Talk:William Shakespeare

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Featured article William Shakespeare is a featured article; it (or a previous version of it) has been identified as one of the best articles produced by the Wikipedia community. Even so, if you can update or improve it, please do so.
Main Page trophy This article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page as Today's featured article on October 10, 2007.

Wikipedia should not include survey results. Surveys are subjective based on selective methodology.[edit]

The article includes the line "Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution"

(This was based on a 2007 New York Times survey.) Surveys are subjective and are irrelevant. The language should be removed.

Otherwise we could have articles filled with contradicting survey results which are more dependent on survey methodology rather than actual fact. Reedlander (talk) 18:41, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

The source in question reads: "The Times survey of professors of Shakespeare, conducted March 5 though 29, is based on a random sample of colleges and universities in the United States that offer degree programs in English." In other words, it wasn't American Idol, or something where any yokle could vote multiple times. Ian.thomson (talk) 18:43, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
True, but were the surveys confidential? Were the participants independent? What institutions were sampled? Who are these 256 respondents? Are they even relevant in the scope of history? In addition, the respondents may be biased since they are employed in academia. Reedlander (talk) 18:57, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
Biased? Academics would be a biased for what academics think about a subject? Did you really just suggest that? Ian.thomson (talk) 19:01, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
I mean, really, what's the alternative? Ask a single but well-written conspiracy theorist what academics think about the Shakespeare authorship question? Guess? Roll percentile dice? Ian.thomson (talk) 19:05, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
When you are a professor, your public image is extremely important. Especially when it comes down to something as controversial as Shakespeare. The language should simply be removed. Basically, what I am saying is that there is a strong chance that academics are afraid to say what they really think. I have worked as an instructor, so I can understand the problem. Reedlander (talk) 19:19, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
There's nothing in the source to suggest the results weren't confidential, the survey also found that 89% felt felt no threat to their reputation whatsoever in discussing the matter, and the methodology of the survey is scientific enough that you'd have to present some reliable sources that specifically and directly counter it to argue against it on those grounds. Given the singular focus of your account so far, your questioning of an otherwise apparently reliable source appears to be more of a problem on your end.
As for working as an instructor, see WP:Credentials are irrelevant, On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog, User:Misza13/Nobody cares about your credentials, WP:No original research, and WP:Ignore all credentials. This site summarizes and paraphrases mainstream academic and journalistic sources, and is concerned with verifiability, not "truth". Ian.thomson (talk) 19:22, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
If Wikipedia isn't concerned with having reliable sources, than what good is it? What I'm saying is that surveys are not reliable. Have you ever gone to grad school? Students frequently complete research using contradicting surveys. Which should we include? I propose none (unless the article is specifically about surveys). As far as my singular focus, well there is nothing at all wrong with being a focused individual. According to Wikipedia "all majority and significant minority views" should be covered. Not some subjective survey people created for a news story. Reedlander (talk) 19:53, 6 November 2014 (UTC)


The source is reliable by the guidelines set at WP:Identifying reliable sources. Your contentions fall under Wikipedia:Tendentious editing#One who disputes the reliability of apparently good sources. While we're fine with useful single purpose accounts (such as User:Giraffedata, who mostly just replaces "comprised of" with better phrasing), we do not welcome those who seek to:
In short, if someone is here to push a particular view and otherwise not here to build an encyclopedia, they are not welcome.
All significant views are covered in proportion to their prominence and acceptance. Fringe topics are not given any additional illusion of acceptance, and per Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case/Shakespeare authorship question, Wikipedia presents as mainstream the view that a historical Shakespeare was the author of the Shakespearean works, and that alternatives are only presented as fringe perspectives.
In other words: because the mainstream view (which even the most ardent conspiracy theorists have to admit is mainstream) is that Shakespeare was the historical author, Wikipedia must present that as the default assumption. Likewise, because the alternative suggestions are given little mainstream regard, Wikipedia cannot pretend that those alternatives are not dismissed by mainstream academia. Ian.thomson (talk) 20:10, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
In general, I don't dispute the article. (Although I did several days ago when I was new.) However, I do question the use of meaningless surveys created by exploitative journalists. Reedlander (talk) 20:50, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
It's rather amusing that Reedlander is keen to exclude this survey, after so many Oxfordian editors made such an effort to include it. The survey was, after all, created by an anti-Stratfordian. We do of course have numerous other sources stating that the overwhelming majority of academics reject anti-Stratfordianism. In my experience Shakespeare scholars are not at all afraid to say what they think about anti-Stratism. On the contrary, they have difficulty staying polite on the topic. Paul B (talk) 21:03, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
I'd also note that it is pretty much a "the sky is blue" citation, there because we have to have a citation for facts that are plainly obvious to anyone capable of observing them. Regardless of who wrote the Shakespearean plays, it is obvious to everyone that the overwhelming majority of mainstream academia considers old Bill the only possible author. Ian.thomson (talk) 21:19, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
In regard to the comments made by Paul B, I think those "numerous other sources" should be used rather than the NY Times survey. -And my comments, although pointed, have never been impolite. Also, if we are so persuaded to include the NY Times Survey, perhaps we should also note that only 25% of the respondents gave a lot of thought to the authorship question. Perhaps the majority of the respondents don't really think much at all. Sorry, but that is also quite amusing. Reedlander (talk) 14:12, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
My remark about politeness was not directed at you, as I think the context makes clear. If you want to see the other sources, they are quoted in footnote citation 3 of the Shakespeare authorship question page. The "give a lot of thought" bit, simply means that it's not something that preoccupies their mind or research. Commentators on this survey have taken the view that it overestimates the amount of doubt because of the way the survey was phrased and carried out. Paul B (talk) 17:07, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
Of course I have kind of been toying with you here a bit, but I think my point remains a valid one. Subjects like Shakespeare highlight the weakness and obvious problem with Wikipedia in general. Questionable material often becomes re-affirmed and even publicly accepted on Wikipedia when it probably should not be. I mean, if I am indeed right and Shakespeare is indeed a fraud, you can see exactly how pointless and even harmful Wikipedia can sometimes be. I will try to publish my research to hopefully increase public knowledge someday. It is our shared history and it is quite important for all of us to have a meaningful understanding of our world. Misrepresentation of fact, whether intentional or not, is a terrible thing. Reedlander (talk) 17:56, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
I am aware of many problems with Wikipedia in general, but I don't think the fact that it gives most weight to mainstream views is one of them. Perhaps Barack Obama is really a Communist spy undermining America. If so, Wikipedia will be proven wrong for excluding all those editors who try to inform the world of this "fact". But until it is established as a fact we quite properly adopt more commonly held views. Shakespeare authorship theories get far more coverage on Wikipedia than they do in most academic contexts. As for the Elizabeth theory, there exists one book on the topic I'm aware of, Sweet's Shake-spear the Mystery, so I'm sure there's room for another. Paul B (talk) 18:21, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Latecomer here. I sort of agree with Reedlander, but only to the extent that one 2007 survey of 256 American academics does not really support the statement "Only a small minority of academics believe there is reason to question the traditional attribution". The survey was taken 7 years ago, so do those people still have the same views? What about British academics? Canadians? Australians? Germans and Mongolians, for that matter? Look, I certainly agree that most academics are Stratfordians, but this particular survey is not the right source to demonstrate that. At least, not by itself. If we stick to this sole source, we should at the very least change the wording to something like "In a 2007 survey of 256 American academics, only a small minority believed there was any reason to question the traditional attribution". Because it's wrong to extrapolate those results to all academics for all time, which is pretty much what we're doing at the moment. -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 20:54, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

I am unaware of any major - or even minor - new discoveries since 2007. Really, there are, as I said, many many sources that say the same thing. The just aren't surveys. Nothing will ever be completely up to date, but in Shakespeare studies 2007 is virtually yesterday, even if it may be ancient history in, say, population genetics. Paul B (talk) 21:15, 7 November 2014 (UTC)
Well, can't we have at least one of the many, many other sources, to complement this solitary survey? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 05:34, 8 November 2014 (UTC)

Please excise pedantic quotes[edit]

Harold Bloom quotes have no place in a serious encyclopaedia. Please excise them, somebody with excisionary powers. Thank you for improving Wikipedia - The Free Online Encyclopedia Which Anybody (sic) Can Edit! — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:57, 8 December 2014 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 11 December 2014[edit]

Link to First Four Folios at Miami University broken. Correct link is:

Remove: First Four Folios at Miami University Library, digital collection

Replace with: First Four Folios at Miami University Library, digital collection

Laddmm (talk) 20:41, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

Yes check.svg Done Thank you for pointing that out and also for providing the working link. Ian.thomson (talk) 20:46, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

New image[edit]

File:Procession of Characters from Shakespeare's Plays

I removed a new image, which has been restored. I did actually remove it in error - mistakenly thinking it had been added to external links, so I won't revert the re-addition. I'm pretty familiar with this Stothardesque image, having edited the file-description and spent some while trying to identify the characters a while back. I'm in two minds whether or not it should be here. Image overload is always a danger. The question is - does it add anything? The editor who added it did so with the summary "I had FPC in my mind when I added that". AFAIK, the file is considered "good" in the context of FPC because of the high quality of the image-file, not because it is an aesthetically good, important or relevant picture, so I don't see why this would be an appropriate criterion. Paul B (talk) 13:48, 14 January 2015 (UTC)

I don't see any less aestheticism in it. It shows a rare collection of his characters in a frame, which is a good encyclopedic value..--The Herald : here I am 14:34, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't know what you mean by "less aestheticism". Less than what? My point was that FPC is not about judging the aesthetic merits of a picture (ie your justification). This is by a minor imitator of Stothard. My main worry is image overload, and whether this serves any useful purpose for the article. Paul B (talk) 14:40, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
It might serve a useful purpose if the characters were identified. As it stands it wouldn't add much for the average encyclopedia reader who is not intimately familiar with the plays, IMHO. I recognize characters from Twelfth Night, Henry IV, As You Like It, The Tempest, King Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth. I couldn't immediately find a source that specifically identifies the individual figures, but I'm sure one exists. DoctorJoeE review transgressions/talk to me! 15:18, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
The website of the Yale Centre for British Art, which owns the painting, lists the characters represented [1]. Unfortunately, it does so in an apparently chaotic way (not left to right, or some other systematic format), so it's not always clear which character is which, though most can be confidently identified from the list. The list also has 28 names (including Shakespeare himself), but there are only 27 figures. Paul B (talk) 15:25, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
Hmm -- I only count 26, including Crab (Launce's dog from Two Gentlemen). Who am I missing? DoctorJoeE review transgressions/talk to me! 15:44, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
None. I misremembered. There are 26 characters depicted (including Crab), but 27 names listed. The YCBA gives no source for the names, so it's not clear where it comes from. Paul B (talk) 16:01, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
I suspect the extra person listed as "people represented or subject" but not actually depicted is Shakespeare. Presumably someone put him in the list as a "subject" of the painting, even though he's not in it. - Nunh-huh 17:55, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
Yes, you are right. The website works by linking the names to images, so if you click on the name you get all images with, say, Hamlet in them, and all images of Shakespeare subjects, which is why WS is listed. I note that we do already have a painting representing characters in Shakespeare plays. It's the one at the bottom, Sir John Gilbert’s The Plays of William Shakespeare, in which plays are represented by characters in a sub-School of Athens format. Though Gilbert's is the more interesting painting, I think the Yale image is more effective for the article, as its frieze-like structure and compositional simplicity make it easier to see on screen. I would suggest replacing the Gilbert with the Yale image, but centred as it is now rather than at the right. Paul B (talk) 18:36, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
The choice is yours :) I did enjoy seeing which figures were in common (most obviously, Bottom, Crab, Othello) but regret that neither artist seems to have depicted "Lavinia, her hands cut off, her tongue cut out, and ravished." - Nunh-huh 18:46, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
Well, Titus Andronicus was a bit too graphic for the Victorians. Another option would be the opposite -- replacing the Yale image with the Gilbert painting, along with a caption, since it's fairly obvious who's who, and there's a broader presentation for the average reader -- the finding of baby Perdita from Winter’s Tale, Hamlet and Ophelia, Shylock and Portia, Lear in the storm with Poor Tom, Henry VIII (in a classic pose) and Wolsey, Falstaff and the merry wives (with the washing), Prospero, Miranda and Caliban, Launce and Crab, and the menagerie from Midsummer Night’s Dream. Just a thought. DoctorJoeE review transgressions/talk to me! 20:15, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
The Gilbert painting is already in the article, so how can it replace the other one? I see no point in moving it, as the earlier section is already cluttered, and it's not best suited for centre-display because of its shape. As I said, it's a more interesting image, but on the page it's not really legible, even if one is viewing the artricle on a largish computer screen. Paul B (talk) 20:43, 14 January 2015 (UTC)
Well then, how about moving it to Chronology of Shakespeare's plays as the image have no other page linked in the entire wikimedia. But that would face the similar problems, right?--The Herald : here I am 12:11, 15 January 2015 (UTC)

new stylometric research results[edit]

Please note the publication of new stylometric research results that have an impact on the Shakespeare corpus and his biography. Hartmut Ilsemann. William Shakespeare – Dramen und Apokryphen: Eine stilometrische Untersuchung mit R. Aachen: Shaker Verlag, 2014, ISBN: 978-3-8440-3096-9, 355 pages, in German. R stylo, a suite of stylometric tools, was used to analyse the so called Shakespeare apocrypha, a body of Renaissance plays that have been attributed to Shakespeare in part or in toto, but whose authorship has never been proven or refuted convincingly. As R is quite new and embodies a combination of powerful procedures and functions the various methodological approaches were tested simultaneously to make sure that results complied with criteria like evidence and plausibility. In the past many stylometric investigations relied on the relative frequency of function words, and PCA and multivariate analyses made use of larger textual units which were very often the products of collaborative efforts of playwrights. R has the capacity to differentiate between authors even within smaller text units using the rolling delta procedure and its features. The overall result is that a large number of apocryphal plays are indeed Shakespeare’s, and many of the plays that make up the Shakespeare canon represent the last stage of a long and complicated process of rewriting and revising, finally concluded by Heminges and Condell in 1623. The first drafts are shorter and simpler in their plot construction. Many refer to the Queen’s Players, a troupe of actors that dominated the 1580s and dissolved around 1591. There is good reason to believe that Shakespeare served his apprenticeship in the mid 1580s as a playwright with colleagues like Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe, Robert Greene, George Peele, Thomas Nashe and Samuel Rowley, a prolific writer who is scarcely mentioned in secondary literature, but whose stylistic features can be found in an astounding number of plays. Among the plays that were later given a prominent position and a new name within the canon are The True Tragedy of Richard III (Richard III), The Taming of a Shrew (The Shrew), The Troublesome Reign of King John (King John), King Leir (King Lear) and The Famous Victories of Henry V (Henry V). Shakespeare also wrote Fair Em, Edward III, and had a fair share in a number of additional plays like Edmund Ironside, and Mucedorus. Sir Thomas More, Sir John Oldcastle, and Thomas Lord Cromwell all contain Shakespearian contributions and show traces of early compositions and later revisions and additions. The first part of Richard II, also known as Thomas of Woodstock, was written by Samuel Rowley. Only act five is by Shakespeare, which explains Marlowe signals in Richard II. Shakespeare apparently used archive material that Marlowe and he had gathered. Kyd and Shakespeare also wrote Arden of Faversham, and Locrine is Marlowe’s work. Some observations should not be left out. Thomas Kyd and Shakespeare collaborated in many ways. Kyd contributed to Titus Andronicus, and The Spanish Tragedy shows Shakespeare’s style in some places. All of this was concluded not from word frequencies alone, but from a series of investigations that made use of character bi- and trigrams which evaluated more text than word frequencies and were statistically more sound. Volume I roughly covers the period up to the opening of the Globe, and volume II will have to deal with some errors like Wilkins having written the first two acts of Pericles (once again the result of an insufficient number of word frequencies). But there will also be among other plays the forgeries of Ireland, and the Shakespearean stylistics of Theobald’s Double Falsehood. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:38, 22 January 2015 (UTC)