'Counterfeiting' Shakespeare addresses the fundamental issue of what Shakespeare actually wrote, and how this is determined. In recent years his authorship has been claimed for two poems, the lyric 'Shall I die?' and A Funerall Elegye. These attributions have been accepted into certain major editions of Shakespeare's works but Brian Vickers argues that both attributions rest on superficial verbal parallels; both use too small a sample, ignore negative evidence, and violate basic principles in authorship studies. Through a fresh examination of the evidence, Professor Vickers shows that neither poem has the stylistic and imaginative qualities we associate with Shakespeare. In other words, they are 'counterfeits', in the sense of anonymously authored works wrongly presented as Shakespeare's. He argues that the poet and dramatist John Ford wrote the Elegye: its poetical language (vocabulary, syntax, prosody) is indistinguishable from Ford's, and it contains several hundred close parallels with his work. By combining linguistic and statistical analysis this book makes an important contribution to authorship studies.
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