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LSC874—Text Mining Coriolanus and What I Found There

I had some trouble with Assignment #2. The right text didn’t want to be found, I couldn’t get AntCorc to work, couldn’t seem to find anything that really jumped out at me. Now, if you know me at all you’ll know that I have been in the depths of the deepest Shakespeare binge I’ve been on since I was about thirteen and discovered Branagh’s films for the first time. Within the last three months I have consumed the following, many of them twice:

  • Richard II (The Hollow Crown)
  • Henry IV, Pts 1&2 (The Hollow Crown)
  • Henry V (The Hollow Crown)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (Whedon)
  • Cymbeline
  • Love’s Labors Lost (Branagh)
  • Richard III (at the Folger Theatre)
  • Looking for Richard (Pacino documentary)
  • As You Like It (Branagh)
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hoffman)
  • Coriolanus (National Theatre Live)
  • Coriolanus (Fiennes)
  • Hamlet (Doran)

[Disclaimer: The Shakespeare’s Skum rendition of Henry The V has not been included in the list, but is not forgotten.]

I have plans to continue with Romeo & Juliet (Luhrmann) and Titus Andronicus (Taymor) this weekend. I SHALL NOT BE STOPPED.

Out of the bunch, I am passably familiar with all except Coriolanus and Cymbeline. The English teacher for the military base where I attended for my undergrad used Shakespeare for just about every class in some way or another, and apart from her classes my family usually has Shakespeare around in some form or another.

Recently I have been completely entranced by Coriolanus. The hero is anything but, and the role of the “villain” becomes almost sympathetic by the end. It’s a rather convoluted play which focuses on the role of acting and service and what happens when a military veteran is placed in public office upon his homecoming. One of Shakespeare’s later plays, it focuses more on class differences than romance or war as in the more popular plays of Romeo & Juliet or Henry V. I’ve gone back to Plutarch, spelunked through the depths of JSTOR, listened to hours of podcasts from MIT and American Shakespeare Center, and done my best to understand the many layers of the play’s language.

When I was caught in a fit of frustration last week, I downloaded it in XML and ran it through Voyant and found a whole new side to it. While searching through the text for some useful key words, I tried a few different searches in word frequencies.

Peace & War in Coriolanus

It’s interesting, but not gripping. Talk of war precludes and exceeds that of peace during the first two acts, but ultimately peace becomes the more spoken of goal. These findings are evident in the text and require no scholarly insight to observe. Meh. What is more interesting to me is who is speaking of peace and war. Was it the patricians? The Romans? Menenius? Aufidius? Coriolanus? So I tried to figure out the best way to do this without access to WordSeer and did a comparison search for “Marcius” and “Coriolanus” and the results were… well, they were surprising.

Coriolanus vs. Marcius

At first I was puzzled that there were so many hits for the names. None of the other names appeared so many times, and then I realized that I was dealing with a mixed cocktail of metadata and content. The text of the play I was working with included (as plays so often do) the names of the speaker before their speech, and that this in itself is important. The character of Caius Marcius is a weapon of the people while his nickname of Coriolanus is a product of battle, pressured into a public position of service. At the end of the first act, the name of Marcius is set aside for the that of Coriolanus… and so it is until the final act when his mother pleads on behalf of Rome, and it is she who calls him by Marcius. It stands to reason that the names of the titular character would appear many more times than those of the other roles. I had forgotten that plays, as plays do, include the name of the speaker before their speeches, and as such is a form of metadata. It’s not the what but the who, and it’s reflected in the frequencies chart. Pretty. Cool.

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LSC874—Text Mining Coriolanus, and What I Found Next

So… do the roles change at all in content? Do the words of Marcius carry on in Coriolanus? After separating the words of the roles (more data prepping time, yay!) and placing them in two separate documents, here are the results:

The words of Caius Martius

The words of Caius Marcius

The words of Coriolanus

The words of Coriolanus

Yes. They differ, but there is still a large overlap. Marcius speaks largely in the midst of war (make wars upon you/make a sword of me/make good the city/make a quarry) to rally his troops while Coriolanus turns to more genteel words and phrases to turn the hearts of the people of Rome and plead with his mother, while both are concerned with the promise of actions in the word shall. However, here the importance of the data’s content is shown beautifully.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.14.06 AM

Marcius speaks of his own actions, threatening violence with his intent and sword.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.15.01 AM

Coriolanus is full of promises and indignation ([my wounds] shall be yours in private/my face is fair you shall perceive/I shall be lov’d when I am dead/we’ll drink together; and you shall bear a better witness/shall I be charged no further) yet still peppers his speech with threats (how shall this bisson multitude digest/I shall shake thy bones/ingrate forge shall poison, rather than pity/my beating to his grave shall join to thrust). In many ways, the role of Coriolanus is more vitriolic in his attempts to be persuasive than Marcius is in his outright physical violence and bravado.

So… why the change? Well, in part it is the way of the play – that Marcius is accepted as a soldier by the people he serves while Coriolanus is rejected by them as a consul (and, ultimately, by everyone save his mother and family). In fact, the word ‘service’ shows up multiple times in the speech of Coriolanus but never once in that of Marcius. Comparatively, ‘fight’ appears once in the mouth Coriolanus but several times in Marcius’, and even that once refers to an internal struggle than an external battle.

While I saw many differences between the roles of the soldier and the consul, I also saw many similarities.

similarities

These are the non-proper nouns (except Rome… sue me) which appear most often in his speech, and it is curious to see that three remain the same: friends, gods, and heart, all of which which he uses to spur men into action in battle in Volsce and Rome. The other two words (“Rome” and “mother”) make some sense, as the first act occurs in Volsce and his mother barely appears before him until after he is named Coriolanus, and the they both appear with great frequency at the end of the third act.

Rome & Mother

I’m not entirely sure what the next step is at this point. My sister, who has been patiently listening to my incoherent babblings about these posts, has requested a look at how Coriolanus’ languages changes when he’s speaking to his mother in comparison to other people. I want to incorporate other tools to try and recreate the numbers and see if there’s something I can do to make identifying the speaker more precise than simply isolating their words.

Here are the files I used, in case anyone wants to play:

  1. Coriolanus (full text, Jon Bosak, xml)
  2. Coriolanus (full text, Play Shakespeare, xml)
  3. Coriolanus (full text, txt)
  4. Speaker: Coriolanus (txt)
  5. Speaker: Caius Marcius (txt)

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