Friday, April 15, 2011

Shakespeare Apocrypha

I’ve recently read ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’ and ‘The London Prodigal.’ These are both plays that were once attributed to Shakespeare, but are now considered to be the work of other writers. The general opinion is (according to Wikipedia) that ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’ was written in part by Shakespeare and in part by someone else and that ‘The London Prodigal’ was entirely the work of another author.

As I’ve now read them I might as well throw in my two cents. To me, ‘Pericles’ feels very much like a Shakespeare play, albeit a poor, unrevised one. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if this was entirely the work of Shakespeare. ‘The London Prodigal’ on the other hand does seem quite odd and out of keeping with what you’d normally expect from Shakespeare. It seems quite earthy and common, a bit like a British sitcom from the 1960’s. Mind you, most of Shakespeare’s stuff reminds of British situation comedies, and I must admit I read his plays in much the same way I watch episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ or ‘Black Books.’

Anyway, as you can tell, I’m not really qualified to make a judgement about whether Shakespeare wrote these plays or not, but I should say that I worry about experts making this judgement as well. It seems like we’re discrediting these plays based on nothing but stylistic analysis. To me, saying that Shakespeare didn’t write ‘The London Prodigal’ because it isn’t like ‘Hamlet’ or ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a bit like saying that the Beatles didn’t write ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ because it doesn’t sound like ‘Love Me Do.’

Personally, I remain open-minded about who wrote these, as well as the other, contested Shakespeare works. Even in ‘The London Prodigal’ I think there’s enough there to suggest that it could have been Shakespeare who wrote it. Hopefully, when I read some of the other apocryphal works I’ll get a clearer picture. Next up, ‘Thomas Lord Cromwell.’

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