Machines and Humans, Schemes and Tropes

Michael Ullyot, Adam J. Bradley


This is a study of rhetorical schemes in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, using computer-assisted methods that we devised to gather 112 instances of gradatio in a corpus of 400 texts from 1566 to 1647. But it is also a meta-analysis of those methods, addressing how quantifications of qualitative text features paradoxically reduce complex language structures to expand our grasp of them. Gradatio seems like a straightforward structure: consider Philip Sidney's "Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know, / Knowledge might pity win…". But we found variations on this scheme to be more prevalent than conventional usage. Ultimately this reaffirms an essential feature of literary style, which constitutes departures from conventional language.


Shakespeare, rhetorical schemes, computational methods

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