William Shakespeare's collaborations

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Like most playwrights of his period, William Shakespeare did not always write alone. A number of his surviving plays are collaborative, or were revised by others after their original composition, although the exact number is open to debate. Some of the following attributions, such as The Two Noble Kinsmen, have well-attested contemporary documentation; others, such as Titus Andronicus, are dependent on linguistic analysis by modern scholars; recent work on computer analysis of textual style (word use, word and phrase patterns) has given reason to believe that parts of some of the plays ascribed to Shakespeare are actually by other writers.

In some cases the identity of the collaborator is known; in other cases there is a scholarly consensus; in others it is unknown or disputed. These debates are the province of Shakespeare attribution studies. Most collaborations occurred at the very beginning and the very end of Shakespeare's career.

Elizabethan authorship[edit]

The Elizabethan theatre was nothing like the modern theatre, but rather more like the modern film industry. Scripts were often written quickly, older scripts were revised, and many were the product of collaboration. The unscrupulous nature of the Elizabethan book printing trade complicates the attribution of plays further; for example, William Jaggard, who published the First Folio, also published The Passionate Pilgrim by W. Shakespeare, which is mostly the work of other writers.[citation needed]

Shakespeare's collaborations[edit]

Early works[edit]

  • Edward III was published anonymously in 1596. It was first attributed to Shakespeare in a bookseller's catalogue published in 1656.[1] 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. 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. The play is included in the Second Edition of the Complete Oxford Shakespeare (2005), where it is attributed to "William Shakespeare and Others", and in the Riverside Shakespeare. In 2009, Brian Vickers published the results of a computer analysis using a program designed to detect plagiarism, which suggests that 40% of the play was written by Shakespeare with the other scenes written by Thomas Kyd (1558–1594).[2]
  • Henry VI, Part 1: possibly the work of a team of playwrights, whose identities are unknown. Some scholars argue that Shakespeare wrote less than 20% of the text. Gary Taylor argues that the first act was the work of Thomas Nashe.[3] Paul J. Vincent concludes that, in light of recent research into the Elizabethan theatre, 1 Henry VI is Shakespeare's partial revision of a play by Nashe (Act 1) and an unknown playwright (Acts 2–5), the original of which was performed in early 1592. Shakespeare's work in the play, which was most likely composed in 1594, can be found in Act 2 (scene 4) and Act 4 (scenes 2–5 and the first 32 lines of scene 7).[4] Vincent's authorship findings, especially with regard to Nashe's authorship of Act 1, are supported overall by Brian Vickers, who agrees with the theory of co-authorship and differs only slightly over the extent of Shakespeare's contribution to the play, tentatively identifying Thomas Kyd as the author of the rest of the play.[5]
  • Titus Andronicus: seen as a collaboration with, or revision of, George Peele. See Authorship of Titus Andronicus.[6]
  • Sir Thomas More: some pages of the manuscript of this play are in Shakespeare's handwriting, with the assembled text being a collaboration with Anthony Munday (the primary author) and others.[7]
  • The Spanish Tragedy: although definitely known to be by Thomas Kyd, Thomas Pavier's edition of 1602 added five new passages to the preexisting text, totaling 320 lines, with the most substantial addition being an entire scene, known as the "painter scene", since it is dominated by Hieronimo's conversation with a painter. Even before Pavier's quarto, however, the scene seems to have been in existence and known to audiences, since John Marston parodies the painter scene in his 1599 play Antonio and Mellida. The five additions in the 1602 text may have been made for the 1597 revival by the Admiral's Men. In 2013, scholar Douglas Bruster, after comparing spellings in the additions with what we know of Shakespeare's handwriting, concluded that Shakespeare did indeed write the additions.[8] Bruster attributed mistakes in the text of the additions to the illegibility of Shakespeare's handwriting; the resulting mistakes have led to the devaluing of the portions that Shakespeare presumably wrote.[citation needed]

Collaboration with Wilkins[edit]

Collaborations with Middleton[edit]

Collaborations with Fletcher[edit]

  • Cardenio, a lost play; contemporary reports say that Shakespeare collaborated on it with John Fletcher.[13]
  • Henry VIII: generally considered a collaboration between Shakespeare and Fletcher.[14]
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen, published in quarto in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare on the title page;[15] each playwright appears to have written about half of the text. It is excluded from the First Folio.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ W. W. Greg, A List of Masques, Pageants, &c. Supplementary to "A List of English Plays", Appendix II, lxiv (1902)
  2. ^ Malvern, Jack (12 October 2009). "Computer program proves Shakespeare didn't work alone, researchers claim". Times of London.
  3. ^ Taylor, Gary. "Shakespeare and Others: The Authorship of Henry the Sixth, Part One", Medieval and Renaissance Drama, 7 (1995), 145–205.
  4. ^ Vincent (2005: 377–402)
  5. ^ Vickers (2007: 311–352)
  6. ^ Goff, Moira. "Titus Andronicus – Shakespeare in quarto". www.bl.uk.
  7. ^ Bald, R.C., "The Booke of Sir Thomas More and Its Problems." Shakespeare Survey II (1949), pp. 44–65; Evans, G. Blakemore. Introduction to Sir Thomas More. The Riverside Shakespeare. Herschel Baker, Anne Barton, Frank Kermode, Harry Levin, Hallett Smith, and Marie Edel, eds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1974, 1997, p. 1683; McMillin, Scott. The Elizabethan Theatre and "The Book of Sir Thomas More". Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1987, pp. 82–3, 140–44, etc.
  8. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (12 August 2013). "Further Proof of Shakespeare's Hand in 'The Spanish Tragedy'". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Collaborations". fbrt.org.uk.
  10. ^ Hope, Jonathan. The Authorship of Shakespeare's Plays: A Socio-Linguistic Study (Cambridge, 1994); Jackson, MacDonald P. "The Authorship of Pericles: The Evidence of Infinitives", Note & Queries 238 (2993): pp. 197–200; Jackson 2003
  11. ^ "Timon of Athens, with Middleton". bard.org.
  12. ^ ^ a b Maguire, Laurie (19 April 2012). "Many Hands – A New Shakespeare Collaboration?". The Times Literary Supplement. also at Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Oxford accessed 22 April 2012: "The recent redating of All's Well from 1602–03 to 1606–07 (or later) has gone some way to resolving some of the play's stylistic anomalies" ... "[S]tylistically it is striking how many of the widely acknowledged textual and tonal problems of All's Well can be understood differently when we postulate dual authorship."
  13. ^ "Don Quixote portal". umd.edu.
  14. ^ Plecháč, Petr (2021). "Relative contributions of Shakespeare and Fletcher in Henry VIII: An analysis based on most frequent words and most frequent rhythmic patterns". Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. 36 (2): 430–438. doi:10.1093/llc/fqaa032 – via Oxford Academic.
  15. ^ Potter, Lois (ed.), Fletcher, John and Shakespeare, William The Two Noble Kinsmen The Arden Shakespeare: Third Series, Thomson Learning 1997, ISBN 1-904271-18-9.
  16. ^ Authorship of Two Noble Kinsmen
  17. ^ "Two Noble Kinsmen – Qualifying the authorship". uq.edu.au.