The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0348  Wednesday, 14 December 2011


From:         Bill Lloyd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         December 13, 2011 9:19:31 PM EST

Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Radio Show; Collaboration; Bio Sonnets


A belated reply to Tom Salyers questions about Elizabethan collaboration . . . 


If you’re doing a Ph.D. on this subject you presumably already know many of these items I am mentioning.


One of the first truly systematic studies of early modern dramatic collaboration was Cyrus Hoy’s series of six articles in Studies in Bibliography from 1956 through 1961 “The Shares of Fletcher and his Collaborators”. They’re available free on-line here: http://etext.virginia.edu/bsuva/sb/ .  Whereas estimating collaborative shares can often be a matter of approximation and maybes, the styles of Fletcher and Massinger are so 'marked' in contrast to each other that it is often quite clear where one has left off and the other has begun -- a good situation in which to track shares by scene, sheet, speech, characters or whatever. 


There are many other studies, but not all reflect directly on how shares were apportioned. Three that do, in part, are


David J. Lake, The Canon of Thomas Middleton’s Plays


MacDonald P Jackson, Studies in Collaboration: Shakespeare and Middleton


Brian Vickers, Shakespeare Co-Author


C. J. Sisson’s Lost Plays of Shakespeare’s Age tells of the law-case concerning the now-lost play The Late Murther of the Son Upon the Mother, or Keep the Widow Waking, in which Thomas Dekker testified that his part of the play was the whole first act ("two sheets", if I recall) and one speech in the final act for the boy who had killed his mother.


I believe good old Henslowe’s Diary gives several instances where, apparently, collaborators are apportioning their shares by the act.


“Collaboration” is a slippery term. Besides the ‘classic’ scenario of “You write acts 1 and 4 and I’ll write acts 2, 3, and 5” the term can cover


One writer finishing another’s incomplete play


One writer adding to and/or revising another’s play


One writer taking material from another’s play and incorporating it in his own


Two writers sitting down and composing together, Kaufman and Hart-style, although I can’t think of a known early modern instance of this.


Or, as Tiffany Stern has recently argued, one man creating the scenario for the play which he then gives to others to fill out.


… and no doubt other variations as well.


So there being differing kinds of mixed authorship, one would expect to find different ways of dividing - sheet, act, scene, half-scene, speech.

The appendices in John Jowett's recent edition of Sir Thomas More offer some good insights on collaboration and revision/collaboration.


The stylistics currently favored which analyze rates of an, the, of, to, etcetc with chi-squares and mapping etc produces some interesting results, but is limited in that it requires larges tracts of testable material. This can make it less useful for working on single scenes and parts of scenes. For that, the slightly old fashioned 'indifferent pairs' (used tellingly by Hoy and Lake among others) might be more useful -- has/hath, does/doth, ye/you, them/em, while/whiles/whilst, o/oh, between/betwixt, among/amongst, and others.


Bill Lloyd


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