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A new edition of the Shakespeare Apocrypha

August 13, 2013

The New York Times features an article of great interest of research by Douglas Bruster (U. Texas) that uses material from handwriting and Shakespeare’s spelling to argue that the “Additional Passages” in1602 quarto edition of The Spanish Tragedy (traditionally attributed to Thomas Kyd) were by Shakespeare.  The article is fascinating and I encourage you to read it and Douglas Bruster’s paper (available now in Internet preprint).

But I was even more excited to read of a forthcoming volume in the RSC Shakespeare series of the Shakespeare Apocrypha – plays that may have been at least partially authored by Shakespeare but were excluded from the First Folio.  The book is entitled William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays and is edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.  Palgrave Macmillan has a web page devoted to it.

Here is the description of the book:

Among the plays staged at the Globe and published in Shakespeare’s lifetime were The London Prodigal by William Shakespeare, A Yorkshire Tragedy written by W. Shakespeare and Thomas Lord Cromwell written by W.S

Could Shakespeare really have written these plays? Why were they excluded from the First Folio of his collected works? As a companion to their award-winning The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works, renowned scholars Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, supported by a dynamic team of co-editors, now present William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays.

This is the first edition for over a hundred years of the fascinatingly varied body of plays that has become known as ‘The Shakespeare Apocrypha’. Among the highlights are the whole text of Sir Thomas More, which includes the only scene from any play to survive in Shakespeare’s own handwriting; the history play Edward III, including a superb seduction scene by Shakespeare; and the domestic murder tragedy Arden of Faversham, in which Shakespeare’s hand has been detected by recent computer-assisted analysis. This is also the first ever Shakespeare edition to include the 1602 edition of Thomas Kyd’s pioneering The Spanish Tragedy, with ‘additions’ that the latest research attributes to Shakespeare. A magisterial essay by Will Sharpe provides a comprehensive account of the Authorship and Attribution of each play.

William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays has all the features of the bestselling RSC Shakespeare series: inimitable introductions by Jonathan Bate, rigorous textual editing led by Eric Rasmussen, key facts boxes with information on sources and the distribution of parts, on-page notes explaining difficult or obsolete vocabulary, and interviews with directors and actors who have staged the plays, including RSC Artistic Directors Terry Hands, Michael Boyd and Gregory Doran.

and here is the table of contents:

General Introduction; J.Bate

For each play:
Individual introduction by J.Bate
On-page footnote gloss which explains unfamiliar or obsolete words and classical, biblical or contemporary references where WS assumes audience knowledge
‘Key Facts’ box with: plot summary, major roles, date, linguistic medium, sources, textual notes

Arden of Faversham
Edward III
The Spanish Tragedy
(with Additions)
Thomas Lord Cromwell
Sir Thomas More
The London Prodigal
A Yorkshire Tragedy
Mucedorus (with Additions)
Double Falsehood; or The Distressed Lovers
Cardenio: The Source

Authorship and Attribution; W. Sharpe
From Script to Stage: Interviews with actors and directors; P. Kirwan

For those who are surprised of the idea of Shakespeare working in collaboration with other authors, it may be interesting to learn that collaboration was quite common during the Elizabethan-Jacobean period.  Thus, Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino’s Thomas Middleton:  The Collected Works includes Macbeth, Measure for Measure, and Timon of Athens (as well as evidence of Middleton’s contributions to the final versions of each play); others argue that Middleton contributed to All’s Well That Ends Well. 

In any case, the new Bate-Rasmussen volume looks to be an exciting collection of some very fine plays.  The volume is available for pre-order from Internet sellers such as Book Depository and Amazon.


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