Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/113

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105
SOLUTION OF A LITERARY PROBLEM.

ber of four-letter words was slightly greater than that of three letters, although the excess was by no means so persistent in small groups. The

PSM V60 D113 Plot of writing characteristics of beaumont and fletcher imitating shakespeare.png

Fig. 8.——Beaumont and Fletcher. . . . Shakespeare.

curve of their composition is, on the whole, quite like that of Shakespeare. The lack of persistency of form among small groups may be accounted for by the fact that the work is in a large, though unknown, degree a joint product. The comparison with Shakespeare is shown in Fig. 8. It was in the counting and plotting of the plays of Christopher Marlowe, however, that something akin to a. sensation was produced among those actually engaged in the work. Here was a man to whom it has always been acknowledged, Shakespeare was deeply indebted; one of whom able critics have declared that he 'might have written the plays of Shakespeare.' Indeed a book has been only recently published to prove that he did write them. Even this did not lessen the interest with which it was discovered that in the characteristic

PSM V60 D113 Plot of writing characteristics of marlowe vs shakespeare.png

Fig. 9.———Marlowe. . . . Shakespeare.

curve of his plays Christopher Marlowe agrees with Shakespeare about as well as Shakespeare agrees with himself, as is shown in Fig. 9. Finally, an interesting incident developed in an examination of a bit of dramatic composition by Professor Shaler, of Harvard University, entitled 'Armada Days.' It was a brochure of only about twenty thousand words, printed for private circulation, in which the author had endeavored to compose in the spirit and style of the Elizabethan Age. Although too small to produce anything like a 'normal' curve it was counted and plotted, and the diagram indicated that Professor Shaler had not only caught the spirit of the literature of the time, but that he had also unconsciously adopted the mechanism which seems to characterize it. In the excess of the four-letter word and in other respects the curve was rather decidedly Shakespearean, although it was written before its author knew anything of such an analysis as this.