Bet 865

Duration 5 years (02021-02025)

“A top Shakespearean editor or scholar will agree that Sir Thomas North is a reasonable candidate for authorship of at least one of Shakespeare’s source plays (including "Arden of Faversham.")”

Dennis J McCarthy


McCarthy's Argument

Over the last few years, a series of publications have revealed extensive evidence that Sir Thomas North wrote a great number of plays, especially from the 1550s to early 1590s, that Shakespeare would later adapt for the public stage. Here is how we know this: 1) First, Shakespeare frequently adapted old plays: Though not well known to the general public, scholars are well aware that Shakespeare frequently adapted earlier plays. We know this because of all the records and allusions to Shakespearean plays like "Romeo and Juliet," "Merchant of Venice," "Hamlet" etc., -- long before Shakespeare could have written them. Internal evidence also confirms certain plays were adapted from earlier versions. Thus, the question is not *whether* Shakespeare frequently relied on source-plays; the only question is "Who wrote them?" 2) Thomas North was a playwright: Although North is known today largely as a translator, new found records indicate that North wrote plays first for his law school of Lincoln's Inn and then for decades for Leicester's Men. Unfortunately, plays were very rarely published during this era, and all of Leicester Men's plays are lost. 3) North’s passages appear in nearly every play in the Shakespeare canon: While North wrote his plays, he frequently recalled and then recycled many of the stories, images, ideas, speeches, and characters from both his published and unpublished writings. He almost assuredly did this from memory, paraphrasing a passage or scene he had written about before — and in the process he would repeat the same language he used earlier. And many of these recycled passages still remain in Shakespeare’s adaptations. The result is that literally hundreds of passages in the Shakespeare canon can be traced back to North’s prose texts. These borrowed passages derive from everything North ever wrote and involve nearly every act of every Shakespeare-play — not just the Roman tragedies. And many of the links between the passages cannot be disputed as they include identical lines that appear nowhere else in the currently-searchable history of the English language. 3) North lived the plays: As shown in Michael Blanding’s "North by Shakespeare," the life and writings of North so persistently dovetail with the works later adapted by William Shakespeare that to follow North’s life in detail is to reconstruct the entire history of the Shakespeare canon, play by play and subplot by subplot. 4) Thomas North’s 1555 Travel Journal, documenting his journey to Rome, was used for "Henry VIII," "Winter's Tale," and other plays. The journal is in North's handwriting and none of its entries would be published till centuries later. 5) Thomas North’s marginal notes, written in 1591-2 into a used copy of his own "Dial of Princes," indicate he used it when revising early 1590s plays. North underscored many of the passages he would then reuse--especially in "Arden of Feversham" and "The Taming of the Shrew" 6) Literary insiders from the era -- including Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey, Henry Chettle, Thomas Lodge, and Ben Jonson -- made extensive references to Thomas North and his original authorship of the plays adapted by Shakespeare. 7) North reused material from his last translation, "Nepos Lives," which he would not published till 1602, for "Richard II," which was first published in 1597. It is difficult to explain how anyone else but North could have managed to borrow material from his own personal translations of "Nepos’ Lives," five years before North published it. 8) In 1576, George North, a likely cousin of Thomas, wrote an essay on rebellions and rebels while staying at North’s family estates of Kirtling Hall. In 2018, news that this unique, previously unpublished essay, which was always kept at the North-family library, was an important source for the Shakespeare canon made the front page of "The New York Times" as well as other major news outlets around the world. This and many other facts convince me that even some of those with the most invested in the current view of Shakespeare -- highly-respected Shakespeare scholars and editors--will begin to see the significance of the evidence for North's authorship of Shakespeare's source-plays and start to acknowledge it.

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