Shakestats: Writing About Shakespeare Between the Humanities and the Social Sciences

Jeffrey R. Wilson


Part review essay, part methodological manifesto, and part pedagogical example, this article confronts the role of quantitative data in Shakespeare studies. Framed with the rise of the digital humanities (which has brought about 'humanities computing', 'distant reading', and 'culturomics'), the article surveys the use of statistics to study both Shakespeare’s text and his reception. Opportunities and strategies for using quantitative data in the classroom are also addressed before concluding with some recommendations: statistics can reveal to us new information about language usage, form, and authorship, but they cannot answer questions of literary meaning and value. For that reason, quantitative analysis will never replace qualitative analysis as the principle mode of literary studies, but that does not mean that quantitative analysis is useless. It can help us identify where we should direct interpretation, and it can add both scope and precision to the information we need to interpret.


Shakespeare, statistics, quantitative analysis, humanities computing, distant reading, culturomics, literary informatics, digital humanities, pedagogy

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