I said I’d come back to this story when I had a moment and could find a good link. The Time article seems to get all the relevant details, including some examples of the important phrases found in Shakespeare’s work that are also to be found in Edward III.
Don’t get me wrong, the computer geek in me thinks it’s an interesting story. I just think the reporting on it is a little … overboard. Look at the title - “How Plagiarism Software Found A New Shakespeare Play”. Found? New? Now look at the very first paragraph of the article:
Yet the software may have settled a centuries-old mystery over the authorship of an unattributed play from the late 1500s called The Reign of Edward III. Literature scholars have long debated whether the play was written by Shakespeare — some bits are incredibly Bard-like, but others don't resemble his style at all. The verdict, according to one expert: the play is likely a collaboration between Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd, another popular playwright of his time.
So how do you find a new play that is centuries old, and long considered to maybe have been Shakespeare already? And am I the only one that sees that big old likely right in the middle of the last sentence?
Much of the rest of the article (and the story overall) is directed at the general populace, less so than we geeks. We know, for instance, and are not bothered by the fact that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights. Yet the article phrases it like, “Why would Shakespeare need to collaborate?”, taking the classic position of Shakespeare as literary god who put perfect pen to page and never blotted lines.
When we start saying that Shakespeare wrote 39 plays instead of 38, somebody let me know. Heck, I still haven’t read Noble Kinsmen yet! :)