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The James Shirley Project

The Complete Works of James Shirley (1596-1666) An Edition in 10 Volumes

Stylometric tests

Shirley’s Revision of George Chapman’s The Tragedie of Chabot Admirall of France

The Tragedie of Chabot Admirall of France was an old play, written probably after 1611, but licensed much later, on 29 April 1635. It was entered in the Stationers’ Register on 24 Oct 1638 together with Shirley’s The Ball and hence perhaps erroneously attributed to Shirley. It was published in quarto in 1639 by Thomas Cotes for Andrew Crooke and William Cooke (who were also Shirley’s publishers). The title-page announced the work as “written by George Chapman, and James Shirly”. 

Chapman uses contracted forms in comedies but rarely in tragedies, while Shirley does so throughout his work. Passages attributed to Shirley are: IV.1 (1-120: Both Queen and wife plead with the King for Chabot); V.1 (Chabot is admitted to the king’s grace again); V.3 (Chabot dies onstage in the presence of the court, which gives rise to some pathos). G. E.  Bentley and Blakemore Evans think that the wife’s and Queen’s roles have been extended by Shirley, who may also have tried to break up the Proctor-General’s very long speech (III.2, 89-143).

For the current state of research see The Plays of George Chapman: The Tragedies with Sir Gyles Goosecappe: A Critical Edition, gen. ed. Allan Holaday, assisted by G. Blakemore Evans and Thomas L. Berger (Cambridge: Brewer, 1987). See also Cyrus Hoy’s study of contracted forms in Shirley and Chapman: ‘The Shares of Fletcher and His Collaborators in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon (VI)’, SB, XIV (19661), 61-63; ‘The Shares of Fletcher and His Collaborators in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon (IV)’, SB, XII (1959), 109-10.

In G. Blakemore Evans’s view, the extent of Shirley’s revision is ‘impossible to determine'; yet project research has added some further evidence of Shirley’s involvement. In 2012, Dr Marcus Dahl applied the Craig-Zeta-Hoover method to discriminate Shirley’s vocabulary from Chapman’s. 500 index words and word clusters from the Shirley and Chapman canon were used for comparison. The graph shows that the segments of Chabot are tightly grouped and lie distinctly in the Shirley group of segments. This suggests that the text has more in common with the general vocabulary of Shirley than that of Chapman.

download Chabot graph here

Please credit Dr Marcus Dahl when you use this graph.

One stylometric test is, of course, only approximative, and should be used in combination with other analytical tools.

B.R.

 

 

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