Counterfeiting Shakespeare: Evidence, Authorship, and John Ford's Funerall Elegye

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Rhetoric:'the Shakespearean “hendiadys”'

Among the linguistic resources in the Funerall Elegye which Donald Foster claimed to show Shakespeare's authorship were some of the verbal devices defined by classical rhetoric. On the face of it, Foster might be congratulated for drawing on this resource, since it is undoubtedly true that preferences in the choice and use of rhetorical figures could be significant in authorship studies. However, his acquaintance with rhetoric seems too superficial for him to make any genuine contribution to this topic. He showed no knowledge of two fundamental works produced by American scholars in the 1940s-T. W. Baldwin's William Shakspere's 'Small Latine and Lesse Greeke' (1944), and Sister Miriam Joseph's Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language (1947) – nor of their successors. This gap did not prevent him from making a number of confident-seeming generalizations about the presence of specifically 'Shakespearean' rhetorical devices in the Funerall Elegye. Foster claimed that permutatio is 'very frequent in Shakespeare, as has been noted in numerous studies ' (1989, p. 99). Whoever turns up the note will find a general list of modern works, without page-references, several of which have no reference to permutatio.1 Foster informed his readers that 'One may find in the Peter elegy many of Shakespeare's preferred flourishes, such as prosonomasia' (p. 126), but without giving any further details; he claimed that 'another interesting device, and a favorite with W. S., as with Shakespeare, is antanaclasis' (p. 126) – citing only two instances, but mis-defining the figure; and that 'we find also in the Elegy a number of characteristic Shakespearean devices of style, such as zeugma …'. Foster was apparently unaware how vacuous these assertions are. His definition of permutatio (p. 99) confused it with anthimeria,2 and he adopted Puttenham's idiosyncratic definition of antanaclasis (which, properly understood, repeats a word while shifting from one of its senses to another), when the example quoted from Puttenham is one of paronomasia (which juxtaposes two words having a similar sound but different meanings). 3

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