The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.1102 Thursday, 21 December 2006
Date: Wednesday, 20 Dec 2006 00:29:34 +0000
Subject: Edward III and Thomas Heywood
In the Cambridge edition of 'Edward III', the editor Giorgio Melchiori -
as a means of explaining the play's absence from the First Folio
(assuming, as he does, that it was at least in part authored by
Shakespeare) - identifies 'Edward III' as the play "speedily amended and
stayed in 1598" for the offence it caused to the Scots. The play's
negative image of the Scots, says Melchiori, resulted in its absence from
the stage both immediately prior to and during the reign of James I.
"Under such circumstances," he writes, "even if Shakespeare had had a hand
in the writing of Edward III, by the time Heminges and Condell prepared
the 1623 Folio they would hardly have remembered or thought of including,
alongside the early histories and comedies which were still alive on the
stage, a play which had totally disappeared from it a quarter of a century
I have recently read Thomas Heywood's 'Apology for Actors' - dated 1612.
In it, Heywood seems to refer to 'Edward III' twice. On page 21 (of the
1841 Shakespeare Society reprint), he asks what English prince, "should
hee behold the true portrature of that famous King Edward the Third,
foraging France, taking so great a king captive in his owne country" could
fail to be inspired by the example. Similarly, on page 57, he cites the
Countess of Salisbury as one of the examples of feminine virtue with which
the stage can inspire its audience.
My questions for list members are these:
1. Is there any other play which Heywood could be referring to?
2. If Heywood is referring to the extant 'Edward III' now attributed to
Shakespeare, is it tenable that he, in defending his profession, would
have used the example of a play which had not - if Melchiori is correct -
been performed for 14 years and which had in any event been withdrawn from
performance for the offence it gave to the monarch and his closest
3. And again, if Heywood is indeed referring to "Shakespeare's" 'Edward
III', to what extent does his reference to the play weaken the argument
Melchiori makes for its exclusion from the First Folio - and therefore
weaken the general argument for its attribution to Shakespeare in the
I should be honest and say at this point that I am generally sceptical
about the attribution of the play to Shakespeare. That is, I don't think
there is enough evidence to take the play from the 'possible' column even
as far as the 'probable', never mind beyond. (And it irks me that
Melchiori doesn't even try to make an argument for attribution, but rather
states it as a likely fact.) However, I was reading Heywood for other
reasons, so was as surprised by these references as anyone.
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