A question of authorial attribution (again)

OK, I’ve talked a little about the whole “second playwright” issue with Timon of Athens–i.e., Shakespeare did not act alone. From what I’ve read on the subject (and remember, this is pre-”New Oxford Shakespeare”/Word-Adjacency-Network revelations), Thomas Middleton’s fingerprints are all over Act One, Scene Two, all of Act Three, and the last 80 lines of Act Four, Scene Three, of this play.

And after my initial read, I wondered about my early feelings/hunches about the play:

it’s going to be interesting when I take my second dive into the text, to see if I can tell the difference between what has been considered to be the division of labor.
  • NOVEMBER 6, 2016

At that point, I thought the fifth act was a mess (including the weird case of the double epitaph–which sounds like the Worst. Murder, She Wrote. Episode. Ever.)…I still do, but it looks like that’s Shakespeare’s mess, not Tommy M’s. I also felt that there were sections of the play in which the meter felt especially clunky–awkward scansion, short and long lines, lots of extra-unstressed syllables.

And guess what? I think I may have been on to something.

Shakespeare Middleton
cene short/odd
verse lines
Scene short/odd
verse lines
I.i 7.6% I.ii 14%
II.i 2.8% III.i 12.5%
II.ii 6.8% III.ii 11.4%
IV.i 2.4% III.iii 9%
IV.ii 4% III.iv 10%
IV.iii (early) 5.2% III.v 8.4%
V.i 6.9% III.vi 4.7%
V.ii 5.8% IV.iii (end) 12.5%
V.iii 10%
V.iv 4.7%


In the scenes, currently attributed to Shakespeare, only 5.9% of the verse lines were awkward in terms of meter, or obviously and disruptively short/long. On the other hand, in the Middleton scenes, that verse percentage nearly doubles to 11.1%.

Note, however, that I said, “currently.”

I’m looking at two of my favorite scenes in the play–the midpoint scene with Alcibiades pleading to the senators, and the second feast (with its “stone soup” revelation). While those two scenes are in the Middleton column, they are also his two lowest in terms of short-line percentage (and well within the Shakespearean range).

I’m wondering now if that ”New Oxford Shakespeare”/Word-Adjacency-Network data-crunching will reveal that those two scenes are now more Shakespearean than Middletonian. I should have an answer when my copy of the ”New Oxford Shakespeare” volume arrives next month (Merry Christmas to me, babies!)…

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