Description: The characters in Shakespeare’s plays from the increasingly dementia ridden King Lear to the suicidal Hamlet (the melancholy Dane) have provided a LOT for us to consider from a Psychological perspective. But what can Psychology tell us about Shakespeare? Or more specifically, what can an analysis of Shakespeare’s writing style tell us about the playwright from a psychological point of view?
Source: Raw Story: What Shakespeare’s plays may say about his Psychology.
Date: April 10, 2015
Photo Credit: Marcel “MadJo” de Jong, CC BY-SA 2.0
Think about an author whose writing you have read a lot. Have you developed a mental psychological profile of the author, of what they are like, based on the works they have written? Well perhaps you have not thought about it but Ryan Boyd and James Pennebaker have not only thought about it but have developed a detailed psychological analysis process looking at word use word frequency, use of function words and types of content words. Using this tool they have analyzed plays written by Shakespeare and other playwrights and have been able to claim that it was likely Shakespeare that write a play called Double Falsehood. They suggest that Shakespeare was likely the author as his writing suggests a more open social character consistent with the writing in Double Falsehood and different than the rigid and abrasive psychological profile associated with Lewis Theobald another possible author for the work.
So perhaps all the worlds IS a stage and that the playwrights themselves are also psychological actors up there right alongside their characters.
Questions for Discussion:
- Can you think of several psychological dimensions that people vary along that might be observable not so much in what they write but how they write it?
- What sorts of markers did Boyd and Pennebaker use to develop a Psychological profile of Shakespeare?
- Besides addressing scholarly debates about the authorship of contested plays what other uses might there be for the Psychological analyses used in this new study?
References (Read Further):
Boyd, Ryan L. and Pennebaker, James W. (2015) Did Shakespeare write Double Faslehood? Identifying individuals with text analysis, Psychological Science, April 8, 2015, doi: 10.1177/0956797614566658.