The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2011  Wednesday, 15 October 2003

From:           Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 13 Oct 2003 23:20:37 EDT
Subject:        Titus Andronicus and Gorboduc

Before we become too excited about Brian Vickers' assertions concerning
"The Troublesome Reign of King John" and Peele, it might be a good idea
to take a close look at his methodology.

In the early part of the last century, John M. Robertson made many
claims regarding the authorship of Shakespeare's plays that were
unfounded.  For example (in his "The Shakespeare Canon"): that Greene
wrote "Two Gentlemen of Verona"; that Marlowe wrote "Richard II"; that
Marlowe wrote "The Comedy of Errors"; that Shakespeare re-wrote a play
by Chapman, with help from Peele, in writing "Measure for Measure"; (in
his "An Introduction to the Study of the Shakespeare Canon") that "Titus
Andronicus" was a collaboration between Kyd, Peele, Marlowe, Greene and
possibly Lodge. He made these mistakes for the same reason that Vickers
is probably mistaken concerning Peele and "Titus Andronicus": he relies
only on lists of verbal likenesses between two works or writers without
taking into account common sources and commonplaces of the literature of
the time.

It's an indisputable fact that Shakespeare used other works as models
for portions of his own. Examples include the use of Holinshed in the
history plays (the Salic law speech in H5 for example), Lodge's 1589
"Scylla's Metamorphosis" for "Venus and Adonis", North's Plutarch for
"Antony and Cleopatra", and Spenser's "Prothalamion" for "A Lover's
Complaint" (for this case see McDonald Jackson, Notes and Queries, 1990,
pp. 180-2). In these cases it is apparent that Shakespeare probably had
a copy of those compositions at his side as he wrote parts of his own

It is thus surprising to see some scholars try to assign other writers
to portions of Shakespeare's oevre without first considering that
Shakespeare may have used another work as a model, especially in cases
such as Act 1 of "Titus Andronicus", where the overall impression is one
of Shakespearean mastery, despite minor differences in vocabulary or
other  features that differ from his accepted work.

Commentators have noticed the similarities between "Titus Andronicus"
and "King Lear", and verbal likenesses between the Norton/Sackville
"Gorboduc" and "King Lear", so it's surprising (again) that no one
appears to have looked to "Gorboduc" as the model for parts of "Titus
Andronicus". I present some of the evidence for this in a forthcoming
note in "Notes and Queries" which will appear "probably in September
2004", according to the editor.  The 1560's "Gorboduc" was published
again in 1590, so there may have been a revival of it at that time, and
Shakespeare may have even acted in it. In any case, the idea that
Shakespeare either read or acted in "Gorboduc", which then influenced
his own "Titus Andronicus", seems far more likely to me than the
possibility that Peele wrote part of it.

Jim Carroll

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