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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1367  Thursday, 3 July 2003

From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Jul 2003 11:32:57 -1000
Subject: 14.1356 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1356 Re: Richard and Bolingbroke

 Bill Lloyd writes:

'It has been stated here that the closely related play Thomas of
Woodstock [aka Richard II, Part 1] dates from c1592-3. It may do, but
this date is hypothetical.'

Not quite as hypothetical as you may think. Apart from a series of
early-1590's topical references, there are many stylistic features, both
verbal and formal, dating the play from about this time. I detail these
in my upcoming critical edition of the text which even more shockingly
(I trust my irony is apparent) identifies Shakespeare himself as the
author.

'The play as we have it is a ms. that was in use in the theatre as late
as the 1630s.'

Now that date and claim are truly hypothetical. Evidence, please?

'If I recall, the main reason for dating Woodstock c1592-3 is that it
has been argued that a passage in Shakespeare's Richard II is
incomprehensible unless the audience is familiar with Woodstock. This
seems to me quite a presumption to make.'

It is. Who makes it, please? Not I. You may be thinking of A.P.
Rossiter, Woodstock, a Moral History (1946), but his case is far more
elaborate than you recall.

'It seems to me very unlikely that Shakespeare would purposely so
construct his play that his audience would have to have seen a specific
play [several years previous, possibly at a rival theatre] in order to
comprehend it.  There are inconsistencies and puzzling passages in many
Shakespeare plays, and we do not find it necessary to explain them by
reference to other plays.'

Yes, indeed. See previous answer.

'Furthermore, David Lake's analysis of the usage of oaths and
contractions in Woodstock [NQ 30.2, Apr 1983] suggests that it was
written in the early 1600s, and that its author probably was the
actor/playwright Samuel Rowley, who wrote When You See Me You Know Me [a
history play about Henry VIII, Q1605] and helped revise Dr Faustus for
the Admiral's at the Fortune.'

You appear to be confusing Lake's article, which suggests Rowley as
reviser, with Macd. P. Jackson: 'Shakespeare's Richard II and the
Anonymous Thomas of Woodstock,' in John Pitcher, et. al (eds): Medieval
and Renaissance Drama in England, Volume 14 (Cranbury, CT: Associated
University Presses and Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp. 2001). Both
are demonstrably wrong, in part for reasons indicated above. The textual
and other evidence is that the existing MS. is a copy of the original
1592-3 text made ca. 1605.

'It is perhaps significant that the company that acted Woodstock in the
1630s was in part descended from the Admiral's men.'

Another hypothesis without a shred of evidence.

'By the nature of these things, Lake's argument about the date and
auspices of Woodstock cannot amount to =proof=, but it is a strong
argument, and it seems to me better than one based on the interpretation
of a passage in Richard II.'

See above.

'If Lake is correct, the events and characters in Woodstock cannot be
used in quite the same way to explicate the action of Richard II..'

If, yes; but this is not and never has been the claim.

--Michael Egan

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