Phase 2 and still no light on the capabilities of WordHoard

So begins a new adventure in phase 2, trying to uncover a deeper meaning to Hamlet. I’m very interested to see how well the blending of tools will aid the understanding of the play and in specific if my tool will actually become useful.

To begin the process my group decided to each do our own general search of Act 5 so we have starting off points for an analysis. Playing around with WordHoard is always fun….ha! Not quite sure what to start looking for I played around with lemmas and decided that death and love are more than appropriate for this act as there is a funeral and well, everyone dies thanks to Shakespeare’s classic tragedies. Surprisingly ‘death’ is only seen eight times in both scenes and ‘love’ is seen ten times. One thing that was annoying when searching for the ‘love’ lemma was that I had to do two individual searches; once for it as a noun, and once for it as a verb. Nothing surprising came up when I searched these lemmas though, so that was a dead end for deeper exploration from my aspect

So I turned my searches towards looking at negatives and adjectives. I already knew the anger, sadness, and death that occurred so the fact that there were fifty-nine instances of the word not (or the negative) in the act was not surprising. What it did cause me to notice was that this program calls the gravediggers, clowns. Weird I know, they are given the description of clowns in the character list in our hardcopies but their role is of gravediggers. It would be interesting to see what play source this program pulled the text from because I’ve never read an edition with clowns in it. Anyways, Hamlet leads the way with his use of the negative by saying it 35 times, which just reiterates my analysis of him from act 3.4.

Adjectives on the other hand surprised me. Knowing that the act was a darker one I figured it would be hard to find good or positive adjectives but it was the contrary. The beginning was filled with positive adjectives and it was hard to find negative ones. In the middle there was a constant wave of positive and negative adjectives used amongst the characters. Finally at the end my initial thoughts were confirmed and the negative adjectives poured out during the final battle.

The last thing I looked into was the amount the speakers spoke in the act. Hamlet spoke 44% of the words, while the gravediggers (or clowns according to WordHoard) spoke an astounding 17% of the act. The other nine players spoke the remaining 39% of the act but none of them spoke more than 8% of those remaining words. I hope that makes sense and isn’t overly confusing….

Anyways, I still had the same annoying problems with WordHoard, having endless windows open, having to tediously build my searches because I’m not special enough to have an account. Hopefully my group members can help me find a use for my tool because my initial findings aren’t very helpful or deep.

(only half of the windows I had opened, scary)

One thought on “Phase 2 and still no light on the capabilities of WordHoard

  1. Paige,

    I want to comment, first off, that your process of verifying or discrediting assumptions is valuable to the research progress, in that, such avenues of exploration may prompt unexpected search results, or new questions to work forward from. Also, to clarify your surprise as the grave diggers being referred to as “clowns”, which, initially, seems perplexing, it is actually a natural occurrence in Shakespeare’s texts, while editors may often change their names. In this context, clowns are not so much satirical or whimsical comedians, but rather, uneducated rustics of a lower social status than the primary characters focussed on in the text. A perfect example is in Act Five of Antony and Cleopatra, in which the Egyptian queen encounters a bumbling man, dishevelled in his speech, of a lower social class, trying to explain details to her about a venomous snake. Ironically, however, these types of characters do embody a clown-like behaviour, as they are often full of puns and wordplay. Anyway, I was intrigued by your findings about the frequency of the grave digger’s speech, an interesting, yet consistent pattern in Shakespeare’s works, in my opinion to provide comic relief. I’m sure if one was to run such as assessment on Touchstone or Jacques in the play As You Like It, they might find similar patterns in an overwhelming amount of speech coming from characters such as these. Additionally, this finding prompts me to ask this question in response, that is more qualitatively oriented: To what extent is comic relief relevant in a tragedy such as Hamlet, and does the form of it used in the text deviate from usages in other plays of the corpus? Would there be more optimal uses for characters and speeches besides this? Also, most importantly, is this an aspect of Act Five that greatly differentiates it from the other acts? I find it peculiar that a rare instance of comic relief occurs in the act that appears to define the text of Hamlet as a tragedy. Perhaps a question to prompt further inquiry and research could be if any of the tools could be applied to provide insights into this oddity, through evaluating the speech patterns and frequencies of the grave diggers, in order to potentially identify a further underlying meaning for their presence, beyond the recurring interpretation that they personify the death motif in the text through their occupation. Well done, and keep up the insightful research efforts.


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