sábado, outubro 03, 2015

Using Ngram Viewer to track popularity of Shakespeare vs his plays and Word Hoard to take verb and modal verb counts of 7 plays




My scientific mind is having lots of fun at the moment with Shakespeare…
This around I tried out Ngram Viewer and Word Hoarder to see what would come out at the other side of the rainbow.

I used Ngram Viewer to compare the frequency of Shakespeare, Shakespearian, and the following list of 7 plays: 

The graph seems to suggest that Shakespeare is mentioned more frequently that than his works. Shakespeare seems to be read and written about more than his works (please note that this is a very tentative and far reaching conclusion; there are several uncontrolled variables and there are other explanations for the trends in the graph and then there's the very obvious problem that I didn't account for  – other people named Shakespeare).
I then decided to only track the frequency of the word Shakespeare since 1600. 

The spike at around 1625 is probably more reflective of Google's database than books published in the 1600s (perhaps most of the books that Google has from that period are authored by Shakespeare.) Also the apparent decline of the word Shakespeare doesn't necessarily imply that he's losing popularity. It probably has more to do with technological advances, the proliferation of various academic fields, and many other reasons. (Note this is also a very tentative conclusion and like the conclusion above it isn't necessarily reflective of anything and isn't sound.)

I clicked around on word hoarder a little. I don't know it well enough to be able to do anything of use with it; it's a pretty specialized and powerful tool. It's awesome we have access to it though. I did a very simple check on the verb and modal verb counts for the plays we're reading in the course and a couple others that I'm vaguely familiar with (but haven't read). Here are the counts:
Verb counts: The Tempest – 2244, A Midsummer Night's Dream – 2266, Much Ado About Nothing – 2870, Taming of the Shrew – 2926, Romeo and Juliet – 3407, Othello – 3584, Hamlet – 3892
Modal verb counts: The Tempest – 440, A Midsummer Night's Dream – 444, Much Ado About Nothing – 658, Taming of the Shrew – 563, Romeo and Juliet – 673, Othello – 688, Hamlet – 777
From the given sample it seems that tragedies generally have higher verb counts and that there's no correlation between modal verb and genre. The modal verb class interests me because it indicates modality and hence possibility, obligation, permission, and ability - among the sample plays Hamlet has the most modal verbs and A Midsummer Night's Dream the least.  I want to refrain from making any conclusions because this isn't a methodical analysis but if I had to make concluding remarks it'd be that
1) Tragedies seem to have more action than other genres. This seems appropriate; the plot gets more and more chaotic until everyone dies and death is perhaps the most momentous action.
2) Modal verbs indicate ruminations on the hypothetical. In MSND the characters hardly ever stop to reflect – they're impulsive and hardly question themselves. In Hamlet however there's an excruciating volume of rumination. This claim would require a look into conditionals and other word classes and grammatical structures.
These are very sweeping claims at best, and I don't feel comfortable about letting them influence my perspective. 


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