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The Shakespeare Apocrypha is a group of plays and poems that have sometimes been attributed to William Shakespeare, but whose attribution is questionable for various reasons. The issue is separate from the debate on Shakespearean authorship, which addresses the authorship of the works traditionally attributed to Shakespeare.
- 1 Background
- 2 Plays attributed to Shakespeare during the 17th century, but not included in the First Folio
- 3 Plays attributed to "W.S." during the 17th century, and not included in the First Folio
- 4 Plays attributed to Shakespeare after the 17th century
- 5 Lost plays
- 6 Hoaxes
- 7 Apocryphal poems
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In his own lifetime, Shakespeare saw only about half of his plays enter print. Some individual plays were published in quarto, a small, cheap format. Then, in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death, his fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell compiled a Folio collection of his complete plays, now known as the First Folio. Heminges and Condell were in a position to do this because they, like Shakespeare, worked for the King's Men, the London playing company that produced all of Shakespeare's plays. Note that in Elizabethan England, plays belonged to the company that performed them, not to the dramatist who had written them.
In theory, it ought to be clear what Shakespeare wrote, and what he did not: the plays included in the First Folio must be by Shakespeare, and those that were excluded must not, since Heminges and Condell were in a better position to know what Shakespeare wrote than subsequent scholars or other sources. In practice, however, a number of complications have created the concept of the Shakespeare Apocrypha.
In addition to plays, poems were published under Shakespeare's name. The collection published as The Passionate Pilgrim contains genuine poems by Shakespeare along with poems known to have been written by other authors, along with some of unknown authorship. Unattributed poems have also been assigned by some scholars to Shakespeare at various times. See below.
The Apocrypha can be categorized under the following headings.
Plays attributed to Shakespeare during the 17th century, but not included in the First Folio
Several plays published in quarto during the seventeenth century bear Shakespeare's name on the title page or in other documents, but do not appear in the First Folio. Some of these plays (such as Pericles) are believed by most scholars of Shakespeare to have been written by him (at least in part). Others, such as Thomas Lord Cromwell are so atypically written that it is difficult to believe they really are by Shakespeare.
Scholars have suggested various reasons for the existence of these plays. In some cases, the title page attributions may be lies told by fraudulent printers trading on Shakespeare's reputation. In other cases, Shakespeare may have had an editorial role in the plays' creation, rather than actually writing them, or they may simply be based on a plot outline by Shakespeare. Some may be collaborations between Shakespeare and other dramatists (although the First Folio includes plays such as Henry VIII, Henry VI, part 1 and Timon of Athens that are believed to be collaborative, according to modern stylistic analysis). Another explanation for the origins of any or all of the plays is that they were not written for the King's Men, were perhaps from early in Shakespeare's career, and thus were inaccessible to Heminges and Condell when they compiled the First Folio.
C. F. Tucker Brooke lists forty-two plays conceivably attributable to Shakespeare, many in his own lifetime, but dismisses the majority on their face, leaving only most of those listed below, with some additions.
- The Birth of Merlin was published in 1662 as the work of Shakespeare and William Rowley. This attribution is demonstrably fraudulent, or mistaken, as there is unambiguous evidence that the play was written in 1622, six years after Shakespeare's death. It is unlikely that Shakespeare and Rowley would have written together, as they were both chief dramatists for rival playing companies. The play has been called "funny, colorful, and fast-paced", but critical consensus follows Henry Tyrrell's conclusion that the play "does not contain in it one single trace of the genius of the bard of Avon", supplemented by C. F. Tucker Brooke's suggestion that Rowley was consciously imitating Shakespeare's style.
- Sir John Oldcastle was originally published anonymously in 1600 (STC 18796). In 1619, a second edition was attributed it to Shakespeare as part of William Jaggard's False Folio. In fact, the diary of Philip Henslowe records that it was written by Anthony Munday, Michael Drayton, Richard Hathwaye, and Robert Wilson.
- A Yorkshire Tragedy was published in 1608 as the work of Shakespeare. Although a minority of readers support this claim, the weight of stylistic evidence supports Thomas Middleton.
- Pericles, Prince of Tyre was published under Shakespeare's name. Its uneven writing suggests that the first two acts are by another playwright. In 1868, Nicolaus Delius proposed George Wilkins as this unknown collaborator; a century later, F. D. Hoeneger proposed John Day. In general, critics have accepted that the last three-fifths are mostly Shakespeare's, following Gary Taylor's claim that by the middle of the Jacobean decade, "Shakespeare's poetic style had become so remarkably idiosyncratic that it stands out—even in a corrupt text—from that of his contemporaries."
- The Two Noble Kinsmen was published in quarto in 1634 as a collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher, the young playwright who took over Shakespeare's job as chief playwright of the King's Men. Mainstream scholarship agrees with this attribution, and the play is widely accepted as a worthy member of the Shakespeare canon, despite its collaborative origins. It is included in its entirety in the Oxford Shakespeare (1986), and in the Riverside Shakespeare (1996).
- Edward III was published anonymously in 1596. It was first attributed to Shakespeare in a bookseller's catalogue published in 1656. Various scholars have suggested Shakespeare's possible authorship, since a number of passages appear to bear his stamp, among other sections that are remarkably uninspired. In 1996, Yale University Press became the first major publisher to produce an edition of the play under Shakespeare's name, and shortly afterward, the Royal Shakespeare Company performed the play (to mixed reviews). In 2001, the American professional premiere was staged by Pacific Repertory Theatre, which received positive reviews for the endeavor. A consensus is emerging that the play was written by a team of dramatists including Shakespeare early in his career – but exactly who wrote what is still open to debate. William Montgomery edited the play for the Second Edition of the Complete Oxford Shakespeare (2005), where it is attributed to "William Shakespeare and Others"'.
- The London Prodigal was printed in 1605 under Shakespeare's name. As it is a King's Men play, Shakespeare may have had a minor role in its creation, but according to Tucker Brooke, "Shakespeare's catholicity and psychological insight are conspicuously absent". Fleay hypothesized that Shakespeare wrote a rough outline or plot and left another playwright to the actual writing.
- The Second Maiden's Tragedy survives only in manuscript. Three crossed-out attributions in seventeenth century hands attribute it to Thomas Goffe, Shakespeare, and George Chapman. However, stylistic analysis indicates very strongly that the true author was Middleton. Professional handwriting expert Charles Hamilton has claimed that this play is in fact Shakespeare's manuscript of the lost Cardenio.
- The "Charles II Library" plays: in Charles II's library, an unknown seventeenth century person has bound together three quartos of anonymous plays and labelled them "Shakespeare, vol. 1". As a seventeenth-century attribution, this decision warrants some consideration. The three plays are:
- Fair Em, the Miller's Daughter of Manchester was written c. 1590. Another candidate for its authorship is Robert Wilson.
- Mucedorus was an extremely popular play; it was first printed in 1598 and went through several editions despite the text's manifestly corrupt nature. As it is a King's Men play, Shakespeare may have had a minor role in its creation or revision, but its true author remains a mystery; Robert Greene is sometimes suggested.
- The Merry Devil of Edmonton was first published in 1608. As it is a King's Men play, Shakespeare may have had a minor role in its creation, but the play's style bears no resemblance to Shakespeare.
Plays attributed to "W.S." during the 17th century, and not included in the First Folio
- Locrine was published in 1595 as "Newly set forth, overseen and corrected by W.S."
- Thomas Lord Cromwell was published in 1602 and attributed to "W.S." Except for a few scholars, such as Ludwig Tieck and August Wilhelm Schlegel, "hardly anyone has thought that Shakespeare was even in the slightest way involved in the production of these plays."
- The Puritan was published in 1607 and attributed to "W.S." This play is now generally believed to be by Middleton or Smith.
Plays attributed to Shakespeare after the 17th century
A number of anonymous plays have been attributed to Shakespeare by more recent readers and scholars. Many of these claims are supported only by debatable ideas about what constitutes "Shakespeare's style". Nonetheless, some of them have been cautiously accepted by mainstream scholarship.
- Arden of Faversham is an anonymous play printed in 1592 that has occasionally been claimed for Shakespeare. Its style and subject matter are very different from Shakespeare's other plays. Full attribution is not supported by mainstream scholarship, though stylistic analysis has revealed that Shakespeare likely had a hand in at least scene VIII (the play is not divided into acts). Thomas Kyd is often considered to be the author of much of Faversham, but still other writers have been proposed.
- Edmund Ironside is an anonymous manuscript play. Eric Sams has argued that it was written by Shakespeare, but has convinced few, if any, Shakespearean scholars.
- Sir Thomas More survives only in manuscript. It is a play that was written in the 1590s and then revised, possibly as many as ten years later. The play is included in the Second Edition of the Complete Oxford Shakespeare (2005), which attributes the original play to Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, with later revisions and additions by Thomas Dekker, Shakespeare and Thomas Heywood. A few pages are written by an author ("Hand D") whom many believe to be Shakespeare, as the handwriting and spellings, as well as the style, seem a good match. The attribution is not accepted by everyone, however, especially since six signatures on legal documents are the only verified authentic examples of Shakespeare's handwriting.
- Thomas of Woodstock, sometimes also called Richard II, Part I, is an anonymous late-sixteenth or early-seventeenth century play depicting the events leading up to the murder of Thomas of Woodstock and which occur immediately prior to the opening scenes of Shakespeare's history play Richard II. Thomas of Woodstock survives only as an anonymous and untitled manuscript lacking its final page (or pages), part of the Egerton Collection deposited in the British Library. Because the play describes the events immediately prior to those set forth in Richard II, some scholars have attributed the play to Shakespeare or suggested that it influenced Shakespeare's own play. Few of its editors, however, have supported the attribution to Shakespeare. Stylistic analysis led MacDonald P. Jackson to propose Samuel Rowley as a possible author in 2001. Later scholars. most notably Michael Egan, have tried to revive the attribution to Shakespeare.
- The Spanish Tragedy, by Thomas Kyd, is a play with elements reminiscent of Hamlet. Recent handwriting analysis suggests that portions may have been revised by Shakespeare. In 2013 the Royal Shakespeare Company published an edition attributing the play, in part, to William Shakespeare.
- A Knack to Know a Knave, Hanspeter Born has argued that Shakespeare rewrote some scenes in the romantic subplot of A Knack to Know a Knave, tentatively attributed by some scholars to Robert Greene.
- Love's Labour's Won. A late sixteenth-century writer, Francis Meres, and a scrap of paper (apparently from a bookseller), both list this title among Shakespeare's then-recent works, but no play of this title has survived. It may have become lost, or it may represent an alternative title of an existing play, such as Much Ado About Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well, or The Taming of the Shrew.
- Cardenio. This late play by Shakespeare and Fletcher, referred to in several documents, has not survived. It was probably an adaptation of a tale in Cervantes' Don Quixote. In 1727, Lewis Theobald produced a play he called Double Falshood [sic], which he claimed to have adapted from three manuscripts of a lost play by Shakespeare that he did not name. Counter to that, a professional handwriting expert, Charles Hamilton, has claimed in a recent book that The Second Maiden's Tragedy play is actually Shakespeare's manuscript of the lost play Cardenio. On the rare occasions when The Second Maiden's Tragedy has been revived on the stage, it is sometimes performed under the title Cardenio, as in the 2002 production directed by James Kerwin at the 2100 Square Foot Theater in Los Angeles, as well as a production at the Burton Taylor Theatre in 2004. In March 2010, the Arden Shakespeare imprint published an edition of Double Falsehood calling it a play by Shakespeare and Fletcher, adapted by Theobold, thus including it officially in Shakespeare's canon for the first time. In 2013 the Royal Shakespeare Company published an edition also attributing Double Falsehood, in part, to William Shakespeare.
- The lost play called the Ur-Hamlet is believed by a few scholars to be an early work by Shakespeare himself. The theory was first postulated by the academic Peter Alexander and is supported by Harold Bloom and Peter Ackroyd, although mainstream Shakespearean scholarship believes it to have been by Thomas Kyd. Bloom's hypothesis is that this early version of Hamlet was one of Shakespeare's first plays, that the theme of the Prince of Denmark was one to which he returned constantly throughout his career and that he continued to revise it even after the canonical Hamlet of 1601.
The dream of discovering a new Shakespeare play has also resulted in the creation of at least one hoax. In 1796 William Henry Ireland claimed to have found a lost play of Shakespeare entitled Vortigern and Rowena. Ireland had previously released other documents he claimed were by Shakespeare, but Vortigern was the first play he attempted. (He later produced another pseudo-Shakespearean play, Henry II.) The play was initially accepted by the literary community – albeit not on sight – as genuine. The play was eventually presented at Drury Lane on 2 April 1796, to immediate ridicule, and Ireland eventually admitted to the hoax.
Several poems published anonymously have been attributed by scholars to Shakespeare. Others were attributed to him in 17th century manuscripts. None have received universal acceptance. The authorship of some poems published under Shakespeare's name in his lifetime has also been questioned.
The Passionate Pilgrim
The Passionate Pilgrim is a collection of poems first published in 1599 by William Jaggard, later the publisher of Shakespeare's First Folio. Though the title page attributes the content to Shakespeare, many of the poems were written by others. Some are of unknown authorship and could be by Shakespeare. Jaggard issued an expanded edition of The Passionate Pilgrim in 1612, containing additional poems on the theme of Helen of Troy, announced on the title page ("Whereunto is newly added two Love Epistles, the first from Paris to Hellen, and Hellen's answere back again to Paris"). These were in fact by Thomas Heywood, from his Troia Britannica, which Jaggard had published in 1609. Heywood protested the piracy in his Apology for Actors (1612), writing that Shakespeare was "much offended" with Jaggard for making "so bold with his name." Jaggard withdrew the attribution to Shakespeare from unsold copies of the 1612 edition.
"A Lover's Complaint"
This poem was published as an appendix to Shakespeare's sonnets in 1609. Its authorship has been disputed by several scholars. In 2007 Brian Vickers, in his monograph, Shakespeare, "A Lover's Complaint", and John Davies of Hereford, attributes the "Complaint" to John Davies. Other scholars continue to attribute it to Shakespeare.
"To the Queen"
"To the Queen" is a short poem praising Queen Elizabeth, probably recited as an epilogue to a royal performance of a play. It was first attributed to Shakespeare by American scholars William Ringler and Steven May, who discovered the poem in 1972 in the notebook of Henry Stanford, who is known to have worked in the household of the Lord Chamberlain. The attribution was supported by James S. Shapiro and Juliet Dusinberre. It was included in 2007 by Jonathan Bate in his complete Shakespeare edition for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The attribution has since been challenged by Michael Hattaway, who argued that the poem is more likely to be by Ben Jonson, and by Helen Hackett, who attributes it to Thomas Dekker.
A Funeral Elegy
In 1989, using a form of stylometric computer analysis, scholar and forensic linguist Donald Foster attributed A Funeral Elegy for Master William Peter, previously ascribed only to "W.S.", to William Shakespeare, based on an analysis of its grammatical patterns and idiosyncratic word usage. The attribution received extensive press attention from The New York Times and other newspapers.
Later analyses by scholars Gilles Monsarrat and Brian Vickers demonstrated Foster's attribution to be in error, and that the true author was probably John Ford. Foster conceded to Monsarrat in an e-mail message to the SHAKSPER e-mail list in 2002.
Shall I Die
This nine-verse love lyric was ascribed to Shakespeare in a manuscript collection of verses probably written in the late 1630s. In 1985 Gary Taylor drew attention to the attribution, leading to widespread scholarly discussion of it. The attribution is not widely accepted. Michael Dobson and Stanley Wells state that Shakespeare's authorship "cannot be regarded as certain".
Shakespeare has been identified as the author of two epitaphs to John Combe, a Stratford businessman, and one to Elias James, a brewer who lived in the Blackfriars area of London. Shakespeare certainly knew Combe and is likely to have known James. A joking epitaph is also supposed to have been created for Ben Jonson.
The epitaph for James was on a memorial in the church of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. The memorial no longer exists but was recorded in the 1633 edition of John Stow's Survey of London. The text is also present in the same manuscript which preserves Shall I Die, where it is ascribed to Shakespeare. The epitaph is a conventional statement of James' godly life.
The epitaphs for Combe are different. One is a satirical comment on Combe's money-lending at 10 per cent interest. The verse says that he lent money at one-in-ten, and it's ten-to-one he'll end up in hell. This is recorded in several variant forms in the 17th and 18th centuries, usually with the story that Shakespeare composed it extempore at a party with Combe present. Shakespeare is said to have written another, more flattering, epitaph after Combe died in 1614. It praises Combe for giving money in his will to the poor. This was said to be affixed to his tomb, which is close to Shakespeare's. However, there is no sign of it in the surviving tomb. The first epitaph, in variations, has also been attributed to other writers, addressed to other alleged usurers.
An anecdote recorded in the mid-17th century has Jonson beginning an epitaph to himself with the conventional "Here lies Ben Jonson ...", and Shakespeare completing it with the words "who while he lived was a slow thing/And now being dead is no thing".
- Tucker Brooke (1908), pp. ix–xi.
- Dominik (1991), p. 7.
- Tyrrell (1800), p. 411.
- Tucker Brooke (1908), p. xlvi.
- Warren (2003), p. 59.
- Greg (1902), Appendix II, p. lxiv.
- Tucker Brooke (1908), p. xxx.
- Chambers (1930), p. 536.
- F. David Hoeniger (1957). "Review of Studies in the Shakespeare Apocrypha by Baldwin Maxwell". Shakespeare Quarterly 8 (2): 236–237. JSTOR 2866972.
- Jackson, Macdonald P., "Shakespeare's Richard II and the Anonymous Thomas of Woodstock,", in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 14 (2001) 17-65.
- Egan (2006)
- Schuessler, Jennifer (12 August 2013). "Further Proof of Shakespeare's Hand in ‘The Spanish Tragedy'". The New York Times.
- Born Hanspeter, "Why Greene was Angry at Shakespeare", Medieval and Renaissance Drama 25 (2012), 133-173.
- Halliday (1964), pp. 34–35.
- David Wilkes (20 April 2007). "To my Queen...the Shakespeare poem on the back of an envelope". Daily Mail (UK). Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- Ron Rosenbaum (12 June 2008). "Are Those Shakespeare's "Balls"?". Slate. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- Michael Hattaway (2009). "Dating As You Like It, epilogues and prayers, and the problems of "As the Dial Hand Tells O'er"". Shakespeare Quarterly 60 (2): 154–167. doi:10.1353/shq.0.0074. JSTOR 40468403.
- Helen Hackett (2012). "'As The Diall Hand Tells Ore': the case for Dekker, not Shakespeare, as Author". Review of English Studies 63 (258): 34–57. doi:10.1093/res/hgr046.
- "Text of ''A Funeral Elegy for Master William Peter''". Shakespeareauthorship.com. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
- Foster (1989); Foster (2000)
- e-mail message from Foster to the SHAKSPER e-mail list in 2002.
- William S. Niederkorn (20 June 2002). "A scholar recants on his 'Shakespeare' discovery". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- Dobson, M., Wells, S,"Shall I die", The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare
- Otto Friedrich (21 June 2005). "Education: Shall I Die? Shall I Fly ...". Time. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
- Dobson, M., Wells, S, "Epitaph on Elias James", The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare
- S. Schoenbaum, Shakespeare's Lives, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 42-6.
- Chambers, E. K. (190). Shakespeare: a Survey of Facts and Problems 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
- Corbin, Peter; Sedge, Douglas, eds. (2002). Thomas of Woodstock: or, Richard II, Part One. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-1563-2.
- Dominik, Mark (1991). William Shakespeare and the Birth of Merlin. Beaverton, OR: Alioth Press. ISBN 978-0-945088-03-5.
- Egan, Michael (2006). The Tragedy of Richard II: a Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare. Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 978-0-7734-6082-9.
- Foster, Donald W. (1989). Elegy by W.S.: a Study in Attribution. University of Delaware Press. ISBN 978-0-87413-335-6.
- Foster, Don (2000). Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-6357-8. Chapter 1 available online.
- Frijlinck, Wilhelmina Paulina, ed. (1929). The first part of the reign of King Richard the Second; or, Thomas of Woodstock. Malone Society.
- Greg, Walter Wilson (1902). A List of Masques, Pageants, &c. Supplementary to "A List of English Plays".
- Halliday, Frank Ernest (1964). A Shakespeare Companion, 1564–1964. Baltimore: Penguin Books.
- Rossiter, Arthur Percival (1964). Woodstock, a moral history. Chatto and Windus.
- Tucker Brooke, C. F., ed. (1908). The Shakespeare Apocrypha: being a collection of fourteen plays which have been ascribed to Shakespeare. Oxford University Press.
- Tyrell, Henry (1800). The doubtful plays of Shakspere, revised from the original editions with historical and analytical introductions and notes critical and explanatory. London: Tallis.
- Warren, Roger, ed. (2003). Pericles. The Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-812932-5.