590s? Is that the gist?


Pretty much. But it's not as circular as it sounds. That the Ur-Hamlet was written by the young Shakespeare and that the young Shakespeare wrote any plays before 1590 are separate propositions and we shall need evidence for both (proof would be nice, but I suppose we would have to settle for evidence) before Q1 can do double duty in this regard.


John Briggs

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