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A Small Update on Ol’ Bill Shakespeare

August 20, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 10.02.23 PMMaybe William Shakespeare isn’t the unique rose of English literature that everybody thought: new research suggests that the Bard didn’t invent all the terms (swagger, grovel, etc.) for which he’d been credited as creator.

How did a bunch of researchers arrive at this particular conclusion? They took a whole mess of English literature from Shakespeare’s era and ran it through a “computerized quantitative analysis,” according to a new story in the Boston Globe. Their findings: Shakespeare used pretty much the same language as his contemporaries, coining relatively few new words in the process.

But this research shouldn’t detract from an appreciation of Shakespeare’s work. “Knowing that Shakespeare did not invent as many words as we once thought or that his vocabulary was not much different from those of his fellow writers should in no way diminish our admiration for his artistry,” Russ McDonald, professor of English literature at Goldsmiths, University of London, wrote in an email to the newspaper. “Theatrical and literary history attests to his unparalleled use of the same materials as everybody else.”

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