October 03, 2008

September round–up

Every month I'll be putting up a quick summary of my month's work. I imagine that this will become increasingly meaningless once I start putting the thesis into long chapter-form, but for now it's a good way of keeping track of what I've actually been doing!

So, this month:

  • I have re-read and written synopses of seventeen apocryphal plays, from the likely (Edward III) to the extremely unlikely (The Lady's Tragedy). The synopses are written partly to help me keep track of what's actually going on in all the plays, but more importantly to log the various conversations and themes within the play, which will be of use when considering parallel passages later.


  • I've created my e-portfolio, and also a site for the project team. Both still need a lot of work, but they're up and usable!


  • I've done an initial collation of all the contemporary external evidence for the plays and prioritised on that basis (and that basis alone) the strength of the claims of each to Shakespearean authorship. It's extremely satisfying to ignore the 400 years of subsequent commentary and just look at the historical evidence. It also throws up interesting points - for example, there is far more contemporary evidence for The London Prodigal being by Shakespeare than The Two Noble Kinsmen. Yet the former play is widely unknown, primarily due to subsequent criticism - all justified, I'm sure, but it's fascinating to look at the original evidence without prejudice.


  • I've been learning about authorship methodologies, the various criteria and tests used to establish a play's authorship: verse tests, parallel passages, vocabulary, socio-linguistics etc. This is something I'll be getting into in more detail further down the line, but for now I've developed a solid general understanding of the techniques, which is essential when editors are summarising their own beliefs.


  • I've been reading! This month it's mostly been editions, including the first five single editions in the RSC Complete Works as well as various editions of the apocrypha. Best book this month - John Jowett's Shakespeare and Text. Most useless was James McManaway's The Authorship of Shakespeare pamphlet, basically a riposte to anti-Stratfordians which did, however, include some useful points on the burgeoning cultural value of Shakespeare.


  • I've attended a training session on teaching for postgraduate tutors and had my first meetings about the Warwick Business School course I'll be assisting on this year.


  • Finally, I've just started two more strands of work; one going through the early editorial tradition and tracking the appearances and commentary on the apocrypha (or, as Alexander Pope referred to them, "those wretched plays"); the other, some more detailed work on Edward III and Arden of Faversham, two plays with no reliable early connection to Shakespeare which have subsequently risen to the 'top' of the apocryphal pile.

That's it for this month!


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Duncan

    Is Shakespeare the only significant writer whose (alleged) apocrypha has been investigated in this way? Do any models for this project exist from which it is possible to draw useful lessons?

    Come to think of it, attribution is also important in the art world, where the provenance of individual items can determine their cash value. Is there a cross-discipline science of attribution from which this kind of study can learn?

    03 Oct 2008, 14:42


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I’m Peter Kirwan, a final year doctoral student in the English Department at Warwick, and this is my PhD blog.


Conferences, reviews, articles, thoughts and links relating to my interests in the Shakespeare apocrypha, early modern drama, authorship and performance.

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