Sunday, June 10, 2012

A collaborative Shakespeare opens the door to authorship query

Last year's release of Roland Emmerich’s Shakespeare authorship film, Anonymous, caused spasms among arch-Stratfordians fearful that their candidate for Shakespeare authorship might not survive public scrutiny. But Stratfordians have more than popular media to worry about. Having barely survived the onslaught of publicity surrounding Emmerich’s film, anti-Strats must now contend with anti-Stratfordian theatrical presentations such as Monster Theatre's The Shakespeare Show, the release of authorship publications such as Richard Paul Roe’s Shakespeare Guide to Italy and films such as the recently released  Last Will. & Testament co-produced by Lisa Wilson and Laura Wilson Matthias. In addition, the academic mainstream supports oblique challenges to the Stratfordian attribution with new investigations into pseudonymity in Elizabethan England -- Starner and Traister's Anonymity in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2011) -- and the authorship of the Shakespearean apocrypha -- Sabrina Feldman's The Apocryphal William Shakespeare. And, although Stratfordians seem to be supporting theories of Shakespearean collaboration – perhaps in the mistaken notion that collaboration allows their admittedly unlikely candidate some measure of plausibility – opening the door to Shakespearean collaboration only further unravels the sleeve of struck-by-god, genius authorship.

A recent flurry of publicity (e.g. and regarding  Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith’s essay, A New Shakespeare Collaboration? claiming that All's Well that Ends Well was co-written by Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton prompted anti-Stratfordian John Rollett to aggregate current candidates for Shakespearean collaboration. Rollett -- an advocate of Darby as Shakespeare in his book, Shakespeare Lost and Found: evidence for William Stanley, Sixth Earl of Derby, as the Man behind the Mask -- said on the Elizaforum news list:
It has recently been claimed by Professor Laurie Maguire that All's Well that Ends Well was co-written by Shakespeare and Middleton. Maguire says Middleton's more modern grammar is evident in the text and that there is an 'arresting' stylistic match with his other plays. For example, the word 'ruttish' - meaning lustful - appears in the play and it’s only used by Middleton at that time. The use of stage directions is also much closer to Middleton's style than to Shakespeare's. This brings to nine the number of Shakespeare's plays thought to have been co-authored, or with contributions by other authors. He is also thought to have contributed scenes to the plays of others. Here is a summary of recent claims:

  • Titus Andronicus: written with George Peele per Brian Vickers, 2002
  • Pericles: written with George Wilkins per Brian Vickers, 2002
  • Timon of Athens: written with Thomas Middleton per Brian Vickers, 2002
  • All's Well that Ends Well: written with Thomas Middleton per Laurie Maguire, 2012
  • Henry VIII: written with John Fletcher per Brian Vickers, 2002
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen: written with John Fletcher per Brian Vickers, 2002
Three other Shakespeare plays were supposedly co-authored:
  • Henry VI, pt. 1 written with Nashe per Brian Vickers, 2007
  • Henry VI, pt. 1 written with Marlowe per Craig and Kinney [Hugh Craig, Arthur Kinney editors of Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship]
  • Henry VI, pt. 2 written with Marlowe per Craig and Kinney
  • Macbeth written with Middleton per Gary Taylor and others
These plays have sections supposedly written by Shakespeare:
  • Sir Thomas More: by Munday (possibly) written in Hand D per Craig and Kinney
  • Edward III: Countess scenes per Craig and Kinney
  • Spanish Tragedy: by Kyd, additions of 1602 per Craig and Kinney
  • Arden of Faversham: quarrel scene per Macdonald Jackson
Rollett added this comment for Oberon readers:
Two additional items could have been incorporated:
  • Brian Vickers has carried out convincing research (which I don't think has yet been published) that Edward III was written by Kyd, with about 40-percent including the Countess scenes written by Shakespeare.
  • Thomas Merriam has concluded that the verse in Henry V was written by Marlowe; all Shakespeare did was to write the prose parts, having come across an uncompleted play by Marlowe. Merriam published this in a pamphlet, rather than an academic journal . . .
At a rough count, Shakespeare had six co-authors, and collaborated with up to three other unknown authors.
Regardless of academic embrace of linguistic analysis of the Shakespeare plays, analysis cannot show when or how textual changes were made and are therefore useless in elucidating the play-making process. Collaboration theories do nothing to damage the anti-Stratfordian proposition and do much to allow alternate-authorship theorizing a useful place in the study of Shakespeare. Rollett said:
I take 'co-authorship' to be a fairly neutral term, which might involve two people planning in advance to write a play together, or one person writing part of a play and handing it to someone else to co-write or to complete alone, or someone years later finding a play parts of which need finishing or re-writing, and so on. 

UPDATE 08/08/12: Maguire and Smith report in their blog on July 31, 2012 on response to their All's Well Shakespeare-collaboration article -- "All's Well that Ends Well -- Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith report on the state of the debate"