Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Arden of Faversham: ???

Ok, somebody tell me how come I'd never even heard of Arden of Faversham, one of the "missing plays" of Shakespeare?  I'm familiar with Cardenio, Love's Labour's Won and Sir Thomas More, but Arden of Faversham is a new one on me.  Apparently it's about the 1551 murder of Thomas Arden, mayor of Faversham, by his wife. 


Anyway, a bunch of scientists claim to have proven once and for all that Shakespeare wrote it.  Using "computational stylistics" they've essentially created a fingerprint for Shakespeare's style, and they say that the play matches with a high enough accuracy to state that it was written by the same man.

Of course, nobody's mentioning this idea that if you don't believe Shakespeare wrote *any* of the plays, then this doesn't really prove anything :).  What they're really saying is that "Whoever wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare also most likely wrote this one."


JaneFan said...

I read it in my college renaissance lit class - good stuff. It' s basically the early modern equivalent of a true-crime made-for-TV movie. I believe it was mentioned in passing that it was once possibly attributed to Shakespeare... but it didn't seem to be a strong case, so had pretty much been shrugged off.

After reading the article, I'm still skeptical... I don't think it will ever be "proven" one way or another. Nonetheless it's a funny play (full of bungled murder attempts), and gives interesting insight into early modern domestic life. In fact, I recall from my research that it's one of the first "domestic dramas" in which the actions of average people (instead of kings, generals, gods, etc.) are considered worthy of being the subject of a play!

Thanks for the update on an old favorite. Enjoy reading it!

JaneFan said...

ps - more info here at the town of Feversham's website:

The house where the murder occured is open every July, and I believe I once read about performances of the play being put on there - not sure if it's an annual event.

Also, Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, was related to Alice Arden. Not sure how closely, so I'm just going to go with the nice generic Elizabethan "cousin." :)

sorry for the info overload - It's just not a play one hears about daily!

Anonymous said...

Blimey! I've not heard of this too, even though I own the complete collection of Shakespeare's works! It proves once and for all that one learns something new everyday.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Equally interesting are the arguements used against him - he wasn't educated enough! Ben J.'s fault that one - Little Latin, etc - but what he meant by that is not what we would mean.

Didn't have foreign languages? As a teacher of English in foreign places I am amazed how much 'foreign language' is spoken by people who have no foreign languages education.

And another thing I find annoying is the total lack of understanding most people have of the theatre practice of the time - every one of his plays was a collective composition - some more so than others. We forget the final collection of the plays was done by actors and friends with an interest in the final selection.

Two Noble Kinsmen, now generally accepted as a joint work - is a good model for Arden.

Alan K.Farrar said...

Woke up with this in my head - the computer research and word crunching was done to prove it was written by Shakespeare - but what would the research have produced if the same criteria (words/phrases) were used to prove it was written by another author - how much correlation would there have been with Mr Annonymous?
Wouldn't it be better to try to prove it was by other people before claiming such a psuedo-scientific fact?
What we can say is that it could certainly have been by Shakespeare and that there are very strong indications that he contributed to it.
(Sorry about that, but I had to get it off my chest)