From the seventeenth century to the twenty-first, editors of "the complete works of Shakespeare" have had widely differing views on what completeness (and Shakespeare) ought to look like. The First Folio, while declaring itself "The Works of William Shakespeare," omitted several plays and all the poems, among which were the works for which Shakespeare was best known in his own time. The poems were not, indeed, routinely included in "complete" Shakespeares until the twentieth century, and The Two Noble Kinsmen, Shakespeare's collaboration with Fletcher, is still not invariably part of the complete works. At the same time, the editorial tradition has, from the mid-seventeenth century on, involved a significant attempt to increase the Shakespeare canon, by adding works that either were ascribed to Shakespeare in his own time or have at some point had his name (or even his initials) associated with them. Individual plays too have, over the centuries, been felt to require additions to make them complete. Sometimes, as with the conflation of quarto and Folio texts, the additions have been Shakespearean; sometimes they have been derived from chronicles or other sources, to make Shakespeare more true to his originals; and sometimes they have been simply invented, to fill supposed gaps in the plot or in the dramatic psychology.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. King Henry VI. Part 1.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Authorship.
Our conception of Shakespeare is incomplete unless we recognize that, like every dramatist working in the London theatres between 1579 and 1642, he occasionally coauthored plays. Strong evidence now exists for his having worked with Peele on Titus Andronicus, Middleton on Timon of Athens, Wilkins on Pericles, and Fletcher on both Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen. Shakespeare's hand has also been reliably detected in The Book of Sir Thomas More and Edward III. This essay reexamines 1 Henry VI, bringing together and expanding the evidence that Nashe wrote Act 1. This attribution is based on the coincidence of several complex associations of idea and words in Nashe's work and in 1 Henry VI, some of which derive from books known to Nashe but not to Shakespeare. Stylistic markers shared by Nashe and the author of Act 1 include a staccato utterance, made up of short sentences and many questions; extensive syntactical inversion of subject and object; and distinctive prosodic features. The most likely scenario is that Nashe was involved in the first recension of the play, ca. 1592, and that Shakespeare took part in a revision, ca. 1594. A fresh examination of the scenes ascribed to Shakespeare confirms his hand in 2.4 and 4.2–4.5 and rejects the attribution of 4.6–7. A concluding survey of modern editions of 1 Henry VI reveals that most editors have been unwilling to engage either with the specific evidence for coauthorship or with attribution scholarship in general.
A central focus or governing idea is sought within the Royal Shakespeare Company's "Complete Works" season, which ran in various venues in Stratford-upon-Avon from March 2006 to April 2007. Amid great diversity of approach and performance style, with many innovatory productions and some very successful ones, no such conceptual center was found. It is regretted that many of the productions contributed by overseas companies were seen for only a few days in Stratford and/or were scheduled at times of year unlikely to attract many overseas visitors. The season was genuinely experimental, both as a whole and in many of its specific features. But despite some genuinely exciting work, it was neither coherent nor wholly rewarding for those who hoping to gain wider insights into Shakespeare's oeuvre.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Hamlet.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 -- Chronology.
Of the more than sixty early Shakespeare quartos, only two were issued without title page dates. It has been conjectured (although not definitively) that Q4 Romeo and Juliet and Q4 Hamlet date from 1622 and 1625, respectively. Scholarly interest in whether one or both quartos influenced the text of the First Folio has fueled recent attempts to adduce bibliographical evidence to date the two quartos with more certainty. Hailey shows that a date for Q4 Hamlet of 1619–21, on the basis of deterioration of Smethwick's publisher's device, is faulty, while an effort to date Q4 Romeo and Juliet by its paper stocks proves to be inconclusive. Rightly understood, however, the comparative analysis of paper stocks, including but not limited to their watermarks, can be a powerful forensic tool for dating imprints more precisely. Hailey explains how and why paper can be useful for dating, and he describes his method for collecting and analyzing paper data. Primarily on the evidence of their paper stocks, Q4 Romeo and Juliet is dated with a high degree of probability to 1623; Q4 Hamlet is demonstrably dated to 1625. Thus, neither of these quartos could have influenced the First Folio text, and the unique shared readings between Q4 and Folio Hamlet texts must result from the Folio's influence on Q4.