Overall, we managed to explore various different aspects of the reuse of Macbeth in the 18th century. We analyzed the different versions of Macbeth in the 18th century and how they were reused and by whom. In addition, we also explored what kinds of topics and passages were reused and how the reuses were framed within the target texts. In our source text analysis, we found that in London Macbeth was mainly published by one publishing house before 1773. This is partly due to the representativity of the data: the databases we gained our data from are focused on the UK. Some editions of Macbeth were, however, published outside of the UK.

In addition to analyzing the different editions of Macbeth, we also explored the target texts that reused Macbeth. Most of the target texts were also published in the UK and more specifically in London. This again reflects the representativity of our data. Johnson emerged as the author who reused Macbeth the most during the century. Behind him were Richardson, D’Avenant and Byyshe. Moreover, we found that the reuses of Macbeth increased in number during the century, although due to individual works, such as Johnson’s dictionary, the number of reuses peaked in the middle of the century. Most of the passages that were reused seemed to be unique to the target text author.

As we wanted to explore how Macbeth was reused, we decided to select a few target text authors for a more detailed exploration. The authors we chose were Johnson, Richardson and Byyshe. Johnson’s 1799 edition of his dictionary emerged as the most significant work that reused Macbeth. Based on the examples we examined, we found that Johnson reused Shakespeare to explain nuances and connotations of words. Similarly, Byyshe used passages from Macbeth to explain abstract concepts. Richardson, on the other hand, analyzed the characters of Macbeth and he used passages from Macbeth to provide evidence for his analysis. We also analyzed how the reuses were framed within a selection of target texts and based on this analysis, it seems that regardless of the topic of the passage, the context it appears in the target text differs from the context of the passage within Macbeth.

In addition, one of our aims was to examine which passages and topics were chosen to be reused by the target text authors. Based on the clustered passages, the most reused passages were about witches or universal topics such as emotions and these seemed to be the most appealing topics for target text authors. Topic modeling provided similar results. Several topics were related to supernatural elements, i.e., witches, and many were related to themes such as the concept of time, emotions such as fear. However, the characters of Macbeth and distinct plot points were more pronounced within the topics in comparison to the most reused passages.

The methods of this project were decent for providing results, but future research could develop them further. One of the key issues in working with historical data is the format of the data as it is usually not in the most convenient format. To work around this, we explored the possibility of using GPT-3.5 to correct failed OCR and spelling mistakes. With most of the data it seemed to work quite well, although it did make some mistakes and in some cases the lengths of the passages varied from the original passage. The GPT-3.5 corrections were, however, promising, and it could be utilized further in future research. To conclude, we were able to explore quite comprehensively how Macbeth was reused during the 18th century with our methods and thus these methods could be utilized more in future research on historical data, but also in other areas.


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