Shakespeare Didn't Work Alone, Says Computer

Program developed to spot plagiarism shows Bard wrote Edward III With Kyd
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2009 11:28 AM CDT
A portrait of William Shakespeare.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The computer program is called “Pl@giarism,” but no one is suggesting the Bard cribbed from others—not yet, at least. Researchers used the software, developed to spot cheating scholars, to take a look at The Reign of King Edward III, an unattributed 1596 play that has recently been added to the canon because of a wealth of Shakespearean turns of phrase. The Times reports the verdict: 40% Shakespeare, 60% Thomas Kyd.

The program analyzes the text for three-word phrase matches to a reference sample. “There might be 10 to 20 common phrases between two plays by different authors,” the researcher says, but the portions of Edward now attributed to Shakespeare came up with 200 matches; the remaining portions had 200 matches to works by Kyd. Another expert declares himself “skeptical, frankly, that we have yet reached a stage where these computer-assisted investigations can prove authorship,” but applauds the push to “see Shakespeare not as an eminence,” but as “one among many.”