Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Plagiarism-Detection Software Confirms Shakespeare Play

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the our-doubts-are-traitors dept.

Software 185

mi tips us that software intended to help essay graders detect plagiarism has been used to attribute to Shakespeare — with high probability — a hitherto unattributed play, 'The Reign of Edward III.' It seems that the work was co-authored by Shakespeare and another playwright of the time, Thomas Kyd. "With a program called Pl@giarism, Vickers detected 200 strings of three or more words in 'Edward III' that matched phrases in Shakespeare's other works. Usually, works by two different authors will only have about 20 matching strings."

cancel ×

185 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Phony (4, Funny)

mykos (1627575) | more than 4 years ago | (#29819945)

And the evidence continues to mount against him. All lies!

isn't there a simpler explanation? (2, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29822089)

So the software was designed to detect bodies of work that contain phrases from other works. ANd it finds a work that is a composite of Shakespear and Kyd. isn't it more likely that someone back then was plagarizing from Shakespear and Kyd? As opposed to them collaborating?

For example if I turned in a term paper and the plagarism software detected phrases from cory doctrow and thomas pynchon, the conclusion my instructor would leap to is obvioulsy that the three of us collaborated on the term paper right? not! Why should this be different for this Play?

Umm (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#29819959)

A human analyst looking for similarities never noticed many strings in common, over 500 years? How could that be?

Re:Umm (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29819993)

A sentence here, a phrase there... it isn't like there is a few pages of Romeo and Juliet wedged in.

Re:Umm (1, Funny)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820035)

Hmmm... Romeo and Juliet and Prince Edward? Reminds me of Black adder:

Queen: Edward, do you have a sheep in there?
Edward: NO MOTHER!!!
Sheep: Baaaaa!
Queen: It's the lying that hurts...

Edmund (or St Ralph) (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821441)

Pretty bad that he even lied about his name.

So what they're saying is that... (2, Funny)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29819969)

... Shakespeare plagiarized himself? Stop the presses!

Re:So what they're saying is that... (3, Funny)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820167)

It might be plagiarism but it most certainly isn't copyright infringement.

At least in theory...the american legal system is convoluted enough that might not be true.

Re:So what they're saying is that... (4, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820229)

Shakespeare's stuff is still copyrighted? Damn, these extensions are getting ridiculous.

Re:So what they're saying is that... (2, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820371)

According to WP, copyright started with the Statute of Anne in Britain in 1710. International copyright recognition came only later.

Also according to WP, Shakespeare lived from 1564 to 1616.

So actually I think Shakespeare's plays were never copyrighted in the first place.

Re:So what they're saying is that... (5, Insightful)

Plunky (929104) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820715)

So actually I think Shakespeare's plays were never copyrighted in the first place.

Sir, I must point out inconsistencies in your argument. It seems that we have two choices:

  • His works were in fact copyrighted and he lived well from the proceeds.
  • His works were not copyrighted and he starved to death at an early age.

But records exist that indicate otherwise in both cases. So, my contention is that the records are clearly falsified and we should err on the side of caution. I myself am owner of a corporation that is willing to step up and maintain the legacy of Shakespeare by collecting the royalties for when he returns(1) to claim them. I myself would take no salary for this, only a small(2) annual dividend(3) in order to ensure that the corporation can continue to protect this valuable intellectual property for the forseeable(4) future.

  1. religious freedom cannot deny reincarnation
  2. to maintain myself in the minimum style that the guardian of such a legacy deserves
  3. no income tax to be paid on dividends naturally
  4. lets just call it forever less a day to simplify the accounting

Oblig. Shakespear Quote (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29819975)

Shall I compare the to a summer day....

Re:Oblig. Shakespear Quote (5, Funny)

ld a,b (1207022) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820025)

In Soviet Russia, Shakespeare misspells THEE!

Re:Oblig. Shakespear Quote (1)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820607)

In Soviet Russia, Shakespeare misspells THEE!

This is the best of its type that I've seen on Slashdot. Too bad I have no mod points today.

Re:Oblig. Shakespear Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820735)

0x2B | ~0x2B

Re:Oblig. Shakespear Quote (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820915)

Yes, Shakespeare got within 1 of the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything!

Re:Oblig. Shakespear Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29821223)

what?
0010 1011 (2B)
| 1101 0100 (~2B)
----------
1111 1111
= FF
= 255d


quite a way out from 42, I reckon

Re:Oblig. Shakespear Quote (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821285)

Now you're being silly -- that wouldn't be a question, would it?

Or... (5, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 4 years ago | (#29819977)

It seems that the work was co-authored by Shakespeare and another playwright of the time, Thomas Kyd.

Or Thomas Kyd plagiarized Shakespeare's work.

Re:Or... (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820257)

From TFA there were parts of the text that were very strongly Shakespearian, and parts not. There is no word on whether they did a plagiarism test on this script vs Kyd's work.

Though it's highly plausible to me that they both contributed. If plagiarized by Kyd from Shakespeare then I think there would be clearer similarities between this and other works by Shakespeare: complete conversations or so. Or complete sentences. If this is plagiarized it is at least seriously rewritten.

On the other hand it could of course also be Shakespeare that had a writers block and used Kyd's play script as starting point. Shakespeare being famous is not necessarily the one being plagiarised. Maybe he is the one plagiarising.

Re:Or... (2, Informative)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820415)

From TFA there were parts of the text that were very strongly Shakespearian, and parts not. There is no word on whether they did a plagiarism test on this script vs Kyd's work.

Actually, there is, and they did. About 60% of the work does match Kyd's other known works, as well as four other unattributed plays that are believed to be by Kyd as well (and this result would lend further credence to that).

Re:Or... (3, Informative)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820889)

Or complete sentences. If this is plagiarized it is at least seriously rewritten.

Yes. People actually rewrote things while copying back then; no cut-and-paste.

Shakespeare being famous is not necessarily the one being plagiarised. Maybe he is the one plagiarising.

There was no plagiarism in the modern sense back then. Authors, artists, and scientists copied each others works; that's why we got such a rich cultural heritage. Today, you can get in trouble for a single sentence.

Imagine how backwards computers would be if you had to write a new kernel, window system, and libraries every time you wanted to write an application.

Stake Your Claim (5, Funny)

HouseOfMisterE (659953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820011)

Game Show Host (John Cleese): Good evening and welcome to Stake Your Claim. First this evening we have Mr Norman Voles of Gravesend who claims he wrote all Shakespeare's works. Mr Voles, I understand you claim that you wrote all those plays normally attributed to Shakespeare?

Voles (Michael Palin): That is correct. I wrote all his plays and my wife and I wrote his sonnets.

Host: Mr Voles, these plays are known to have been performed in the early 17th century. How old are you, Mr Voles?

Voles: 43.

Host: Well, how is it possible for you to have written plays performed over 300 years before you were born?

Voles: Ah well. This is where my claim falls to the ground.

Host: Ah!

Voles: There's no possible way of answering that argument, I'm afraid. I was only hoping you would not make that particular point, but I can see you're more than a match for me!

Host: Mr Voles, thank you very much for coming along.

Voles: My pleasure.

Host: Next we have Mr Bill Wymiss who claims to have built the Taj Mahal.

Wymiss (Eric Idle): No.

Host: I'm sorry?

Wymiss: No. No.

Host: I thought you cla...

Wymiss: Well I did but I can see I won't last a minute with you.

Host: Next...

Wymiss: I was right!

Re:Stake Your Claim (Continued...) (2, Funny)

HouseOfMisterE (659953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820023)

Host: ... we have Mrs Mittelschmerz of Dundee who cla... Mrs Mittelschmerz, what is your claim?

Mittelschmerz (Graham Chapman in drag): That I can burrow through an elephant.

Host: (Pause) Now you've changed your claim, haven't you. You know we haven't got an elephant.

Mittelschmerz: (Insincerely) Oh, haven't you? Oh dear!

Host: You're not fooling anybody, Mrs Mittelschmerz. In your letter you quite clearly claimed that ... er ... you could be thrown off the top of Beachy Head into the English Channel and then be buried.

Mittelschmerz: No, you can't read my writing.

Host: It's typed.

Mittelschmerz: It says 'elephant'.

Host: Mrs Mittelschmerz, this is an entertainment show, and I'm not prepared to simply sit here bickering. Take her away, Heinz!

Mittelschmerz: Here, no, leave me alone! (Sound of wind and sea).

Mittelschmerz: Oooaaahh! (SPLOSH)

Re:Stake Your Claim (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820109)

If only interviewers in the US would treat politicians as roughly! (yes ALL of them)

Homage? (2, Insightful)

davidbofinger (703269) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820019)

So they've found a play that has some of Shakespeare's pet phrases in it. How do we know Shakespeare wrote it? We need to be able to reject alternatives like someone plagiarising those phrases from Shakespeare, or someone writing a deliberate homage of Shakespeare. Something similar happens in linguistics, where you're trying to tell if two languages are related but you can't tell if a pair of words are cognates or borrowed.

Re:Homage? (0, Flamebait)

MrMista_B (891430) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820163)

Some?

Try '200'. /At least/ try to read the summary before posting, otherwise you just end up looking silly. :)

Re:Homage? (0)

Arimus (198136) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820345)

You must be new here... posting without reading the summary let alone the tfa is common, nay almost universal, practice - and looking stupid has never in the history of slashdot stopped someone spouting off.

!confirmed (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820031)

The work done *suggests* that Shakespeare collaborated with Kyd on the work but it's not the slam dunk that the title would have you believe.

Re:!confirmed (2, Interesting)

JunkmanUK (909293) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820249)

Yeah I get that - like the blood stains all over the front of my car *suggest* I was the one who ran over my neighbours dog... Hey it could have been anybody's dog!

Re:!confirmed (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820441)

Well, seeing as Shakespeare insists on remaining dead (and has indeed done so for almost four hundred years), I would venture to suggest that it's unlikely you're ever going to get a 100% guaranteed dead-cert answer to the question from a primary source.

!(!confirmed) (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820463)

It was already widely believed that the play in question was at least partially written by Shakespeare. In research, when an experiment produces evidence that accords with a theory, the correct term is to say that it "confirms" the theory. It does not prove it, but it does confirm it.

The title uses the word precisely and accurately. However, I suspect you're not clear on what the word "confirm" means in the context of an experiment.

Re:!(!confirmed) (4, Informative)

Golygydd Max (821422) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820541)

About six years ago, the Royal Shakespeare Company presented a performance of Edward III and attributed it to Shakespeare. It's accepted that Shakespeare didn't write every word of every plays in his canon (for example, he didn't write most of Pericles and Henry VIII) but there was obviously enough evidence for most Shakespeare scholars to accept that he wrote a substantial part of it. This latest piece of research is just a further piece of evidence, but it's nothing radically new.

Re:!confirmed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29821967)

Yeah. I mean, how do we know that this plagiarism detection software actually works? They're trying to sell us on it by claiming that it "proves" some disputed historical claim?

Sorry, but you're supposed to give the proof that it works *first* before going around claiming to have "proven" things with it...

I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (4, Funny)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820047)

Back in college I briefly took a creative writing course which was filled with snobs clutching their leatherbound Infinite Jest copies who used words like "perspectival" and "serendipitous."

During one of the meetings the lecture focused on poetic expression with an emphasis on sonnets. Homework consisted of writing an abab, cdcd, efef, gg sonnet and reading it outloud to the circle of douchebags who then offered their opinions about the piece. Being an industrious person, I applied my murky understanding of F/OSS principles to the fine craft of poetic expression and forked one of Shakespeare's obscure sonnets, changing some archaic words into more modern form.

I got a round of faint applause then dropped the class 2 weeks later.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820211)

Wait, "serendipity" is a pretentious word now?

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (4, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820235)

Wait, "serendipity" is a pretentious word now?

Sometimes strange, wonderful, coincidental things happen.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

cheesecake23 (1110663) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821759)

Wait, "serendipity" is a pretentious word now?

Sometimes strange, wonderful, coincidental things happen.

I take it "serendipity" means "shit".

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (2, Funny)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820269)

It's also a cromulent word.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820567)

No, no, no! The correct expression is "I don't know why, it's a perfectly cromulet word".

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

JunkmanUK (909293) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820271)

that depends on your...perspectival...? ... oh so close...

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820769)

It's always been a word for writers, not used in conversation. Wait, you're just now finding out you're a douchebag?

Hint: it's not the words are douchebaggy, it's the people who use the words.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820951)

It's also a word used a lot by listeners to BBC Radio 4 -- usually to describe why they listen to BBC Radio 4.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (2, Funny)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821189)

It's always been a word for writers, not used in conversation. Wait, you're just now finding out you're a douchebag?

Well damn my eyes, I think I've been using writers' words for years without even realizing it!

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (2, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821637)

Yup, using speech as a social status marker is what aristocrats use to make sure that everyone around knows what they are. Yearning for aristocratic status causes people to behave as douchebags of the highest order, the poor souls.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (2, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821849)

Yup, using speech as a social status marker is what aristocrats use to make sure that everyone around knows what they are.

So true. On the other hand, some people take an interest in the language they speak every day.

Go figure.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821993)

Is that you, M Jourdain?

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820949)

Back in college I briefly took a creative writing course which was filled with snobs clutching their leatherbound Infinite Jest copies who used words like "perspectival" and "serendipitous."

Wait, "serendipity" is a pretentious word now?

I see what you did there.

Re:I plagiarized Shakespeare too! (1)

jonadab (583620) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821705)

It depends where you live and what kind of people you hang out with.

I frequently get told that use too many "big words", and at least half a dozen different people have complained specifically about my use of the word "theoretically". Yes, really. If I start using words like "serendipity", I might just about as well start speaking Greek.

(Galion, the city where I currently reside, is not what you would exactly call an educationally enriched environment. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice little town, but the average educational level is frighteningly low, and the local vocabulary can reasonably be described as impoverished.)

Units? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820055)

works by two different authors will only have about 20 matching strings

Shouldn't this be a function of the works length? Something like x matching strings per word squared? Otherwise it's not surprising that the number of matches between one work and many works would be greater than the expected number between one work and one work.

I call bullshit (1, Informative)

popo (107611) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820069)

This is a very unscientific study, with far more potentially meaningful variables than they have accounted for here.

For example, these matching strings could just as well be common turns of phrase of the day. There doesn't seem to be any indication that the software was re-configured for common expressions of old English.

The study would be more plausible if works by two different authors IN ENGLAND IN THE YEAR 1600 contained 20 or so matching strings. But since that control group is missing -- so is the validity of the conclusion.

Re:I call bullshit (5, Informative)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820319)

For example, these matching strings could just as well be common turns of phrase of the day. There doesn't seem to be any indication that the software was re-configured for common expressions of old English.

This is gibberish. The software isn't configured for common expressions of modern English, either. If you understand what it's doing, you should understand why no such configuration is necessary, as long as the two works being compared are contemporaneous. (Or heck, even if they aren't -- correlation should go down in that case, a high score is even more indicative when comparing non-contemporaneous authors.)

The study would be more plausible if works by two different authors IN ENGLAND IN THE YEAR 1600 contained 20 or so matching strings. But since that control group is missing -- so is the validity of the conclusion.

This is just misinformed. They've compared works by both the same author and different authors in England around 1600. It turns out it's just as true then as it is today that works by different authors contain significantly smaller sets of common wording. Indeed, this technique is used to identify which 60% of the play was written by Kyd (by comparing with his other work) and which 40% comes from The Bard. Comparing known works of either Kyd or The Bard with other works by the same author produce the same high correspondence, and comparing known works between the two different authors produces the same low correspondence.

Being pedantic (4, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820455)

Shakespeare didn't write Old English. He actually wrote modern English. Old English is Anglo-Saxon. Even Chaucer (Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote) wrote in English, though he was sometimes unsure as to how many esses to use.

Why the pedantry? Because, if you didn't know that, you really shouldn't be pontificating on linguistics or linguistic analysis.

Re:Being pedantic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820533)

Being ever more pedantic, OP didn't write Old English, but old English. Modern English that's old, rather than the defined term for a different language. Of course that may have been a lazy finger not quite reaching the shift key.

hmmm (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820097)

The article mentions the fact that there was very high competitive pressure on writers to compose plays very quickly so I wonder if there actually was plagiarism going on here. How hard would it have been for one of these writers to get at least a fairly crude copy of Shakespeare's work and utilise various elements of Shakespeare's previous plays? Can anyone enlighten us as to the probability of this being the case or for that matter how common plagiarism actually was at the time?

Re:hmmm (2, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820299)

You are the second commenter already who assumes Shakespeare is the victim here. Maybe he's actually the culprit, and plagiarised someone else's play?

Re:hmmm (4, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820315)

Getting access to the play was easy: admission was a penny. They most certainly did go to each other's works and steal phrases from each other. Shakespeare clearly cribbed from Marlowe, among others.

They stole stories from each other all the time. Stories were considered common property. Trying to protect them would seem as absurd as many Slashdotters consider software patents.

But they were fairly protective of the play as a whole. There was just one master copy, and each actor would get a copy literally of his lines, plus the cue that came before each. Saved copying expenses (it's not like they had a xerox) and also protected the plays. And those cue sheets were treated as secrets.

Eventually the play would be published (and performed without royalties), but Edward III was published fairly early in Shakespeare's career, and it would be hard to gather up enough material from the previously printed plays to make up a new one attributable to Shakespeare.

Attribution is more art than science, and attempts to do it with software are pretty controversial. Just because this software agrees with the experts this time doesn't fill me with confidence about the software.

I've looked at it myself, and it definitely fits in with Shakespeare's other early history plays. But it's not his best work. It has a few genuinely good scenes, and it deserves to be studied with the rest of the canon, but it's not exactly Hamlet or Richard III. I doubt most people will ever see it.

Re:hmmm (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820337)

The article mentions the fact that there was very high competitive pressure on writers to compose plays very quickly so I wonder if there actually was plagiarism going on here. How hard would it have been for one of these writers to get at least a fairly crude copy of Shakespeare's work and utilise various elements of Shakespeare's previous plays? Can anyone enlighten us as to the probability of this being the case ...?

Zero, unless you're suggesting he plagiarized some otherwise completely unknown work of Shakespeare that we have no other record of. In which case, remotely possible, but pretty damn close to zero.

Not what the software was designed for (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820129)

This software is for detecting plagiarism. In the situation it is designed for, one person uses another person's work but tries not to reveal the fact. The program catches this by noting that the pieces of writing are too similar. If it's well-designed, then it is good at this task, so it should be reasonably sensitive to similarity.

The "authentication" scenario described in TFA is very different. Assume the play is fake (written by someone pretending to be Shakespeare). Then it is not a case of one person using another person's work and trying to conceal that, but rather one person imitating another person's work. If the program is sensitive to similarity, it might be easy to fool into giving a false positive. We really don't know. In order to tell, we would have to ask some people to deliberately write fake Shakespearean works and see how the program scores those.

Until we have more data on how the software performs at THIS task, rather than the plagiarism-detection task, I'll still be skeptical about the provenance of Edward III.

Re:Not what the software was designed for (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820381)

This software is for detecting plagiarism. In the situation it is designed for, one person uses another person's work but tries not to reveal the fact. The program catches this by noting that the pieces of writing are too similar. If it's well-designed, then it is good at this task, so it should be reasonably sensitive to similarity.

The "authentication" scenario described in TFA is very different. Assume the play is fake (written by someone pretending to be Shakespeare). ...

Actually, you're turning the situation on its head with your assumption. The authentication scenario described in TFA is the exact opposite of your assumption here, and in fact it's much more similar to what you describe in the first paragraph. This isn't a question of trying to determine of a play attributed to Shakespeare was actually written by him or instead by someone pretending to be him. In fact, the play is attributed to Kyd. If there's any pretending going on, it's Shakespeare pretending to be Kyd, or Kyd pretending Shakespeare's work is his own.

Re:Not what the software was designed for (1)

Plunky (929104) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820719)

Anonymous Coward suggests:

This software is for detecting plagiarism.

But could so easily be used to identify anonymous commentary ..

LOL!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820139)

Shakespeare was a faggot!!

Divine inspiration (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820141)

Another use would be to apply the algorithms to religious books to reveal which parts were really inspired by a divinity, and which parts were simply invented by some random, power hungry, con man, to control his peers.

They could call it Bl@sphemy.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820237)

To lie is to be, to lawyer, bovine.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

stoomart (1092733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820323)

Seriously, if it could be made to handle Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, it would be interesting to identify which books share authors. I'd be very curious especially about the ones who's authors are more disputed such as the book of Hebrews, the gospels, and the Tanakh/Pentateuch.

Re:Divine inspiration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820481)

Whyever not? The software probably won't recognise "this is a word", it'll recognise "this is a space or punctuation-delimited set of characters which for the sake of argument we'll call a word. A group of three or more of these together is a phrase, and the more you see the same phrases appearing in two totally separate works, the more likely they were written by the same person. Even more conclusive if the phrases you find repeated are longer than three words." You could probably feed it ROT13'd text and it'd work just as well.

Re:Divine inspiration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29821415)

If it truly only compares sequences of words, it obviously will work with any written language.

If so, it might be useful to adjust it to also detect other structures like declension, word order and phonetic or rhythmic patterns. And these tend to be language-specific.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

brentonboy (1067468) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820403)

I'm a seminary student, and though you joke, the biblical studies students I mentioned this too all got really excited and started drooling. I am sure that tools like these will be applied to the Bible soon, though I actually doubt that it will really shed any additional light, since people have been comparing similar phrases and words in the bible for so long. Would be interesting to see if a computer comes up with the same JEDP authors though.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820485)

I can't help but think that while people who are genuinely interested in the history of the Bible might find it fascinating, there's a certain amount of "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it". Particularly among any that are interested in the history of the Bible because of their own religious beliefs rather than just an academic interest in a very old book.

Re:Divine inspiration (3, Interesting)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821001)

I can't help but think that while people who are genuinely interested in the history of the Bible might find it fascinating, there's a certain amount of "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it". Particularly among any that are interested in the history of the Bible because of their own religious beliefs rather than just an academic interest in a very old book.

You don't think it possible that they might want to know whether their beliefs are well founded?

Re:Divine inspiration (2, Interesting)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821567)

Most people with such beliefs don't need confirmation from some "outside source" as to whether their beliefs are well founded. That's why they call if faith.

I think you will find that if someone did "confirm" that many biblical works were plagiarized or whatever, that believers would not care. In their minds, the Bible (or whatever particular work they believe in) is the "word of God" and it doesn't matter who put it to paper. They will accept that one person could have been inspired to write several different things and won't care.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821923)

Isn't it pretty well established that many of the works in the bible were not recorded until years after the fact, sometimes hundreds of years? And take his "study the bible" with a huge grain of salt. That means read it, apply our values to what it says, and further our agenda. If they really wanted to learn, they would actively allow and encourage the "questioning" of their faith/beliefs. They would also at least learn about another religion; however that would probably highlight all the stupid stuff that goes along with religion, so I haven't seen that happen at many churches.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#29822025)

Most people with such beliefs don't need confirmation from some "outside source" as to whether their beliefs are well founded. That's why they call if faith.

That's a common myth, often repeated by the more militant atheists. Although there have been some crackpots who reject evidence and reason, who provide ample fuel for the myth to get around, I think you will find that most people of faith have just as much regard for reason and evidence as atheists do and agnostics like I do (at least within the Christian traditions, which have a strong history of reliance on evidence). They simply make different assumptions when the evidence runs out. (And everybody makes assumptions when the evidence runs out. That is where "faith" comes into it.)

Have a look at William James' lecture The Will To Believe [jmu.edu] for a realistic discussion of the role of faith in religion.

Re:Divine inspiration (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29822083)

I never said they disregarded reason... just that it wouldn't matter to them if the works were "written by the same person" because people of faith already recognize that it wasn't directly written by God or whatever name they call their god. They do, however, accept those books as the "word of God".

I meant that people who have "faith" don't necessarily need confirmation of their faith. They don't believe in God because of a book, they believe in God because they feel something and God is how they explain that something.

Re:Divine inspiration (2, Interesting)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29822049)

You don't think it possible that they might want to know whether their beliefs are well founded?

Of course not. If they did, they would base their beliefs on rational empricism, not a logically inconsistent fantasy whose primary source is a collection of scriptures full of falsehoods, violence and vindictiveness (as well as some beautiful poetry and a smidgen of worthy moral advice that doesn't come close to redeeming the whole.)

hackneyed phrases ... (2, Funny)

Katchu (1036242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820175)

Shakespeare, huh. That guys works are full of clichés.

Not "unattributed" (2, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820221)

This play has been widely attributed to Shakespeare by Shakespeare scholars for some time. It already appears in the Oxford Complete Works, the New Cambridge Shakespeare, and (my favorite) the Riverside Shakespeare.

Nothing is ever definitive in this line of work, so it's interesting to have the software weigh in on it. But I don't think any scholars would be changing their minds if it didn't.

Christopher Marlowe write it! (0, Troll)

BayaWeaver (1048744) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820321)

Shakespeare was the conduit through which Marlowe [marloweshakespeare.org] published his works after he (Marlowe) had to "disappear" through a faked death. Marlowe [marloweshakespeare.org] was a wanted man because of his outspokenness and involvement in the plots and intrigues of the Elizabethan age. The facts about Shakespeare's life that can be determined with absolute certainty make it unlikely that he could be the writer of the great plays, sonnets, and poems that are ascribed to him.

Christopher Marlowe wrote it! (1)

BayaWeaver (1048744) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820339)

Wrote it.

Rubbish - example Terry Pratchett (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821063)

Same argument used to claim that Francis Bacon or Essex wrote the plays.

Now consider TP. Started in local journalism, worked in PR dfor the nuclear industry. Didn't have a classical education. Very successful author. Like WS, gets themes from all over the place, pastiches, parodies, makes them his own. TP is a "middlebrow" author. If you know the literature of the period, you will know the highbrow stuff - the stuff that would win Bookers nowadays - is almost unreadable today. Shakespeare was a popular playwright, not an intellectual.

In some future, people like you will be explaining that TP could never have written his books as he didn't go to Oxford and didn't live in London. So they must have been written by Will Self, or Martin Amis, when just messing around.

DO NOT let Harlan Ellison hear about this software (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820341)

Seriously, he's filed to many lawsuits as it is.

This & That (2, Interesting)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820347)

For anyone interested I'd suggest M. Wood's documentary, "In Search of Shakespeare". The four part documentary won't answer any of the more delicious and silly questions about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays but it will give as good an historical insight as is easily available. Thomas Kyd [wikipedia.org] is best known for his play The Spanish Tragedy [wikipedia.org] worth reading for the style. Christopher Marlowe [wikipedia.org] and Kyd were the new kids on the block before Shakespeare made his mark. A famous critique of Shakespeare, mentioned in Wood's documentary attacks Shakespeare as unschooled and not an equal to "university wits" like Marlowe. The problem with attribution is that, likely, all authors of that period plagiarized, (by our standards) , one another. Shakespeare started out as an actor with a traveling company IIRC, the King's Men, who were basically a troupe of government propagandists. Theatre was a relatively new phenomenon and was used in the Elizabethan era as a propaganda tool during the conversion of England from Catholic to Protestantism. Shakespeare stole many of the best plots he studied as an actor with the King's Men. While Shakespeare was known to have co-authored plays with others, the missing play based on the first part of Cervantes Don Quxiote [wikipedia.org] is the most notable example, I know of no evidence, though evidence of any kind is scant, that Shakespeare and Kyd worked together. Kyd and Marlowe were implicated as Catholic agents and Marlowe was likely murdered because he was catholic. IMHO neither Marlowe or Kyd can hold a candle to Shakespeare.

Re:This & That (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820501)

Thing is, artists of any sort fall in and out of favour over the years.

Examples abound of people saying similar things to your own comment that "neither Marlowe or Kyd can hold a candle to Shakespeare" about musicians, playwrights and artists many years ago - and in the meantime, the artist being ridiculed has become most famous and the one being revered has fallen into obscurity.

Re:This & That (1)

EEPROMS (889169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821339)

There are other problems with Shakespeare's life that don't gel

1. Shakespeare had no court experience but wrote about it as though he had (Marlow came from a higher class and was familiar with how the court worked)
2. Time, Shakespeare didn't have the time to actually write the plays and do the research
3. When Marlow disappeared all his writings and notes/drafts vanished.
4. Shakespeare unlike every major writer and artist stopped writing (almost like he ran out of ideas) long before he died. 5. When Shakespeare died there were no books or libraries in his house. Every major historical writer has died surrounded by books but not Shakespeare. 6. Shakespeare's daughters were ignorant and could not read or write, not exactly a man of the written word.

Re:This & That (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821503)

Shakespeare's daughters were ignorant and could not read or write,

Maybe he lived in Afghanistan.

Now Try This (4, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820383)

Get a copy of the Unabomber Manifesto
http://cyber.eserver.org/unabom.txt [eserver.org]

Rate the entire work, and each numbered paragraph, for reading level using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Readability Formula
http://www.readabilityformulas.com/flesch-grade-level-readability-formula.php [readabilityformulas.com]

Split the work into 2 parts, one with paragraph reading level ratings greater than the overall score, one with the scores less than overall.

Apply plagiarism testing software to compare these two halves and see whether it says they were written by the same or by different persons.

Before the creation of plagiarism testing software, we still had several different reading level testing programs available. I did this test using three different programs. They said that at least two people wrote the work. Ted Kaczynski was never considered to have Multiple Personality Disorder, so if the results (still) say two people wrote it, each with their own style, then it's highly unlikely Kaczynski wrote it by himself.

Re:Now Try This (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820503)

lol best quote ever from that manifesto:

If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.

The same could be said about politicians in general, the news media, and my mom.

Life isn't as bad as you think it is.

Re:Now Try This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29821457)

Life isn't as bad as you think it is.

It's even worse.

Re:Now Try This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820709)

Split the work into 2 parts, one with paragraph reading level ratings greater than the overall score, one with the scores less than overall.

This where the bias is introduced.

Re:Now Try This (1)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820835)

that or he plagiarized portions of it from more than one person. Which brings up another question; how does the software handle quotes from other authors?

Re:Now Try This (2, Insightful)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821043)

I don't see any validity in applying the formula to individual paragraphs.

If I were to say "The cat sat on the mat", this would score pretty low on the scale, but there is no better way to express the cat's location to you. If I were to go on to say "thus was my ailurophilia originally instantiated" this sentence would score considerably higher. However I don't see that this provides any evidence that I didn't write both sentences.

Authorship verification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29820407)

Authorship Verification. I was exposed to this while I was working on an independent study project. It's Interesting. It tries to create a model from different features more based on word usage than direct grammatical analysis, but as it eliminates key features the relations follow a certain pattern that more accurately represents the author than using features directly.

http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1015448

One for thine homies (3, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820539)

It seems that the work was co-authored by Shakespeare and another playwright of the time, Thomas Kyd.

When working together, they were known by the name "Kyd Shakez."

Screen Writers (1)

ProzacPatient (915544) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820553)

FTA:

"So why would the Bard, at this stage in his career - age 32 and well established by the time Edward III was published in 1596 - need to collaborate on a play? Simply because, as literature scholars have documented, the London theaters of the day were competing for audiences and had to churn out material as quickly as possible to stay ahead of one another. To do so, they often used groups of authors to write playbooks in a matter of weeks , paying each author by the scene. The theater companies would then often advertise themselves, rather than the authors, on the published playbooks. "

If this doesn't sound like Hollywood then I don't know what does.

Oh the geekery (1)

TheReal_sabret00the (1604049) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820759)

Every vague and vaguely funny Shakespeare reference under the sun. I'm so LUCKY!

Any product with @ in the name... (4, Interesting)

rmc (32254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29820839)

Of course, any product that has had @ in the name at any point in the last, oh, decade or so can not by any means be taken seriously.

How reliable is this software? (1)

metrix007 (200091) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821325)

I can only speak based on turnitin, but assume all of these services are similar in respects. I note that turnitin will often make mistakes, and is also incredibly easy to fool. Changing keywords, and sentence structure etc..., it is rather easy to rewrite the whole thing to avoid detection. Having seen it make mistakes because of stuff that actually was already written, and is conicdentally similar, I wonder how useful it is for text written hudnreds of years ago.

What if someone wnated to write in a shakespearian style, or genuinley had a similar style be default? What is the actual reliable indication that this poem was Shakespears?

Who actually wrote his plays!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29821747)

I don't understand. Haven't they run this software against all Shakespeare's plays to determine if Bacon (or whoever you prefer) wrote them? I mean no body is smart enough to completely change personalities when writing something. WOuldnt software like this show the consistency in writing between all the plays as well?
I would think this software could finally put to rest all the silliness about the Bard.

I don't get it (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821837)

If someone plagiarized Shakespeare, then of course it's going to contain matches because someone is copying his style and turn of phrase. Isn't that the point of this software? I don't see how finding matches allows anyone to say one way or another that the unknown work was authored by the same person. It could well be an imitator, which I'm sure Shakespeare had plenty of during his time and thereafter.

Except of course... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29821931)

>Usually, works by two different authors will only have about 20 matching strings
Except of course when you compare nsync to backstreet boys, and then you
get 20,000 matching strings. :P

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>