One of the ways we fund the podcast is through affiliate links to books, products, and resources. If you purchase these items through our links, we make a commission. This, and all the posts here on our website, may contain such affiliate links.
Welcome to Episode #68 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.
While Shakespeare is name is the most well known of the playwrights from Renaissance England, he was hardly the only famous artist working during that time period. Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, and John Lyly are just a few of the names we can mention of excellent theater practitioners working alongside the bard, and it turns out, William Shakespeare apparently had at least a high professional respect for these gentlemen personally, as he is known to have collaborated with several of them on plays like Pericles, Henry VIII, and Timon of Athens.
But knowing that Shakespeare collaborated with fellow playwrights, even with members of rival playing companies, brings up some questions about the practicality of collaborating in the Renaissance. Who owned the plays that they wrote? Why weren’t the collaborative plays published with all of the contributing authors? There are so many questions about what collaboration looked like for William Shakespeare, and this week we have the man who literally wrote the book on Shakespeare’s Collaborative Works, Dr. Eric Rasmussen, here to walk us through 16th century playhouses and the world of collaborative Renaissance theater.
Eric Rasmussen, an award-winning author, editor, and scholar, has been called “the Robert Langdon of the Shakespearean world” by The Washington Post. Stories about his recent authentication of a newly-discovered Shakespeare First Folio, featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, NPR, CNN, and the BBC, among many others.
Rasmussen's narrative account of The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios (Palgrave) was serialized by both the London Sunday Times and Australia’s national newspaper, The Age, and has been translated into Portuguese and Japanese. He has co-edited The Royal Shakespeare Company's Collaborative Plays by William Shakespeare and Others with Jonathan Bate, which was the winner of the Falstaff Award for 2013 Best Book of the Year, along with The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue and The Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
Rasmussen is the co-editor of The Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama as well as critical editions for the Arden Shakespeare, Oxford's World's Classics, the Revels Plays, and the Malone Society. He is a contributor to The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare Beyond Doubt. Rasmussen has served on the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Association of America and is currently Foundation Professor of English at the University of Nevada.
In this episode, I’ll be asking Eric about :
What are the plays included when we say “Shakespeare Apocrypha”?
Was it a common practice for playwrights in the 16th century to collaborate on plays?
- Why are some of Shakespeare’s collaborative plays not talked about in the same way we mention Rodgers and Hammerstein, for example? Why is it not “This play is by Shakespeare & Fletcher?
… and more!
Villain, thou liest; for even her very words
Didst thou deliver to me on the mart.
Shakespeare's Collaboration with John Fletcher
John Fletcher is the man who would go on to take over the King's men after Shakespeare died. Fletcher is famous for his expert collaborations with another renaissance playwright, Francis Beaumont, with whom he wrote over a dozen plays and even lived with him up until Beaumont's marriage in 1613.
Eric shares inside this episode that it is very likely William Shakespeare was preparing Fletcher to take over the company when he chose to collaborate with him on several plays. Shakespeare collaborated with Fletcher more than any other playwright, He collaborated with Shakespeare on Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen and the lost play, Cardenio. Fletcher would complete a play by himself called The Woman Prized, or the Tamer Tamed, which is considered to be a sequel of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.
John Fletcher was a close friend of William Shakespeare's, not only collaborating with him on multiple plays (all of which are towards the end of Shakespeare's life, which is why scholars like Rasmussen believe Shakespeare was preparing Fletcher to take over after his death), but William Shakespeare left mourning rings in his will to only a handful of individuals, of which John Fletcher was one.
A RELATED EPISODE YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
Join us inside #Ep46 of That Shakespeare Life for our Interview with Lucy Munro. In this episode, Lucy shares with us about the life of John Fletcher as one of the bard's good friends, and the man who took over the King's Men after Shakespeare died.
Shakespeare's First Folio is Not His Complete Works
Many writers of the 16-17th century frowned upon the idea of being a collaborator, despite it being an industry standard practice of the time. Whenever a writer wanted to promote themselves, or market their abilities as a writer, they did so by compiling the works they had written independently of other writers. (Or at least had completed enough of a majority on that they could claim it as their own.)
An example would be Ben Jonson's folio that was specifically marketed as being nothing but works completed by Jonson, to exclusion of works we know for a fact Jonson wrote, and eventually became famous for having written.
Similarly, William Shakespeare's First Folio, as compiled and prepared by his good friends Heminges and Condell, represent only plays Shakespeare wrote, or wanted you to believe he wrote, completely on his own. Plays which we he know he collaborated on with other authors, are not included in the Folio, and are considered part of what's called “Shakespeare's Apocrypha” because he did write more than what's in the Folio, but he may not have completed the extant plays alone.
For this reason, when you buy a Complete Works of Shakespeare, if it is based upon the First Folio when it was compiled, you are not actually looking at everything Shakespeare ever wrote. Our guest this week, Eric Rasmussen, has co-authored a book with Jonathan Bate, that includes the collaborative works of William Shakespeare (the ones we have copies of today). You can purchase that book from amazon at this link: William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays (The RSC Shakespeare)
The Audio Shakespeare Pronunciation App
Audio Shakespeare Pronunciation App gives you the correct pronunciation of words found in the text of Shakespeare's plays, with audio accesibility at the click of a button. This app lets you keep a professional voice coach right in your back pocket.
Download the app here.
This app is an official sponsor of That Shakespeare Life.
How to Spot Multiple Authors in Shakespeare's Plays
Products You Might Like From Our Shakespeare Shop:
Photo of Donald Wayne Foster, English professor at Vassar College and developer of a linguistic algorithm which can analyze speech patterns in text to identify the author of a written work. Image Credit: Vassar College Source
Donald Foster's Linguistic Algorithm
Books Eric Recommends:
Jonathan Bate, author of The Genius of Shakespeare, shown above, and co-author with Eric Rasmussen on the Collaborative Works of William Shakespeare, is a guest of That Shakespeare Life. Join that conversation here.
Comment and Share
Please consider rating the podcast with 5 stars and leaving a one- or two-sentence review in iTunes or on Stitcher. Rating the podcast helps tremendously with bringing the podcast to the attention of others.
We encourage you to join the That Shakespeare Girl community on Facebook. It’s a community of professional Shakespeareans and Shakespeare enthusiasts, as well as fans of That Shakespeare Life.
You can tell your friends on Twitter about your love of Shakespeare and our new podcast by simply clicking this link and sharing the tweet you’ll find at the other end.
And, by all means, if you know someone you think would love to learn about the life of William Shakespeare, please spread the word by using the share buttons on this page.
And remember: In order to really know William Shakespeare, you have to go behind the curtain, and into That Shakespeare Life.