The idea that Shakespeare didn’t write all of his plays by himself isn’t new, but there was never any real concrete proof to support these theories. But as MIT Technology Review and Engadget report, using artificial intelligence (A.I.), a Czech researcher might have just provided it.
In his research paper, Petr Plecháč, from the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague used machine learning to analyze Shakespeare’s play ‘Henry VIII.’ His idea was to check the theory of James Spedding, a literary analyst from the XIXth century who “noticed a remarkable similarity between plays of John Fletcher, a playwright who succeeded Shakespeare in King’s Men theatre company in London, and passages in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.” Spedding’s conclusion was that “Fletcher and Shakespeare must have collaborated on the play.”
To check these and other similar claims, Plecháč used a machine learning technique that has already been tested “to identify distinctive patterns in the way authors write.” As MIT explains, this “technique uses a body of the author’s work to train the algorithm and a different, smaller body of work to test it on.”
But, since writing style of an author can change through his lifetime, “it is important to ensure that all works have the same style. Once the algorithm has learned the style in terms of the most commonly used words and rhythmic patterns, it is able to recognize it in texts it has never seen.”
According to his research, Plecháč found that Fletcher wrote scenes amounting to almost half the play. He said that, “our results highly support the canonical division of the play between William Shakespeare and John Fletcher proposed by James Spedding.”
Plecháč used the same methodology to compare Shakespeare’s work with that of Philip Massinger, another playwright critics thought might have worked with Shakespeare, and his conclusion was that his participation was “rather unlikely.”