Was Shakespeare a team player?
There is general agreement that Shakespeare collaborated with another dramatist occasionally – The Two Noble Kinsmen, for example, was written with John Fletcher. He was influenced by other playwrights too – Marlowe’s Jew of Malta / Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He also wrote parts to suit particular actors, and audiences (especially Royal ones), and most of his heroines find a reason to dress up as boys early in the play because female parts were taken by young boys. All this goes to show that he was a jobbing writer (as well as actor), and needed to make sure his work was finished on time and was performed in front of a paying audience. But few people have regarded the bulk of his oeuvre as a collaborative effort.
Now there is something of a battle between scholars going on because one, Gary Taylor, has suggested he has proof that up to 38% of Shakespeare’s works are collaborations with Marlowe or others. His method of proving this is controversial – he has employed mathematicians to use algorithms to detect patterns in the use of words or phrases that were also used by contemporary dramatists. Other scholars have pointed out that computer programmes that pick out similar patterns in the use of common words such as ‘of,’ ‘from’ and ‘to’ don’t really prove anything more than the research has been done by someone with a greater knowledge of maths than of Shakespeare and theatre.
However, as algorithms are used more and more in our daily lives – think Google, Facebook – this story could run for quite some time. A bit like the one about whether Shakespeare actually wrote any of his plays – some say they were written by the Earl of Oxford, or Francis Bacon. The author James Barrie, when asked if he thought Bacon was the real playwright, replied: “I know nor sir, whether Bacon wrote the works of Shakespeare, but if he did not it seems to me that he missed the opportunity of his life.”
If you have enjoyed this post, you may like to read my own take on Shakespeare. CAST OFF is a collection of short stories imagining what some of his female characters were up to off stage. The collection is published by Solstice (www.solsticepublishing.com) and is available in selected bookshops or on Amazon via the link below.
Cast Off: myBook.to/CastOff
REVIEW: One word for this short story anthology? Original. Certainly an odd descriptor for a collection of tales based on the characters in another’s works, but Mrs. Egrot weaves intriguing story lines utilizing some of Shakespeare lesser known supporting characters, and spin-offs from his heroines. My favourite two? “Time Out of Mind” affected me on an emotional level, and “Ban! Ban! Cacaliban” left me wanting more. Each story stands alone on its own merit. If you’ve never even heard of the bard, and you were born in a cave and raised by wolves, you will find a tale here to fall in love with. Thoroughly enjoyed.