Shakespeare and his contemporaries: Designing a genre classification scheme for Early English Books Online 1560–1640

Sean Murphy 1
  • 1 Lancaster University,


The language of Early Modern texts can potentially reveal a lot about Shakespeare’s language. In this paper I describe the creation of a genre classification scheme for a segment of Early English Books Online – Text Creation Partnership (EEBO-TCP), covering the period 1560–1640. This categorisation permits meaningful comparison of the language of Shakespeare with that of his contemporaries and makes an integral contribution to The Encyclopaedia of Shakespeare’s Language project at Lancaster University. I outline the rationale behind the scheme, describe preliminary automatic genre classification work and present the prototype approach adopted for this categorisation. I also provide specific examples of classification in practice and discuss internal and external factors which influenced genre selection. I finish by suggesting how a range of scholars might benefit from this research.

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