Shakespeare Found Guilty of *gasp* COLLABORATION!

No, Virginia, the Bard was not a solitary genius

I received this heartening note from my friend David Bratman:

I am reading a small book called Shakespeare’s Modern Collaborators by Lukas Erne (London: Continuum, 2008), and found this gratifying, and rather familiar-sounding, statement in the Introduction (p. 1):

“Shakespeare’s play texts as they reach us are the result of collaboration. What this emphasis on collaboration entails is a view of Shakespeare that contradicts a Romantic understanding, or misunderstanding, of Shakespeare as a solitary genius whose original ideas found direct and perfect expression in his plays, unhampered by any material and social constraints.  Rather, a well-informed view of Shakespeare needs to start with the acknowledgement that what we think of as Shakespeare’s plays have been shaped by at least four different forms of collaboration.”

And he enumerates them:

1) Actual co-authorship of some plays
2) Collaboration with actors, including writing parts with specific actors in mind to play them, and playhouse alteration of the text, particularly abridgment
3) Printers, who introduced “alterations, omissions, substitutions, transpositions, interpolations, as well as additions”
4) Modern editors, whose choices of texts and of corrections tremendously affects our view of the text.

And #4 is what the book is about, hence the title.

Yessir. That’s what I’m talking about.

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