Shakespeare and manuscript drama canon collaboration and text | Renaissance and early modern literature


  • How did Shakespeare write his plays and how were they revised during their passage to the stage? James Purkis answers these questions through a fresh examination of often overlooked evidence provided by manuscripts used in early modern playhouses. Considering collaboration and theatre practice, this book explores manuscript plays by Anthony Munday, Thomas Middleton, and Thomas Heywood to establish new accounts of theatrical revision that challenge formerly dominant ideas in Shakespearean textual studies. The volume also reappraises Shakespeare’s supposed part in the Sir Thomas More manuscript by analysing the palaeographic, orthographic, and stylistic arguments for Shakespeare’s authorship of three of the document’s pages. Offering a new account of manuscript writing that avoids conventional narrative forms, Purkis argues for a Shakespeare fully participant in a manuscript’s collaborative process, demanding a reconsideration of his dramatic canon. The book will greatly interest researchers and advanced students of Shakespeare studies, textual history, authorship studies and theatre historians.

    • Examines often overlooked manuscript evidence
    • Reconsiders the Shakespeare canon offering new models for writing about Renaissance dramatic texts
    • Combines documentary evidence with theoretical critique

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    • Short-listed, 2018 Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘This is a temperate, scrupulous and exhaustive study, which deserves a longer review. … [Purkis’s] meticulously detailed analyses, which represent a significant advance in our understanding

    of dramatic manuscripts generally, and Shakespeare’s professional activities in particular.’
    Paul Dean, English Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2016
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107119680
    • length: 340 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 160 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.67kg
    • contains: 14 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Text, Collaboration, Evidence:
    1. The theatrical text and the new bibliography: John a Kent and John a Cumber
    2. ‘Foul papers’, ‘prompt books’, and textual sufficiency: The Captives
    3. Attribution, collaboration, and The Second Maiden’s Tragedy
    Part II. Shakespearean Coincidences:
    4. Curious coincidences: the collaborations of Sir Thomas More
    5. Singularly Shakespearean: attributing the Hand-D addition of More
    6. Canon, apocrypha, and Sir Thomas More
    Works cited

  • Author

    James Purkis, University of Western Ontario
    James Purkis is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Writing Studies at the University of Western Ontario. He has published articles in journals, including Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England and Shakespeare Survey, and in edited collections, including Shakespeare and Textual Studies (Cambridge, 2015) and Editing, Performance, Texts: New Practices in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama (2014).


    • Short-listed, 2018 Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award
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