Presentation at the December 15, 2010 SSOS Wessex meeting in Seattle
Theatre productions were major entertainment in Queen Elizabeth’s court. Aristocrats financed groups of players, such as
Lord Chamberlain’s Men
Children of St. Paul
Earl of Warwick’s Men
Hundreds of plays were given at Elizabeth’s Court. Records of Court Revels name no authors.
Some plays had titles similar to Shakespeareplays, and may have been early versions of some of his canon.
Queen Elizabeth actively supported the court theater. She may have suggested plays to promote the monarchy.
Players, as well as aristocrats, could have participated in modifying or suggesting language and plots.
The court provided an unusually creative situation in which gifted individuals participated and vied for the Queen’s attention.
Collaboration, with intelligent participants, is a productive way to enhance creativity. We know that “Hamlet”had earlier versions, as did “Twelfth Night,” “A Midsummer Nights Dream,” and others, which may have been modified by others in the Court and elsewhere. Some plots existed in Latin literature.
Collaboration was used to produce Homer, Beowulf, the King James Bible (which the 17th Earl may have helped edit if he “disappeared” but did not die in 1604), clever TV episodes (such as Seinfeld), and many movies.
The argument in favor of collaboration, while only a theory, fits the circumstances. By supplying a different perspective, it also describes a situation in which the plays could grow and take shape during the years when Edward had time for revision and rewriting. There was no pressure of deadlines, and the annual royal stipend of 1,000 pounds removed financial worries after 1586.
One can picture the plays as relatively empty boxes that Edward filled with poetic lines that he changed and massaged over a long period of time. His creative process probably did not take place in short bursts of genius. The lines were too deeply felt and carefully crafted. They seem to have evolved, rather being fashioned spontaneously to satisfy demands of a plot.
More research needs to be done. A first step might be to find records of the plots and language of plays delivered in public venues without specific attribution. There may have been more early versions of plays that evolved, and ended up in the Shakespeare canon.