Psychological Investigation of the Use of Shakespeare’s Emotional Language. The Case of His Roman Tragedies

Author: Whissell, Cynthia
Offers a psychological investigation of the use of emotive language in Shakespeare’s drama. Focusing on the Roman tragedies, the author applies findings from her Dictionary of Affect in Language, which classified words into categories indicating the sort of emotion that they imply, to the plays to produce a comparison of the dramatic language to the modern English vocabulary.


“In this fascinating book, Cynthia Whissell reports on the application of her Dictionary of Affective Language to the historical tragedies of Shakespeare. ... The analyses allow Whissell to test assertions made by various literary critics about the plays. ... This is a valuable book on the plays that is well worth reading.” – Dr. Colin Martindale, Professor Emeritus in the Psychology Department, University of Maine

“The choice of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedies for the application of [these] analyses was optimal. His basic strategies have become the prototype for most of the contemporary cinema and certainly the more engaging novels. The ability to discriminate antagonists and protagonists as well as their dynamics of interaction by quantitative analyses of the words and their imagery is a significant step towards understanding the mechanisms by which great literature (and now media) affects people’s concepts of social interactions and cultural meaningfulness.” – M.A. Persinger, Laurentian University

“. . . readers who know little or nothing about the four Roman tragedies can still find in this [book] a fascinating, even eye-opening approach to understanding drama in particular and literature more generally. Moreover, the [work] is, to use a word that one doesn’t often see applied to scholarly [works], fun to read. . . . This is a very nice piece of work, and I will pay it my highest compliment: I wish that I had done it myself, but I could not have.” – Lee Sigelman, Columbian College Distinguished Professor, The George Washington University

Table of Contents

1 What? How? Why?
2 Roman Words
3 Language As a Measure of Character
4 The Five-Act Structure
5 Shakespeare’s Sources and Shakespeare’s Style
6 The Big Picture