Tag Archives: william shakespeare

A Master Among Master Thieves

13 Oct

In the Times Online, there is a piece about plagiarism detection software “proving” that Shakespeare didn’t write The Reign of King Edward III by himself:

What about the tomcat’s meow an’ milk cow’s moo?

What about the tomcat’s meow an’ milk cow’s moo?

The Shakespeare matches came from four scenes, about 40 per cent of the play. The remaining scenes had about 200 matches with works by Kyd, best known for The Spanish Tragedy, a play known to have influenced Shakespeare, indicating that he wrote the other 60 per cent of the play.

This is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. Imagine the nerve of using the kind of tool usually employed to detect lowly student thefts on The Bard himself! What messages are people getting from this? That, alas, Shakespeare was a common thief (et tu, Billy?) and somehow a lesser writer? Or that perhaps we should stop making criminals of students for doing what “the greats” do themselves? Should we instead study the uses of influence along with our students in order to show them how to employ these methods appropriately instead of just banning them outright? Shall we encourage collaboration and imitation as an early and necessary stage in their development as writers?

These issues were explored in the Master Thief series about Bob Dylan and plagiarism.

Here are a few words from Shakespeare himself (I think) on thievery:

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