Stylometric analysis of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus

(This use case was designed with the help of Douglas Duhaime and the following text was slightly adapted from a description kindly contributed by him.)

This is a case study in “stylometry”, or the quantitative analysis of a writer’s style. The data to be analyzed is William Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus, which scholars have long believed William Shakespeare did not write alone. Since the publication of John Robertson’s study Did Shakespeare Write Titus Andronicus, many have believed that particular scenes within the text have been written by other playwrights of the time: many believe that Act 1 Scene 1, for instance, was written by Shakespeare’s contemporary George Peele.

In order to test this hypothesis, the following Orange Textable workflow measures the degree to which the language in each scene within Titus Andronicus resembles the language within each other scene (figure 1 below). [1] By changing the Mode parameter within the Intersect instance, one can elect to focus only on content words or stopwords, and by changing the Distance Metrics parameter within the Example Distance isntance, one can change the similarity metric for the language comparison. Finally, by clicking on the Distance Map icon within this workflow, one can see at a glance how distinct the vocabulary within each scene is.

Orange Textable workflow for the Titus Andronicus use case

Figure 1: Orange Textable workflow for the stylometric analysis of Titus Andronicus*.

Comparing the stopwords within each scene using a normalized Euclidean distance metric, one finds that Act 1 Scene 1 is indeed a significant outlier within Titus Andronicus. The scene remains an outlier when one performs TF-IDF normalization on the term-document matrix (within the Convert instance), and when one uses a normalized Manhattan distance metric. Iterating through each of the various distance metrics, and toggling between different normalization metrics, Act 1 Scene 1 remains the most consistent outlier. This adds further evidence to the argument that the scene’s stylistic fingerprint departs from that of that of the rest of the play.

Act 1 Scene 1 of Titus Andronicus is a consistent stylistic outlier.

Figure 2: Act 1 Scene 1 is a consistent stylistic outlier in Shakespeare’s play.

[1]The schema can be downloaded from here.