Uncharted Territory


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ニューヨークタイムズで新刊紹介がありました。剽窃発見ソフトを使ってシェイクスピアが執筆で大いに参考にしたであろう原稿を発見したというのです。世紀の発見、数世紀に一度の発見はonce-in-a-generation - or several generationsと表現されています。


For years scholars have debated what inspired William Shakespeare's writings. Now, with the help of software typically used by professors to nab cheating students, two writers have discovered an unpublished manuscript they believe the Bard of Avon consulted to write "King Lear," "Macbeth," "Richard III," "Henry V" and seven other plays.

The news has caused Shakespeareans to sit up and take notice.

"If it proves to be what they say it is, it is a once-in-a-generation - or several generations - find," said Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

参考にしたとされる原稿はGeorge Northによる"A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels"だそうで、この原稿で使われている表現がほとんどそのまま使われているというのです。

In the dedication to his manuscript, for example, North urges those who might see themselves as ugly to strive to be inwardly beautiful, to defy nature. He uses a succession of words to make the argument, including "proportion," "glass," "feature," "fair," "deformed," "world," "shadow" and "nature." In the opening soliloquy of Richard III ("Now is the winter of our discontent …") the hunchbacked tyrant uses the same words in virtually the same order to come to the opposite conclusion: that since he is outwardly ugly, he will act the villain he appears to be.

"People don't realize how rare these words actually are," Mr. McCarthy said. "And he keeps hitting word after word. It's like a lottery ticket. It's easy to get one number out of six, but not to get every number."


Scholars have used computer-assisted techniques in the humanities for several decades. Most of that scholarship, however, uses function words such as articles and prepositions to create a "digital signature" of a writer that can be used to identify them as author or co-author of another work, rather than using comparatively rare words to locate a source.



To make sure North and Shakespeare weren't using common sources, Mr. McCarthy ran phrases through the database Early English Books Online, which contains 17 million pages from nearly every work published in English between 1473 and 1700. He found that almost no other works contained the same words in passages of the same length. Some words are especially rare; "trundle-tail" appears in only one other work before 1623.

素朴にGeorge Northって誰だ?と思うのですが、『プルターク英雄伝』を英訳したThomas Northの親類だとか。『プルターク英雄伝』はシェイクスピアの種本として有名ですので、そのつながりで原稿が見出されたのでしょう。

Mr. McCarthy found a reference to the manuscript by George North, a likely cousin of Thomas, online in a 1927 auction catalog, which noted it would be "extremely interesting" to compare certain passages with Shakespeare. He and Ms. Schlueter scoured libraries and archives for a year before enlisting the help of a manuscript detective, who studies rare documents and traced it to the British Library, which had purchased it in 1933. (The manuscript was filed under an obscure shelf mark, which made finding it difficult.)

In 1576, North was living at Kirtling Hall near Cambridge, England, the estate of Baron Roger North. It was here, Mr. McCarthy says, that he wrote his manuscript, at the same time Thomas North was there possibly working on his translation of Plutarch.

The manuscript is a diatribe against rebels, arguing that all rebellions against a monarch are unjust and doomed to fail. While Shakespeare had a more ambiguous position on rebellion, Mr. McCarthy said he clearly mined North's treatise for themes and characters.


Those techniques may only be the “icing on the cake,” said Mr. Witmore, who briefly examined an advance copy. “At its core, this remains a literary argument, not a statistical one.” The book contends that Shakespeare not only uses the same words as North, but often uses them in scenes about similar themes, and even the same historical characters. In another passage, North uses six terms for dogs, from the noble mastiff to the lowly cur and “trundle-tail,” to argue that just as dogs exist in a natural hierarchy, so do humans. Shakespeare uses essentially the same list of dogs to make similar points in “King Lear” and “Macbeth.”


Whatever its influence, Mr. Witmore said, the find suggests that while scholars may have exhausted print sources, there may be other unpublished manuscripts that inspired the Bard that remain to be discovered.