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  • Determining the Shakespeare Canon: “Arden of Faversham” and “A Lover’s Complaint” by MacDonald P. Jackson
  • Eric Rasmussen (bio)
Determining the Shakespeare Canon: “Arden of Faversham” and “A Lover’s Complaint.” By MacDonald P. Jackson. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xii + 272. $85.00 cloth.

MacDonald P. Jackson’s new book is the culmination of a project that began with his 1963 BLitt thesis at Oxford, “Material for an Edition of Arden of Feversham.” Determining the Shakespeare Canon draws upon the work that Jackson has published over the past few decades—work often based, in large part, on searches of the Literature Online (LION) database—arguing for Shakespeare’s authorship of A Lover’s Complaint and a portion of Arden of Faversham. On page after page of Determining the Shakespeare Canon, Jackson presents words, phrases, and spellings that LION searches indicate are unique (or nearly so) to the texts under consideration and to Shakespeare. A champion of LION as a tool for authorship studies, Jackson dismisses those who complain of its shortcomings: “most of LION’s alleged inadequacies are those of users who have not sufficiently familiarized themselves with its search functions and their capabilities” (6). [End Page 226]

But Jackson seems to have made the mistake of trusting LION without verifying, and the results are unfortunate. Simply put, LION searches often demonstrably underreport. To take an extreme instance, Jackson ran a search on “addicions,” a spelling that appears in A Lover’s Complaint, and found that it appears only four times in the entire database: “in William Rowley’s commendatory poem to John Taylor (1614) and (three times) in Thomas Warton’s The History of English Poetry (1774–81)” (158). While it is true that a LION search yields only these four results, the LION search engine notes that a further eighty instances of “addicions” are to be found on Early English Books Online (EEBO), a Chadwyck-Healey database. In fact, a search of “addicions” on EEBO-Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP) Phase I reveals 154 usages in ninety-three different printed texts during the early modern period.

Jackson singles out a total of seven unusual spellings in A Lover’s Complaint—spellings so rare, he writes, that they are “(used by five or fewer writers) within the whole LION database of over 350,000 works covering more than six centuries of English poetry, drama, and prose” (157–58). However, EEBO-TCP Phase I searches turn up multiple uses of these spellings by other early modern authors. (Jackson informs me, privately, that he ran his searches many years ago, before EEBO was available.) What follows are my keyword searches for the same spellings Jackson identifies as rare. I conducted these searches using the EEBO-TCP Phase I database, without using the “variant spellings” option. When Jackson provided search parameters for dates, I employed them. Below, I give Jackson’s findings concerning the six spellings other than “addicions,” followed by the supplemental data available from EEBO-TCP Phase I.1

a twaine, used only in Shakespeare’s King Lear” (158)] EEBO-TCP: also used in Lydgate’s Serpent of Division (1559), Bartholomaeus’s Batman upon Bartholome (1582), and Chester’s Annals (1611)

sheelded, used in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (1623), Anthony Munday’s poem The Mirror of Mutability (1579), and George Whetstone’s prose work An Heptameron of Civil Discourses (1582)” (158)] EEBO-TCP: also used in Hemmingsen’s The Way of Life of a Christian (1578), Seneca’s Works (1578), Holinshed’s Chronicles (1586), Munday’s Palmerin D’Oliva (1588), Calvin’s Sermon on Melchisedech (1592), Livy’s Roman History (1600), Munday’s Brief Chronicle (1611), Weston’s Trial of Christian Truth (1615), Raleigh’s History of the World (1617), Boccaccio’s Decameron (1620), and Braithwaite’s English Gentlewoman (1631) and Times Treasury (1652)

beseecht, used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1604/5), John Wilson’s play Andronicus Commenius (1664), and Richard Head’s prose work An English Rogue, Part 1 (1665)” (158)] EEBO-TCP: also used in Speed’s Theatre (1612), d’Audiguier’s Love and Valor (1638), Tatius’s Loves of Clitophon and Leuciope (1638), Rogers’s Ohel (1653...


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pp. 226-229
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