Artistic Terms in Shakespeare's Early Plays

This initial graph displays the frequency to which artistic terms appear within Shakespeare's earliest plays. The length of each line represents the span of each play, so the points indicate where the artistic terms occur in each text. The size of each colored bubble is relative to the number of times each term occurs. This graph is interactive; hovering over particular points allows user to see which terms appear in the play, and to what frequency those terms occur. Clicking on particular points opens a separate tab that allows users to interact with the Voyant text visualization system, allowing them to engage with much more detailed information on these particular plays.


Perhaps unsurprising is the frequency to which painted terms occur in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a play that uses a portrait to emphasis the tension between Proteus and Valentine, who fight over Silvia. Also noteworthy is the amount of times shadow and related terms occur in Henry 6 Part 1. Emphasizing reality verses perception, these terms are used to call into question Talbot's reputation; these terms also reflect upon the theatrical production itself.




These next two graphs are extensions of the first, but they include a search for many more terms. Because of limitations in Voyant technology, these graphs are static, but they are useful in showing the how artistic terms appear in relation to one another once the search expands. In particular, I focused on searching for variants of terms in order to gain a fuller understanding of the frequency to which these terms appear. In many cases, the overall number of artistic terms per play increased as I searched for variant spellings.


Bubble Map 1

The amount of times counterfeit appears in Henry 4 Part 1 may also be surprising. As Falstaff rises after having faked his death, his speech is appropriately littered with references to counterfeiting:

Embowelled! if thou embowel me to-day,
I'll give you leave to powder me and eat me too
to-morrow. 'Sblood,'twas time to counterfeit, or
that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot too.
Counterfeit? I lie, I am no counterfeit: to die,
is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the
counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man:
but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby
liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and
perfect image of life indeed. The better part of
valour is discretion; in the which better part I
have saved my life.'Zounds, I am afraid of this
gunpowder Percy, though he be dead: how, if he
should counterfeit too and rise? by my faith, I am
afraid he would prove the better counterfeit.

In all, one of the biggest surprises this project uncovered was the frequency to which artistic terms appear in Shakespeare's history plays. However, because these plays in particular are bound in politics, power, and war, it is perhaps clear why issues of falseness and betrayal take form through the means of artistic language.


Bubble Map 2