Brian Vickers’s Shakespeare, Co-Author: A Historical Study of Five Collaborative Plays makes a case for George Peele’s authorship of part of Titus Andronicus that has rocked the profession – or at least sent palpable tremors through it, with the Arden 3 editor of the play publicly recanting his argument that ‘the play was wholly by Shakespeare’. The study’s other conclusions – that Middleton co-wrote Timon of Athens, Wilkins co-wrote Pericles, and Fletcher co-wrote Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen – have had less of an impact, since the attributions in question are already widely accepted by Shakespearians. But Vickers – determined to confound what he views as a lingering ‘orthodoxy of Shakespeare the Non-Collaborator’ – has performed a valuable service by assembling an impressive array of evidence for his claims, including stylistic and verse tests put forward in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, corroborating results from more sophisticated statistical tests undertaken in recent attribution studies, and some original evidence of his own.
Indeed, Shakespeare, Co-Author may be seen as a culmination of the growing interest in Shakespeare as collaborator, which perhaps had its beginnings in Kenneth Muir’s book on the subject in 1960. It was further fuelled in the 1980s by the editors of the Oxford Shakespeare (who presented detailed cases for collaborative authorship of several plays), and has most recently been made manifest on the title pages of critical editions, such as the Oxford (1999) and Arden 3 (2000) editions of Henry VIII, which feature other authors’ names alongside Shakespeare’s. Shakespeare, Co-Author now provides a compendium of the relevant evidence pointing to collaborative authorship, a treasure-trove of data that future editors of Titus, Timon, Pericles, Henry VIII, and The Two Noble Kinsmen will be bound to acknowledge.
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