The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0217  Monday, 5 September 2011


[1] From:         Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         September 2, 2011 2:01:29 PM EDT

     Subject:      Re: Woodstock


[2] From:         Michael Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         September 2, 2011 8:23:58 PM EDT

     Subject:      1 Richard II


[3] From:         Tom Reedy <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         September 3, 2011 3:56:59 PM EDT

     Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Woodstock




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

Date:         September 2, 2011 2:01:29 PM EDT

Subject:      Re: Woodstock


One does not need a Golden Ear to pass judgement on the claim of Michael Egan (no relation of mine*) that the play usually called Thomas of Woodstock is really Shakespeare’s Richard II, Part One.


His edition of the play runs to over 2000 pages in three volumes. Volume One has a 535-page introduction that begins on firm ground with the information that the play is in British Library manuscript Egerton 1994, which also contains 14 other early-modern manuscript plays, at folios 161-85. Egan finds it “astonishing” (p. 9) that there are so many parallels (hundreds of them) between his play and the Shakespeare canon, but the raw fact of numerous parallels between things should not astonish.


One kind of stylometry works by isolating words, phrases, and collocations that are shared by Anon and known writer X, but not used by others. Michael Egan’s examples don’t meet this criterion. Literature Online has “dede as a dore nayle” as early as the 14th century and it was not uncommon in 16th and 17th-century drama. It is thus no marker of authorship, as Egan believes. The same is true of all his claimed parallels. Phrases become fashionable for short periods of time. I heard on the BBC radio news that the relationship between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition in Madagascar was “toxic”, which adjective is also now widely used to describe bad loans made by big finance companies. This unusual word is also in the refrain of a recent song by Britney Spears, but this is not evidence that her songwriter works for the BBC. A couple of years ago, any institution or practice that wasn’t working as intended was described as “not fit for purpose”, which phrase has passed almost out of usage as quickly as it came. Michael Egan’s analyses do not take account of the known facts of language use.


Because no dramatist but Shakespeare was using the contractions “i’th”, “o’thf, and “a’th” before 1600, Egan convinces himself that the play was by Shakespeare rather than the just-as-likely conclusion that it was post-1600 (pp. 120-1)--it is clear why he needs to insist on his dating—and he dismisses Mac Jackson’s considerable evidence that the play is by Rowley simply by asserting that Rowley was not good enough a dramatist to write it (“little more than a ‘hack’”, p. 122). Of course, if he admits that as a criterion he could stop there because most readers object that Shakespeare was too good to have written it.


At length (pp. 183-201) Egan lists the phrases that are in this play and also in Richard 2, which fact alone ought to have given him pause for thought. If Shakespeare intended this as a companion piece to his Richard 2--that is, what Egan calls its “Part One”—then there are if anything too many such echoes and the two pieces would not play well together in a repertory. By the time the reader gets to page 205 it is clear that Egan simply has no evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship, but that does not deter him: he trawls through the Shakespeare canon for nearly 300 pages to show his play’s links with other histories, with Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, and then on to the comedies Twelfth Night and The Merry Wives of Windsor and then on into the poems. This is a meticulous mountain of study--1,114 footnotes in this section alone, and we have not even reached the end of the volume one introduction—balanced upon nothing.  Finally, the text of play appears (pp. 535-658) and the volume ends.


Volume 2 is the whole play again, but each line is given in the various forms it has taken in the various editions. In my copy of the book pages 1002 and 1003 are missing. The third volume gives nearly 400 pages of further comment, starting again with the parallels between this and the Shakespeare works, then a history of the editions, then a history of the criticism, and then reprints of essays about the authorship and an essay specially commissioned by an independent scholar, Rainbow Saari, for this book.


Egan misunderstands what is needed for a variorum edition, and in fact there is no good reason to repeat each line five times in order to show differences in spelling and punctuation that are not authoritative. At over 2000 pages, Michael Egan’s edition is more than twice as long as the recent Arden Hamlet, which manages to fully account for three quite distinct versions of that play, each of which has a claim to authority.  The recent New Variorum edition of The Winter’s Tale, which collates every substantive emendation and critical comment in over 80 editions between 1632 and 1988, comes in at under 1,000 pages.


It is hard to believe that the publisher of Egan’s edition, Edwin Mellen Press of Ceredigion in Wales, sought any serious peer review of the typescript before agreeing to publish it. Junior scholars looking for a publisher of their work should bear in mind that presses that don’t seek to peer review a typescript are little better than vanity publishers, and they should avoid ones that print works as ill-conceived and poorly executed as Michael Egan’s edition of Thomas of Woodstock.


Gabriel Egan


PS: The above views are an expansion of those I expressed in a review of Michael Egan’s book for the Year’s Work in English Studies (volume 87 covering work published in 2006). In response to my review, Michael Egan sought to have me removed as YWES’s reviewer. I mention this because those who argue with Michael Egan should be aware that he abuses the protocols for scholarly argument.  If he thinks I am mistaken in what I write above, I invite him to show where I am in error rather than inundating Hardy Cook with objections to my membership of this list or requests that my posting be taken off the SHAKSPER site.


*In his otherwise superb essay “The Date and Authorship of Thomas of Woodstock: Evidence and its Interpretation” (Research Opportunities in Medieval and Renaissance Drama 46 (2007): 67-100), Mac Jackson mistakenly identified me as the author of Michael Egan’s edition (p. 96n2). I really wouldn’t want that idea to catch on.



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

Date:         September 2, 2011 8:23:58 PM EDT

Subject:      1 Richard II


Al Magary says that a few years ago he compared what he calls Woodstock (original title, Richard II, Part One) with all of Shakespeare and found no matches. Thus I refute him:


What, is he dead?

As a door-nail, my lord. 1 Richard II, V.i.242-3


What, is the old king dead?

As nail in door. 2 Henry IV, V.iii.120-1



How now, what guard is that? What traitor’s there? 1 Richard II, V.vi.15


What noise is this? What traitors have we here? 1 Henry VI, I.iii.15



Where slept our scouts, that he escap’d the field? 1 Richard II, V.vi.11


Where slept our scouts, or how are they seduced,

That we could hear no news of this repair? 3 Henry VI, V.i.19



Give up your Council staff, w’'ll hear no more.

My staff, King Richard? See, coz, here it is. 1 Richard II, II.ii.156-7


Give up thy staff. Henry will to himself ? Protector be...

My staff? Here, noble Henry, is my staff. 2 Henry VI, II.iii.23-4, 32-33



Thou royal issue of King Edward’s loins. 1 Richard II, V.i.63


Thou loathed issue of thy father’s loins! Richard III, I.iii.231


They are the issue of your loins, my liege, Cymbeline, V.v.330


Yet died and left no issue of their loins. Edward III, I.i.9


Philip, the younger issue of the king, Edward III, IV.iv.23



 ‘The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes,’ (Julius Caesar, II.ii.30-1). Also in Hamlet, 2 Richard II, Lear, 2 Henry VI, and Edward III.


God bless good Anne a’ Beame; I fear her death

Will be the tragic scene the sky foreshows us.

When kingdoms change, the very heavens are troubled. 1 Richard II, IV.ii.70-3


This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,

Dear for her reputation through the world,

Is now leas’d out I die pronouncing it

Like to a tenement or pelting farm. 2 Richard II, II.i.57-60


We shall be censur’d strongly, when they tell

How our great father toil’d his royal person

Spending his blood to purchase towns in France,

And we, his son, to ease our wanton youth,

Become a landlord to this warlike realm,

Rent out our kingdom like a pelting farm,

That erst was held, as far as Babylon,

The maiden conqueress to all the world. 1 Richard II, IV.i.132-8



Take that, and that! (Stabs him.) Richard III, I.iv.268


[He striketh him] There, take thou that, until thou bring better news. Richard III, IV.iv.508


Take that, thou likeness of this railer here. (Stabs him.) 3 Henry VI, V.v.38


Think’st thou I jest? Hold, take thou that, and that. (Beats Dromio) Comedy of Errors, II.ii.23


Take that, and mend the plucking [off] the other. [Strikes him] Taming of the Shrew, IV.iv.148.


[Strikes him]  ... Do ye prate, sir?  Take that and that! 1 Richard II, V.i.227



These cuts the columns that should prop thy house. 1 Richard II, I.iii.24


You take my house when you do take the prop

That doth sustain my house; Merchant of Venice, IV.i.375-6



The vision did appear so lively to me.

[Methought] as you were ranging through the woods

An angry lion with a herd of wolves

Had in an instant round encompass’d you;

When to your rescue, ’gainst the course of kind,

A flock of silly sheep made head against them,

Bleating for help, ’gainst whom the forest king

Rous’d up his strength, and slew both you and them.

This fear affrights me. 1 Richard II, IV.ii.18-26


 Thus is the shepherd beaten from thy side

And wolves are gnarling who shall gnaw thee first.

Ah, that my fear were false, ah, that it were!

For, good King Henry, thy decay I fear. 2 Henry VI, III.i.191-4



a bloody tyrant’s sword 1 Richard II, IV.i.69


this bloody tyrant, Time Sonnet 16, 2



Amen, for ’tis from heaven I look for recompense. 1 Richard II, II.iii.67


Who plead for love and look for recompense Sonnet 23, 11



I record more than 1000 equally good collocations in Vol. III of my study.


Of course, the next objection will be that Anon stole them from Shakespeare. However, that doesn't work as 1 Richard II was written in 1592-3.



Michael Egan



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

Date:         September 3, 2011 3:56:59 PM EDT

Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Woodstock


Thomas of Woodstock


I must agree with Al Magary. In November 2010, I was asked to participate in judging the debate, but in 2008 I transcribed the 1929 Malone Society reprint of the MS and posted it in acts for an online discussion group. Not having read Egan's proof, I don't know what his arguments are, but my reading back then convinced me that it wasn't even close to being a Shakespeare play, so I had to recuse myself. I look forward to reading the Egan vs Elliot opinion, and I suggest that interested parties also take a look at Mac Jackson's paper, “Shakespeare’s Richard II and the Anonymous Thomas of Woodstock,” which I also found convincing. 


Tom Reedy



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