[LMB] OT: Shakespeare

John Lennard john.c.lennard at gmail.com
Sat Sep 11 15:18:58 BST 2021

Jerrie : > Elizabeth Holden confides, "I love reading about Shakespeare."
> Have you tried _Shakespeare of London_ by Marchette Chute?  I've not read
> it, but think it has a good reputation.

SFAIK it was reasonably regarded, but it is 70 years old and inevitably
badly out of date.

I pay no nevermind to anti-Stratfordian nonsense, but it was excellently
analysed as a ... well, pathology, really, by James Shapiro in *Contested
Will* (2012).

There are not a lot of new -facts- about the man himself in those 70 years,
but there are some -- most notably the Silver Street material that Charles
Nicholl dug out in *The Lodger*, plus the excavations of the Rose and
Second Globe ; but there is considerable new data and understanding about
those Shax knew and worked with, about amphitheatrical and indoor
theatrical practices of his time, about the mercantile importance of his
published works (affecting notions of his supposed indifference to
publication), and about his place within his company. I supply some
references below if anyone wants them, and these are all readable
scholarship, not litcrit jargonautics.

We have also lost some supposed facts, beyond the supposed indifference to
print and shaping a humanist career. The piracy theories Chute would
reasonably have accepted from Pollard are defunct, as are the ...
imaginatively Christian readings promoted by Dover Wilson and others in the
New Cambridge Shakespeare ; the probable relations of quarto and Folio
texts in general have been revolutionised ; most probable dating order of
the plays has shifted, significantly so in some cases (esp. *All's Well*,
now usu. reckoned to c.1605-06, well after *Measure* and alongside *Lear*
and *Macbeth*) ; company repertoires are also on a much more stable and
well-sorted footing, thanks mostly to Andrew Gurr.

The canon has also changed a little, besides tending to comprise quarto and
folio texts rather than one merged one. *Henry VIII* and *Two Noble
Kinsmen* were always known to be collaborations with Fletcher ; but with
the new stylometrics made possible by Big Data and electronic texts (which
really do deal with a lot of the methodological problems that beset
echo-hunting) very few now deny the collaboration of George Wilkins in
*Pericles*, and of Thomas Middleton in *Macbeth* and *Timon* ; George Peele
in one or more Henry VI plays also seems much more likely. In the other
direction, though, the fragment of *Sir Thomas More* in Hand D passes the
stylometric tests with flying colours, and so do the chunks of *Arden of
Faversham* and *Edward III* that some suspected as Shakespearean.

Which is not to say there aren't some new dubieties in new arguments, nor
new and surprising levels of bafflement (esp. re. the children's companies,
Hamlet's "little eyases" and there having been "much throwing about of
brains") ; but no-one could now reasonably base any biography of Shax on
what was known, supposed, and orthodox in 1950.

Besides [ahem, murble murble], I would recommend esp.

Peter Holland, 'Shakespeare, William', in the *Oxford Dictionary of
National Biography* (2004)
Andrew Gurr, *The Shakespeare Company, 1594-1642* (2004)
Charles Nicholl, *The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street* (2007)
Jeffrey Knapp, *Shakespeare Only* (2009)
Lukas Erne, *Shakespeare and the Book Trade* (2013)
Colin Burrow, *Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity* (2013)
Bart van Es, *Shakespeare in Company* (2013)
Emma Smith, *The Making of Shakespeare's First Folio* (2015)
Paul Edmondson & Stanley Wells, eds, *The Shakespeare Circle* (2015)
Anne Barton, *The Shakespearean Forest* (2017)

John Lennard, MA DPhil. (Oxon.), MA (WU)

Associate Member, Hughes Hall, Cambridge
Independent Scholar

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