Tag: research

shakespeare in love

Find out Who Shakespeare Was (Probably) Inspired by!

Shakespeare scholars and fans alike have pondered over the Bard’s writing for years and years. Because of the excessive amount of time that has passed since William Shakespeare’s death in 1616, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly who and what the man’s influences were. Whenever new information comes to light concerning his history, it creates a massive stir within the literary community, and it seems this has happened again.


In New Hampshire, a self-taught Shakespeare scholar named Dennis McCarthy believes that he has cracked another code using special plagiarism software called WCopyfind. It seems as though a lot of the language that Shakespeare uses in plays such as Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear mirror the language used in a 16th century book called A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels written by a Swedish man named George North. A specific example that McCarthy cites is the fact that, in the preface to his book, North urges people to go against the deficiencies nature might have bestowed upon them using a string of words to tie his point together. This string of words is almost exactly the same as the words that Richard III utters in his opening monologue to reach an opposite conclusion: that these natural deficiencies will color his world evil.



Image Via NY Times


McCarthy and another Shakespeare scholar named June Schlueter are releasing a book to be published by the British Library and D.S. Brewer, an academic-based company. The two don’t suggest that William Shakespeare specifically plagiarized North’s work, but rather he was inspired by the Swede. An interesting suggestion of this inspiration is a piece of dialogue spoken by the character of the Fool in King Lear. The Fool discusses a prophecy spoken by Merlin, but for years this has puzzled academics who have found no evidence of said prophecy until now. Apparently, this prophecy was actually written by North to showcase a dystopian world that they believe might have even shaped Shakespeare’s creation of this iconic character. 



Image Via NYMag


Surely, these new findings will affect the literary world in many different ways. I can just picture one of my favorite college professors, also a Shakespeare scholar, exploding with excitement to his students upon hearing this news. 




Feature Image Via Londonist


Study of Children’s Books Reveals Gender Bias in Favor of Male Protagonists

Gender bias plagues almost every facet of society. Even the world of children’s picture books is riddled with casual sexism. Data gathered by The Observer, along with with market research company Nielsen, confirms this through in-depth analysis of the 100 most popular children’s picture books of 2017. The research yielded the following information.


  • The majority are dominated by male characters, often in stereotypically masculine roles, while female characters are missing from a fifth of the books ranked.


  • The 2017 bestseller list includes The GruffaloGuess How Much I Love You, and Dear Zoo, in which all the animals are referred to by a male pronoun, as are the characters in recently published bestsellers You Can’t Take An Elephant on the BusThe Lion InsideSupertatoThe Day The Crayons Came Home, The Lost Words, The Koala Who Could and There’s A Monster in Your Book–none of which contain any female characters.


Via Giphy

 Via Giphy


  • The lead characters were 50% more likely to be male than female, and villains were eight times more likely to be male.


  • The antagonist in Peppa and Her Golden Boots is a duck who steals Peppa’s golden boots and brings them to the moon, which is excellent villainous behavior. She is the only independent female villain featured in any of the surveyed books. 


  • Speaking characters were 50% more likely to be male.


  • Male characters outnumbered female characters in nearly half the stories making up the top 100. On average, there were three male characters for every two females, though occasionally this ratio was much more drastic. For example, Mr Men in London, published in 2015, for example, features thirteen male characters and two female. 


Via GifClip

Via GifClip


Children’s laureate Lauren Child, author and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola books has said:


The research doesn’t surprise me. We see it in film and TV as well. But it gives out a message about how society sees you. If boys get the starring roles in books – both as the good and bad protagonists – and girls are the sidekicks, it confirms that’s how the world is and how it should be. It’s very hard to feel equal then.


  • 40% of gendered characters were human–the rest were an assortment of animals, objects, and plants. Gender bias was even more of an issue amongst the non-human characters, who were 73% more likely to be male.


  • Male animals were more likely to be large, powerful, or predatory creatures such as bears or tigers, while female animals tended to be “smaller and more vulnerable creatures such as birds, cats, and insects.”


  • In the surveyed texts, female adults were more often than not shown in caregiving roles, with twice as many female teachers than males. Mothers were present twice as often as fathers, with lone fathers appearing in just four books.


Nick Sharratt, bestselling children’s author and illustrator, said, “Authors and illustrators have fantastic opportunities to break down stereotypes. We need to tackle these issues and at the moment it seems not enough is being done.”


Via Tenor

Via Tenor


It’s not all bad news though. Julia Donaldson’s The Detective Dog was the #1 bestseller last year, and features a female canine protagonist with a male sidekick. More of this please!


Featured Image Via The Book People 

Agta prepping a fire

Good Storytellers Have More Sex, Says Science

The Atlantic put out a super interesting article last week about the value we as humans place on storytellers, and I totally recommend actually reading it because it’s worth it. Andrea Migliano, an anthropologist at University College London, and her team have found evidence that stories and the act of storytelling began partially as a way of creating and solidifying social bonds, ethics, and cooperation. 


When her study began, Migliano wasn’t looking for data on storytelling, she wanted to know what qualities the Agta, a group of hunter-gatherers from the Philippines, valued most in their society. Her team of students asked 300 Agta to name five people they’d most want to live with, to nominate the strongest people they knew, those whose opinions were most respected, those with the most medical knowledge, and finally, as an afterthought, the best storytellers. They thought storytelling would be an interesting contrast amongst more esteemed skills, but the Agta seemed to value storytelling above everything else.


Those good at storytelling were twice as likely to be named ideal living companions, and storytelling was “highly valued, twice as much as being a good hunter,” said Migliano.


What’s particularly interesting is that this isn’t unique to the Agta. Storytelling is a skill revered by hunter-gatherer groups across the globe. They’re more likely to receive gifts and are desired most as both living companions and romantic companions. On average, storytellers have 0.5 more children than non-storytelling peers, which was a statistically significant finding. Migliano suggests that while “stories might help to knit communities together, evolution doesn’t operate for the good of the group. If storytelling is truly an adaptation, it has to benefit the individuals who are good at it—and it clearly does.”


It’s hard to pin this on storytelling alone, however. “Creativity comes with its own suite of personality traits, which may make people more attractive sexual partners,” said Lisa Zunshine, a professor of English at the University of Kentucky.


At the end of the day, hunter-gatherers are utilizing storytelling to instill a sense of community and ethics within their group. Michelle Scalise Sugiyama from the University of Oregon, who has studied the origins of storytelling, added that other societies, like the Tsimane of Bolivia place the same importance on storytelling, indicating “that storytelling contributes something of adaptive value to human life.”


“Stories also contain valuable cultural knowledge, and accomplished storytellers are repositories of this knowledge,” noted Sugiyama. 


So basically storytellers are the best kind of people. I dig it.


Featured Image Via the Atlantic.