Friday, August 13, 2010

Shakespeare's what?

A title page for "The True & Honorable History."Here we have what appears to be the first quarto edition of The First Part of the True & Honorable History, of the Life of Sir John Old-castle, the Good Lord Cobham written by William Shakespeare (London: Printed for T.P., 1600). While the title page's claim that the history is "True & Honorable," the publisher was being neither with this publication.

The play has now been attributed to Anthony Munday, Michael Drayton, Robert Wilson, and Richard Hathway rather than Shakespeare, and it is likely that Thomas Pavier (T.P.) knew that the play was not a work by Shakespeare when this edition was printed. Even more blatantly dishonest was the 1600 date on the title page. In fact, evidence shows that this was printed in 1619 and falsely dated to make it appear to be overstock of the first edition. All of this was an attempt to increase the profit margin, but it points to the status of authors and plays at the time. Douglas Brooks states in "Sir John Oldcastle and the Construction of Shakespeare's Authorship," in Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 (Vol. 38, No.2): thing seems clear: the proprietary status of printed drama in the period was so inconsequential that Pavier must have felt free to manipulate the identity of a given play's author(s) as the particular publishing circumstance required (page 335).

Ask for Hickmott 57 to see for yourself.

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