The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1983 Thursday, 1 December 2005
From: Bill Lloyd <
Date: Wednesday, 30 Nov 2005 15:35:05 EST
Subject: 16.1974 Lions and Tigers and Wagers...oh my...
Comment: Re: SHK 16.1974 Lions and Tigers and Wagers...oh my...
Michael Egan writes:
>Ward Elliott is obviously looking for a fight. I'm not interested. If he
>wants to discuss the authorship of 1 Richard II/Woodstock, it must be in
>an appropriately scholarly manner.
I went back and re-read Ward's last few posts and I don't see that he's
"looking for a fight". It appears to me that Ward, while disagreeing
with Michael, has been civil; and it's the latter who in his posts comes
over all pugnacious. Michael Egan has clearly done a lot of work on
Woodstock, and not all of it has to do with its authorship. For that he
should be commended. However, when others disagree with him or offer
evidence to rebut his theories, he seems to take it personally, and
becomes angry and dismissive [or at least that's how it seems to me].
I've been meaning to write a post on the Woodstock authorship issue, but
have been occupied with other things; and it's not a subject easy to
bring into a small compass. However, let me offer a few observations.
It's clear that there exists a state of 'intertextuality' between
Woodstock and some of Shakespeare's plays, especially Richard II, but
also the Henry VI series, Much Ado and others. Michael has industriously
assembled in his edition and on his website over 1600 points of
resemblance between Woodstock and Shakespeare's work. Ward Elliott said:
"Most of the resemblances I looked at on his webpage - which did not
include all 1600 -- seemed plausible." Many seem to me to be
commonplaces of various kinds and don't much help his argument, but
certainly some are telling.
What is the significance of the connections between Woodstock and
Shakespeare's plays? Michael believes that the cause of this
intertextuality is clearly that both Woodstock and Richard II were
written by the same person and that person is William Shakespeare. But
there are other possibilities, and to a large extent it comes down to a
question of Woodstock's date. MacDonald P. Jackson's article offers a
lot of evidence that Woodstock was not just re-copied but composed in
the early seventeenth century. [See his article "Shakespeare's Richard
II and the Anonymous Richard II" in Medieval and Renaissance Drama in
England, 14 (2001)-essential reading for anyone interested in this
subject.] If Woodstock was written after Shakespeare's Richard II [and
Henry VI, Much Ado, etc], then the connections are easily explained:
Woodstock's author, like many playwrights of the day was familiar with
and influenced by Shakespeare's plays and, consciously or unconsciously,
echoed them. According to Michael, this would mean that the author
"stole from Shakespeare plays or portions of Shakespeare plays". He
implies that this outrage would have been unacceptable in the world of
Elizabethan public-theatre scriptwriters. But this goes against what
elsewhere we have observed, that early modern playwrights and the
companies they worked for were not jealous in this way but were content
to recycle themes, sources, characters, gags, lines, phrases, images,
oaths, colloquialisms [etc] that had been used successfully before. The
concept of plagiarism as we know it had not yet formed. For instance,
Robert Davenport, who wrote history plays for Shakespeare's company in
the 1620s, 'stole' a good deal of his *King John and Matilda* from
Chettle & Mundy's *Death of Robert Earl of Huntingdon*.
Michael makes much of the fact that Mac Jackson once referred in print
to Woodstock as dating from the early 1590s. Both Mac and I have pointed
out that this was before Mac had taken up the subject of Woodstock's
authorship and that he was merely listing early history plays with their
conventional dates, but Michael does not acknowledge this and still
considers it a flaw in Mac's argument. He also makes much of flaws in
the text of Woodstock that Mac used [Rossiter's], but Mac's case does
not depend one way or the other on those features.
Perhaps I missed it [it's a big website] but Michael doesn't seem to
address several of Mac's most telling points: the enormous quantity of
"ye" used for "you" in Woodstock, a feature present in only a few other
early modern playwrights, and the rare spelling "eth" for the
contraction "i'th'", both of which are found in the work of Mac's
candidate for Woodstock's authorship, Samuel Rowley. Michael's
all-purpose answer for any feature of Woodstock that smacks of the
seventeenth century seems to be that it was recopied then [probably
true] by an interfering scribe [less likely at least to the extent
required to account for some features], or [for features belonging to
'compositional' strata-such as metrics and features no scribe would
introduce] that Shakespeare revised the play in the 1600s. This last
maneuver is one of those all-purpose arguments to which there can be no
rebuttal, but not because there's any independent evidence for it. It's
just a wishful assertion.
Michael makes much of his view that Rowley's acknowledged play *When You
See Me You Know Me" is inferior to Woodstock [though he doesn't really
account for its numerous similarities]. But an argument from quality is
only worth so much. Hamlet is a much better play than King John although
they were written by the same man just five years apart, roughly the
number of years that [in the Jacksonian view] probably separate When You
See Me and Woodstock. Surely Rowley, like Shakespeare, must be allowed
to grow artistically. By the way, most members of this list probably
have read work by Samuel Rowley, as he likely is the author of most of
the B-text-only sections of Dr. Faustus.
Samuel Rowley was, like Shakespeare, an actor as well as a scriptwriter.
Between 1594 and 1610 or so he must have acted in hundreds of plays at
the Rose and Fortune playhouses for the Lord Admiral's and Prince
Henry's men. Among these were a number of English history plays, as
recorded in Henslowe's Diary. Unfortunately those plays are lost, but
it's hard to imagine they were not profoundly influenced by [and
borrowed language from] Shakespeare's histories written in the 1590s.
The language of Henry VI, Edward II, Richard II, Woodstock, Edmund
Ironside, etc is similar in large part because those plays deploy the
shared language of the genre. We would expect to find many similarities
in their diction whether or not any of them had been written by the same
person. Rowley, acting in these Admiral's histories would have
internalized this shared history-play vocabulary, and if writing a
history play himself, would be likely to recall it. And if the history
he was writing dealt with the same subject as a history play by the
rival company [Shakespeare's company], he would be very likely to echo
especially that play-hence 'caterpillars' etcetc. in both Woodstock and
Another interesting possibility is that Samuel Rowley may have been a
boy actor in Shakespeare's [probable] earlier company, Lord Strange's,
around the time they were staging the Henry VI series. Rowley is first
known as a hired man [likely a young man] with the Admiral's in 1594.
But in the platt of The Dead Man's Fortune [Henslowe's Diary p. 327] one
of the actors alongside Richard Burbage is designated "b sam". This is
usually interpreted as "b[oy]: sam" and the platt conjecturally assigned
to Strange's around 1590. If teenaged Rowley acted the part of, say,
Queen Margaret or Joan La Pucelle or Margery Jourdain, it would account
for his internalizing much of the language of those plays. Of course
this is rank speculation-but I like it.
I hope Michael Egan doesn't think I'm just trying to rain on his parade.
I'm not against the idea per se that Shakespeare may have written
Woodstock. But I find Mac's arguments convincing and Michael's
unconvincing; and since it doesn't sound to me like Shakespeare's voice
when I read it I'm not led to switch sides.
As to stylometrics, it has its limitations, but used properly can supply
valuable evidence, if not 'proof'. Ward's deployment of it, in this and
other questions, while not flawless seems well thought out and generally
reliable. I suspect that if the stylometric verdict was that Woodstock
did resemble Shakespeare's early histories in various ways, Michael
would be all for it.
By the way, I don't recall any response to Marcus Dahl's suggestion that
Woodstock [and Edmund Ironside] are reconstructed texts ['bad' quartos].
Where has this argument been made?
Sorry this post is so long!
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