Computers and the Humanities

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 221–240 | Cite as

Contrast and Change in the Idiolects of Ben Jonson Characters

  • Hugh Craig


The paper presents the results of a series of Principal Components Analyses of the frequencies of very common words in the dialogue of characters in plays by Ben Jonson. The first Principal Component in the data, the most important axis of differentiation, proves in each case to be a spectrum from elaborate, authoritative pronouncements to a dialogue style of reaction and interchange. Reference to other quantitative studies, literary and otherwise, suggests that a version of this axis may often be among the most important in stylistic difference generally. In Jonson it has a chronological aspect -- there is a shift over his career from one end to the other -- and there is often significant change within the idiolects of his characters as well. Successive segments of Volpone and Mosca's parts (they are protagonist and antagonist of Volpone, perhaps Jonson's best-known comedy) change markedly along this axis, beginning far apart but coming by the end of the play to resemble each other very closely on this measure.

Ben Jonson idiolects Principal Components Analysis 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hugh Craig
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia Email

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