Scalable Reading

dedicated to DATA: digitally assisted text analysis

...the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the Moon, whose Orb
Through Optic Glass the Tuscan Artist views
At Ev’ning from the top of Fesole,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new Lands,
Rivers or Mountains in her spotty Globe.
(Paradise Lost, 1. 286-91)

Monthly archive March, 2011

Authors are trumps

What do repeated phrases or n-grams tell us about how distant from or close to each other pairs of early modern plays are?  Do n-grams provide  dependable measures of distance, and can we learn from them about the weight of various factors that differentiate between one play and another, whether by date, genre, or author?...

extravagant, summons, platform, and beckon

The word ‘extravagant’ combines with ‘beckon’, ‘platform’, and ‘summons’ to establish an odd link between Hamlet and Othello. Horatio refers to the disappearing ghost as an “extravagant and erring spirit” (Ham.1.1.154). Roderigo calls Othello an “extravagant and wheeling stranger” (Oth .1. 1. 136). The phonetic, semantic, and rhetorical resemblances between the two phrases are obvious....


‘Crowner,’ Shakespeare’s word for ‘coroner’ appears in two plays, and on both occasions it is associated with death by drowning.  It appears in the discussion of the two gravediggers about the cause of Ophelia’s death in the opening of the last act of Hamlet: 1. Clo. 1 Is she to be buried in Christian burial...

Shakespeare’s dislegomena

Shakespeare’s dislegomena are lemmata that occur in only two of his plays. I use ‘dislegomenon’ in a specialized sense to refer to document rather than collection frequency.  For instance, the lemma ‘Laertes’ occurs once in Titus Andronicus and 33 times in Hamlet.  In Titus Androniucs, the name occurs in the context of disputed burial, and...