Deciphering a Date and Determining a Date:Anthony Munday’s John a Kent and John a Cumber
and the Original Version of Sir Thomas More
University of Auckland
MacDonald P. Jackson, "Deciphering a Date and Determining a Date: Anthony Munday’s John a Kent and John a Cumber and the Original Version of Sir Thomas More." [EMLS 15.3 (2011): 2] http://purl.org/emls/15-3/jackdate.htm
- The manuscript of
Anthony Munday’s John a Kent and John a Cumber is in the playwright’s
own hand, but an appended date is not. On the final page a contemporary
inscription was read by E. Maunde Thompson and W. W. Greg as “——Decembris
1596,” and in the first half of the twentieth century it was always so
transcribed. Thompson was widely considered the foremost palaeographer of
his time, and Greg’s familiarity with early modern dramatic manuscripts was
unrivalled. But in 1955 I. A. Shapiro claimed that the figures were intended as
“1590.” His article has frequently been cited, and the new date has won
general acceptance. It sets a terminus ad quem for the composition of
Fig. 1. Date at end of Manuscript of Munday’s John a Kent
and John a CumberShapiro entitled
his article “The Significance of a Date.” It is important for three reasons,
the first stressed by Shapiro, the second and third ignored. The original
version of the manuscript play Sir Thomas More is in Munday’s
handwriting. He was probably the author, along with Henry Chettle. Later
additions to More were made by Chettle, Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker,
and (most scholars believe) William Shakespeare, who has been identified as the
famous “Hand D” who wrote the three-page “insurrection scene” in which More’s
oratory quells a riot. W. W. Greg’s Malone Society edition of The Book of
Sir Thomas More (1911) differentiated the various handwritings in the
manuscript, sorting out the “additions” from the “original” play (in “Hand S,”
which is Munday’s) before it was revised. The date of John a Kent has
a bearing on the date of the earliest form of Sir Thomas More, because
Thompson and Greg deduced from the evolution of Munday’s handwriting over time
that the basic More manuscript must have been penned after John a
Kent and before The Heaven of the Mind, which preserves four pages
of Munday’s holograph plus a dedication, also in his hand and signed and dated
22 December 1602. Thompson and Greg agreed also that Munday’s handwriting in More
more closely resembled that of John a Kent than of The Heaven of the
Mind, and so could probably be dated nearer the earlier than the later of
the other two manuscripts. A readjustment of the date for John a Kent
thus implied, if Thompson and Greg’s interpretation of this palaeographical
evidence could be trusted, a readjustment of the probable date for the original
Sir Thomas More. It could be shifted backwards in time to “not long
after 1590.” And because of its connection with Shakespeare, Sir Thomas
More is a play of undoubted significance: every scrap of evidence that
helps us reconstruct a context for its making and remaking is of interest.
- Determining the
date at which Munday composed John and Kent and John a Cumber is also
important for a second reason that has been overlooked, because the study of
prosody has lately been neglected, except by a few specialists. The history of
English dramatic verse needs modification if Munday’s comedy was written in or
before 1590. It has a higher proportion of feminine endings (extra unstressed
syllables at the end of the iambic pentameter line) than any other play known
to have been written by 1590, so that if John a Kent is indeed that
early Munday deserves credit as a notable pioneer in the development of what
was to become one of the most common blank verse variations, and eventually the
hallmark of the distinctive cadences of John Fletcher. In fact, to specify
the third point of significance, the dating of John a Kent obviously
affects any account of its author’s career: two recent books on Munday each
accept that the play was in existence by 1590.
- But was Shapiro right? He worked from
photographs, without having seen the original, which is in the Henry H.
Huntington Library, San Marino, California. But he judged that
there was “no room for doubt that the last figure cannot have been intended for
‘6’ but must be ‘o’.” However, when, decades afterwards, Antony Hammond
examined the original he did find “room for doubt,” being left “uncertain
whether a six or a zero was intended.” He added that “in any event the date,
which is not in Munday’s hand, may not refer to the date of either the play or
the manuscript.” This latter caveat had also been expressed by E. A. J.
Honigmann, but it is difficult to imagine why anybody would have written at the
end of the play and after Munday’s signature a date that was earlier than
either. The play was almost certainly composed “before 1590” or “before
1596,” depending on how the figures should be deciphered.
- I suggest that
Thompson and Greg read the date correctly and that Shapiro, despite his
confident assertion, was mistaken. He points out that there were two main ways
of forming “6” in Elizabethan times. As in modern handwriting, the pen might
begin at the top of the tail and proceed downwards and anticlockwise to end
with the loop or “o,” which was sometimes not fully closed, falling short of
the long downstroke to the left, but in certain other cases crossed it.
Alternatively, the pen might trace precisely the reverse path, proceeding
clockwise from the top left of the “o” and ending at the tip of the ascending
tail. But the “6” could also be made in two distinct movements: to a large
left-hand curve (like a left-hand round bracket) might be added the shape of a
reverse miniscule modern “c” or large comma, the formation of each separate
portion of the numeral being a downwards stroke; or to an “o” shape, not
necessarily quite closed, might be added the upright tail—and in some of these
last cases, it is unclear whether the tail was made with an upward or downward
- Shapiro points out
that the last numeral in the John a Kent date was formed with the pen
beginning at the top left of the loop or “o” and moving clockwise, but that its
ascent, which took it right of the starting point, appears to stop slightly
short of the upper curve of the loop, instead of crossing it. What looks like
the tail of a “6” is, in his view, a meaningless transitional stroke rising
from the top of a nought or zero to the final decorative flourish that sweeps
downwards to the right of the date and then below it.
- Shapiro offers no
other example of a final nought being embellished in this manner, and it is
hard to believe that any scribe who wanted a date to be read as “1590” would
have indulged in an embellishment that made the “o” look exactly like a “6.”
Whether or not this scribe lifted his pen from the paper after completing the
loop, he began the ostensible tail (Shapiro’s meaningless transitional stroke)
at exactly the corresponding point on the other side of the upper curve of the
loop and so formed a perfectly respectable “6.” The tails of Elizabethan “6”s
that are formed clockwise are often very much thinner and lighter than the
loop. Shapiro judged that the final numeral would have an “unusual character”
as a “6,” in that it is “exceptional” for the loop of a clockwise “6” “to begin
so far left that the upstroke has to cross it, as, apparently, here.” But
he exaggerates the rarity of such a form. The Bodleian Library papers of the
early modern astrologer and physician Simon Forman afford several examples.
Ashmole MS 208, famous for its inclusion of the “Boke of Plaies” in which
details of Shakespeare performances at the Globe are recounted, contains on
folio 6 recto a list of dates from 1584 to 1614. The last “6” of “1606” closely
matches that of the John a Kent date, with the similar shading strongly
suggesting clockwise inscription. Forman’s final “6”s elsewhere in the
manuscript often have high ascending tails that cross the top left of the loop.
- Moreover, the
final numeral of the John a Kent date would make a most anomalous
nought. The top left projection would be unusual, but even more so would be the
clockwise formation, which leaves the right hand half of the circle, where the
pen is moving downwards, much thicker than the left hand side, where it is
moving upwards. Nought, like the letter “o,” was normally formed
anti-clockwise, as it still is. Noughts with the exact pattern of shading that
we see in the final numeral of the John a Kent date must be extremely
rare, if they exist at all. And the natural way to embellish “1590” would have
been to begin the decorative underlining from the tail of the “9.”
- It seems to me,
therefore, that the old terminus ad quem of December 1596 should be
- Even so, it might
still be concluded, for other reasons, that John a Kent was composed
several years before the date was attached. But the percentage of feminine
endings in the play suggests otherwise. Philip W. Timberlake’s The Feminine
Ending in English Blank Verse, the authoritative work on use of this
variation in drama up to 1595, was published long before Shapiro’s article.
Timberlake accepted Greg’s reading of the date as 1596 and his identification
of the play with The Wise Man of West Chester, produced by the Admiral’s
Men on 3 December 1594 and played to 18 July 1597. John a Kent is
set in Chester and its hero is a “wise man” or magician. As Chambers remarked,
“If the identification is correct, it is not easy to see how the MS. can be
earlier than 1594.” It is possible, of course, that the Admiral’s Men’s
play was merely influenced in some way by John a Kent or vice versa. The
first of these alternatives seems unlikely from a metrical point of view.
Timberlake noted that the overall percentage of feminine endings in John a
Kent is 13.7 on a strict count (18.5 on a count that includes proper names
and ambiguous words such as “flower” and “heaven”), with a range of 8.4–16.2
per cent in scenes of over a hundred blank verse lines (14.1–21.7 on the more
inclusive count); and that “the only plays written by 1594 which use feminine
endings with greater frequency than John a Kent are certain of
- If John a Kent
was not in existence before 1594, the original Sir Thomas More was probably
not written before 1595, at the earliest. Thompson and Greg may have been wrong
to reason that the greater likeness of Munday’s handwriting in More to
his holograph of John a Kent than of his holograph pages of The
Heaven of the Mind (1602) meant that More was also closer to the
earlier manuscript than to the later in date: changes in a person’s handwriting
may occur suddenly rather than steadily over a period of several years. But
their conclusion that the penmanship in More was intermediary between that
of the other two holographs is firmly based, since where John a Kent and
The Heaven of the Mind differ in letter formation, More is
sometimes more like the one, sometimes more like the other.
following other scholars of his time, favoured a dating for More of
“1596 or the years immediately following.” He found a “uniformly high
percentage of feminine endings”—both in the original script and in all but one
of the Additions, namely Chettle’s short Addition I (A). The overall
percentage was 20.7 on a strict count, 24.7 on the more inclusive one. John
Jowett provided evidence that although the manuscript of the original version
of the play is in Munday’s handwriting, Munday collaborated with Chettle on its
composition. The high incidence of feminine endings is common to scenes that he
allocates to Munday and scenes that he allocates to Chettle. As
Timberlake wrote, there is in Sir Thomas More “a decided increase in
feminine endings over their already free employment in John a Kent” and
this increase is a feature not only of the Additions, but also of the original
script. He concludes that dramatists gradually began using feminine endings
more freely from about 1594 onwards, influenced by Shakespeare’s practices,
when the theatres had reopened after the plague year of 1593 and “the older
dramatic group had well-nigh vanished from the stage.”
- Probably all the
Additions to Sir Thomas More belong to the same period, and there is
strong evidence that Shakespeare and Dekker made theirs in the seventeenth
century. The fact that the percentage of feminine endings in the original
Munday–Chettle script is much the same as in the Additions suggests that it was
not composed so many years before the revision as most modern scholars believe.
It is highly unlikely that both Munday and Chettle were using
feminine endings at a rate of over 20 per cent of blank verse lines in the
- The pause patterns also point to a later
date. Ants Oras’s examination of hundreds of early modern English plays
revealed a general trend in dramatic blank verse, though playwrights responded
to it in individual ways. Basing his data on the punctuation of the
earliest texts, he counted, for numerous plays, the numbers of pauses after
each syllable in iambic pentameter lines. He differentiated three categories of
pause: (1) type-A pauses, marked by any form of punctuation; (2) type-B pauses,
marked by full stops, colons, semi-colons, and marks of exclamation or
interrogation; and (3) type-C pauses, marked by the splitting of the pentameter
between speakers. The third type, which is undoubtedly authorial, yielded
patterns closely resembling those for the more inclusive counts, which, though
affected by scribes and compositors, reflect underlying rhythmical characteristics.
In early plays, graphs of percentages of pauses in the nine different syllabic
positions within the line show a high peak after the fourth syllable. As
dramatic blank verse evolved, pauses were more variously deployed and there was
an increase in pauses later in the line.
- In the scenes of
the original Sir Thomas More that Jowett most confidently ascribes to
Chettle the percentages of pauses in each position are as follows. The counts
are my own, based on Greg’s Malone Society transcript of the manuscript.
2.6 9.1 3.9 22.0 16.2 25.6 15.5 5.2 0.0
No play of the
early 1590s (or earlier) that was examined by Oras has a profile remotely
similar. The first Shakespeare play in which pauses after the sixth syllable
exceed pauses after the fourth is Twelfth Night (1601), and the total
percentage of pauses in the first half of the line does not drop so low until Measure
for Measure (1603). The profile for the remaining scenes, mainly
Munday’s in Jowett’s view, is as follows:
5.7 9.3 3.9 28.0 18.0 21.3 11.3 1.7 0.7
This is metrically
less advanced, but among Shakespeare’s plays it most resembles the pause
patterns for plays around the time of The Merchant of Venice (1596–7)
and 1 Henry IV (1596–7). Few lines are split between speakers in the
original Sir Thomas More, but those few tend to support the fuller
“Chettle” and “Munday” figures and to differentiate between them in the same
way. Chettle’s scenes have five lines split after the sixth syllable, four
after each of the fourth and seventh, and two after the fifth. Munday’s have
four after each of the fourth, fifth, and sixth, two after the seventh, and one
after the second. The twenty type-A pauses in Chettle’s Addition I (A) yield a
pattern not too dissimilar, given the smallness of the sample, from that for
his type-A pauses in the original, with seven (35 per cent) falling after the
sixth syllable and five (25 per cent) after the fourth.
- A category of
internal evidence completely independent of the metrical also suggests a date
after 1595 for the composition of the first version of Sir Thomas More.
This consists of certain colloquial contractions, verbal forms, and
exclamations. After scrutinizing the earliest surviving manuscripts or printed
texts “of all plays of the London commercial theatre listed in Alfred Harbage’s
Annals of English Drama, revised S. Schoenbaum, 1964, as first performed
in the years 1585–99”, along with “more than 130 plays of the post-1599
period”, David J. Lake recognized that around the turn of the century many playwrights
began to make liberal use of contracted and colloquial forms that—unlike such
perennial favourites as “’tis” and “let’s”—had appeared very infrequently or
not at all in earlier plays. About 1599–1600 “there was a fairly sudden
revolution in the linguistic practices” of several dramatists, though others
remained conservative in this regard. Munday’s manuscript of the original More
is not so thickly sprinkled with the new forms that their evidence alone
renders an early 1590s date impossible, but it does contain several
contractions that are never, or hardly ever, found in plays of the early 1590s.
- Lake himself noted
a few exceptions to the absence of “i’th’” and “’em” (for “them”) in plays
known or supposed to have been written before 1599, though almost all in texts
published much later. Among the aberrations were single instances of “’em”
(probably spelt “am”) and “o’th’” (spelt “o’th”) in the original More.
Lake commented that “Sir Thomas More, even in its pre-Additions state,
is very dubiously dated”. Through Literature Online (LION)
searches the complete set of More’s contractions and other colloquial
forms may be checked for parallels in English Drama up till 1610. Such
checks yield several other items of interest:
LION reveals that all these contractions
continue to be used after 1610 and until the closing of the theatres in 1642,
“then’s,” “they’d,” “deny’t”, “you’ld,” and “you’r” occurring in dozens of
plays, in many cases repeatedly. Although they vary in evidential value,
together they are more consistent with a date for the original Sir Thomas
More of after 1595 (even well after) than before.
- then’s: The contraction “then’s” (meaning “than
is” and used twice in More) appears only in Marston’s Antonio’s
Revenge (1600), Chapman’s The Widow’s Tears (1604), Shakespeare and
Middleton’s Timon of Athens (1605), Shakespeare and Wilkins’s Pericles (1607), and Daborne’s A Christian Turned Turk (1610).
- they’d: More’s “they’d” (meaning “they
would”) is found in seven plays, beginning with Haughton’s Englishmen for My
Money (1598); the alternative “they’ld” occurs only in Shakespeare’s Antony
and Cleopatra (1606), twice, and Jonson’s The Alchemist (1610).
- had’t, bear’t, deny’t: The range
of contractions of “it” as “t” after a verb greatly increased after 1599.
“Had’t” is used only in More, Shakespeare’s Richard II (1595), and Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humour (1599); “bear’t” only
in More and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600–1), Marston’s What You
Will (1601), Shakespeare’s Macbeth (1606), and Beaumont’s The
Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607); “deny’t” occurs fourteen times, the
earliest occasion being in Chettle and Day’s The Blind Beggar of Bednal
Green (1600) and the next in Day’s Law Tricks (1604)—except for one
instance in the 1616 text of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, in a scene now
generally agreed to have been revised long after Marlowe’s death in 1593.
- you’ld: Up to 1610 LION records
thirty-four instances of “you’ld” (spelt in that way, and used once in More)
in sixteen plays; apart from a single appearance in the First Folio (1623) text
of Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI (1591), the earliest come, five times, in
Jonson’s A Tale of a Tub, listed under 1596 in Annals, but
heavily revised, if not composed, in 1633, and extant in no text earlier than
- you’r: “You’r,” with that spelling, occurs no
fewer than eighty-five times in thirty-six plays, More being among them;
there is a single instance in the anonymous The Taming of a Shrew (1592), but the earliest of the remaining eighty-three are two in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597–8).
- Stronger support
for a date appreciably later than 1595 is afforded by the ratios of “hath” to
“has” (33:7) and “doth” to “does” (15:6) in More. As Lake observed, it
was not until the turn of the century that playwrights began using “has” and
“does” with any frequency. Shakespeare’s practices are typical. Except in
one anomalous play, “has” and “does” hardly appear at all in Shakespearean
drama before Twelfth Night (1601), the first play in which the ratios of
“hath” to “has” (35:17 or 2:1) and “doth” to “does” (15:21 or 0.7:1) drop lower
than those for More (4.7:1 and 2.5:1). The anomalous Shakespeare play, The
Taming of the Shrew (1590–1), almost exactly matches More: “hath”
34, “has” 7; “doth” 16, “does” 6. This comedy was first published in the
Shakespeare First Folio of 1623, so that the ratios, so utterly at variance
with those for all other Shakespeare plays of the early 1590s, may have arisen
through Folio The Shrew’s having been printed from “a transcript which
had undergone some minor theatrical adaptation at a later date.” 
- However, one
further consideration may tell against this explanation. It is possible to
search all plays, by all dramatists, that LION lists as first performed
within the period 1570–1598. Such a search confirms Lake’s observations. He
attributed the move towards the modern verbal forms and a more colloquial
orthography to the influence of Jonson, whose Every Man in His Humour (1598)
contained 16 instances of “has” but only two of “does” (though 20 of
“doth”) when first published, in its “Italian” version in 1601; Jonson’s
“English” version, published in his 1616 Folio, favoured “has” (35 times) over
“hath” (15) and “does” (10 times) over “doth” (9). Even so, in only one
play, besides The Taming of the Shrew, are the ratios of both
“has” to “hath” and “does” to “doth” as low as for the original Sir Thomas
More, and that happens to be the anonymous The Taming of a Shrew,
published in 1594 and generally thought to have derived from Shakespeare’s The
Shrew through a process of reporting and adaptation. In A Shrew
“hath” occurs 18 times, “has” 6 (a ratio of 3:1), while “doth” occurs 10 times,
“does” 4 (a ratio of 2.5:1). If A Shrew really is derivative from The
Shrew and its “hath” to “has” and “doth” to “does” ratios reflect
the influence of Shakespeare’s play, late tampering with the text of The
Shrew before its publication in the First Folio cannot account for its
being anomalous among Shakespeare’s pre-1600 plays in its frequent use of “has”
and “does”. On the other hand, if the old theory that A Shrew was a
source for The Shrew is correct and the influence was in the other
direction, the anonymous play, anomalous in itself, may have influenced Shakespeare
to use “has” and “does” with atypical frequency, though at a somewhat later
date than if the composition of The Shrew preceded that of A Shrew.
- Whatever their
relationship, A Shrew and The Shrew use “has” and “does” at rates
similar to the original Sir Thomas More’s. But they are the only LION
plays of 1570–1598 to do so: apparent exceptions have fallen within LION’s
1570–1598 search limits erroneously, being dated 1599 or later in The Annals
of English Drama (The Thracian Wonder, 1 Edward IV, The
Birth of Merlin); or are known to have been substantially revised much
later than 1598 (Thorney Abbey and Tale of a Tub); or have been
misdated even in Annals (Thomas of Woodstock). The 7
instances of has and 6 of does in the original Sir Thomas More
would be exceptional, though not completely without parallel, in a play
composed by 1595 or even 1598: they are suggestive of a later date.
- Perhaps most relevant are the ratios
(derived from LION) for plays associated with Chettle and Munday. These
are as follows:
and Fortunio (1584):
a Kent (1596?)
Chettle, Downfall of Robert (1598)
Chettle, Death of Robert (1598)
The shares of the
two playwrights in the Robert Earl of Huntingdon plays are uncertain:
Munday may have written the Downfall alone. But Sir Thomas More
would fit nicely into this chronologically arranged table some time after the Huntingdon
plays, which in 1598 were showing fewer instances of “has” and “does” and
higher ratios of “hath” to “has” and “doth” to “does” than More. Even in
Hoffman in 1602 Chettle, though using “has” more liberally than it is
used in More, is more sparing than More of “does.” And in his
Addition I (A) to More “doth,” “hath,” and “has” each appear once.
- Oaths and
exclamations go in and out of fashion. Lake records “’Sfoot” as one indicator
of seventeenth-century provenance. The original Sir Thomas More does not
use this expletive, but it does contain several that were fashionable in the
period 1596–1610 but not in the 1580s or early 1590s. Most notable is “Gods
me,” which occurs once in More: there are forty-nine other examples in
drama up till 1610, spread over twenty-five plays, the earliest being three in
the bad quarto (Q 1597) of Romeo and Juliet (1595), two in Captain
Thomas Stukeley (listed under in Annals 1596, but said to have been
revised in 1599) and one in 1 Henry IV (1596–7). The period 1611–1642
offers only seven more instances in five plays.
- In their Revels
edition of Sir Thomas More, Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori
conclude that the original version of the play was composed “not later than
1593,” and the Oxford Textual Companion settled for 1592–1595. But the evidence adduced above seems to support a later dating. So it may well
be worth looking again at Levin L. Schücking’s argument for a date of about
1601–2, which appears never to have been adequately answered. He relates More
to Sir John Oldcastle (1599) and Thomas Lord Cromwell (dated 1600
in Annals but probably late 1601), plays of “citizen virtue” based on
leading figures who are of consequence in the state but not of royal blood.
Oldcastle, like More, is “a staunch adherent to principles as regards both his
advanced religious creed and his loyalty to the King. When the two clash he
unflinchingly decides for the first.” But the relation between More and Cromwell
is even closer. “Occasionally the matter used for the one play is taken from
the very source of the other” and “Striking single resemblances have been
repeatedly drawn attention to” and “might be multiplied.”
significantly, however, the conspicuous and odd absence from More “of
everything that concerns Cardinal Wolsey” could, as Schücking notes, be
explained by the prior existence of two lost plays for the Admiral’s Men,
Chettle’s The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, datable between 5 June and 18
August 1601, and Chettle, Drayton, Munday, and Smith’s The Rising of
Cardinal Wolsey, datable between 24 August and 12 November of the same
year. “The Wolsey theme had been worked out so fully that the interest in him
with the public was supposed to be exhausted. The chorus to Act 4 of Cromwell,
assigned on the 1602 quarto title-page to the Chamberlain’s Men, apologizes for
omitting “all Wolsayes life,” and Schücking argues that the reason for
this omission also was that Wolsey had been so fully treated in the two
Admiral’s plays. This seems quite a good reason for thinking that Cromwell
post-dated the Wolsey plays. In any case, Schücking’s argument that “Cromwell,
Wolsey, and More belong closely together,” and that Sir Thomas
More “had to be constructed, as far as political situations were concerned,
from what was left after the political circumstances of the times of Wolsey had
been dealt with already in the plays on Wolsey and Cromwell”deserves serious
- There are, of
course, several respectable reasons for assigning the original composition of Sir
Thomas More to the early 1590s. But they are not decisive. Evidence put
forward in this article falls short of proving that the play was first
written around the turn of the century, but it certainly gives grounds for
questioning the current consensus. And those who believe that John a Kent
was composed by 1590 must look for support from sources other than the date
inscribed at the end of the manuscript.
1. Damage to the
paper has removed the day of the month. W. W. Greg (ed.), John a Kent and
John a Cumber, Malone Society, 1923; “Autograph Plays by Anthony Munday,” Modern
Language Review 8 (1913): 89–90; “The Date of John a Kent,” Times
Literary Supplement, 16 November 1922: 747; and “The Handwriting of the
Manuscript”, in A. W. Pollard and others, Shakespeare’s Hand in “The Play of
Sir Thomas More” (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923), 48. E.
Maunde Thompson, “The Autograph Manuscripts of Anthony Mundy,” Transactions
of the Bibliographical Society 14 (1915–17): 325–53. In his Tudor Facsimile
Texts photographic reprint of John a Kent (1910), John S. Farmer
followed J. P. Collier in reading the date as 1595 and this has recently been
favoured by Grace Ioppolo, Dramatists and their Manuscripts in the Age of
Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 2006), 101. These scholars seem to me wrong
in identifying the final digit as “5” rather than “6,” but right in rejecting
the idea that it is “0.” For the purposes of dating John a Kent, it
makes very little difference whether we read the date at the end of the
manuscript as 1595 or 1596, so long as it is not 1590. Acknowledgement is due to the Henry H. Huntington Library for permission to reproduce the image in Figure 1.
2. I. A. Shapiro,
“The Significance of a Date,” Shakespeare Survey 8 (1955): 100–5. Arthur
E. Pennell (ed.) accepts Shapiro’s judgement in An Edition of Anthony
Munday’s “John a Kent and John a Cumber” (New
York: Garland, 1980).
3. John Jowett,
“Henry Chettle and the Original Text of Sir Thomas More,” in Shakespeare
and “Sir Thomas More”: Essays on the Play and its Shakespearean Interest,
ed. T. H. Howard-Hill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 131–49.
The same volume contains a survey of scholarship on the play by G. Harold Metz,
“‘Voice and credyt’: The Scholars and Sir Thomas More,” 11–44. Thomas
Merriam has repeatedly argued against Munday’s involvement as author and,
sometimes by implication, in favour of Shakespeare’s; see, for example,
“Correspondences in More and Hoffman,” Notes and Queries
248 (2003): 410–14, which challenges Jowett’s conclusions; “An Unwarranted
Assumption,” Notes and Queries 245 (2000): 438–41; and “Feminine Endings
and More,” Notes and Queries 246 (2001): 278–80; “The
Misunderstanding of Munday as Author of Sir Thomas More,” Review of
English Studies 51 (2000): 540–81.
4. For two recent
confirmations that “Hand D” was Shakespeare’s see MacDonald P. Jackson, “The
Date and Authorship of Hand D’s Contribution to Sir Thomas More:
Evidence from ‘Literature Online’,” Shakespeare Survey 59 (2006), 69–78;
and “Is ‘Hand D’ of Sir Thomas More Shakespeare’s? Thomas Bayes and the
Elliott–Valenza Authorship Tests,” Early Modern Studies 12.3 (January,
2007), 1.1–36 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/12-3/jackbaye.htm>.
5. Greg’s Malone
Society edition of The Book of Sir Thomas More was reprinted, with a
supplement by Harold Jenkins, in 1961. See also Metz’s survey mentioned in the
previous note; Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor with John Jowett and William
Montgomery, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1987), 124–5; Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori, Sir Thomas
More (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), Revels Plays.
6. Shapiro himself
thought “not later than 1591 and . . . possibly earlier” (“Significance,” 102).
7. Philip W.
Timberlake, The Feminine Ending in English Blank Verse (Menasha,
Wisconsin: George Banta, 1931); details of Timberlake’s study are discussed
8. Donna B.
Hamilton, Anthony Munday and the Catholics, 1560–1633 (Aldershot: Ashgate,
2005), 114; Tracey Hill, Anthony Munday and Civic Culture (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 2004), 101.
9. Huntington HM
500. I am grateful to Ms Gayle Richardson and Dr Mary Robertson of the
library’s Manuscript’s Department for inspecting the date for me. They thought
that for the upward stroke from the left of the denser “o” shape the pen was
not quite lifted but that the pressure was lightened and they pronounced the
date “definitely ambiguous,” while disclaiming expertise.
Hammond, “The Noisy Comma: Searching for the Signal in Renaissance Dramatic
Texts,” in Crisis in Editing: Texts of the English Renaissance, ed.
Randall McLeod (New York: AMS Press, 1993), 203–49 (244, n. 36).
12. E. A. J.
Honigmann, “John a Kent and Marprelate,” Yearbook of English Studies,
13 (1983): 288–93.
“Significance,” 101. Shapiro’s further argument that the alignment and relative
sizes of the figures in the John a Kent date point to its ending in “o,”
rather than “6,” is without substance. There is nothing anomalous about these
features of the date when it is read as “1596.”
14. Timberlake, Feminine
15. E. K.
Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1923), III, 446. The identification is far from certain: two “wise men” (rather
than one “wise man”) are named in the title of John a Kent and John a Cumber,
but Kent clearly has the dominant role, with Cumber as his antagonist or foil.
Roslyn L. Knutson, “Play Identifications: The Wise Man of West Chester
and John a Kent and John a Cumber; Longshanks and
Edward I,” Huntington Library Quarterly 47 (1984): 1–11, argued
against Greg’s suggestion (anticipated by Frederick G. Fleay), but her argument
is predicated upon the correctness of Shapiro’s reading of the date at the end
of the John a Kent manuscript as “1590.” Like Greg and Thompson,
Chambers read it as “1596,” noting that it had been misread as “1595.”
16. Timberlake, Feminine
Ending, 82. My interpretation of the evidence of feminine endings, in John
a Kent and in More, is very different from Merriam’s in “Feminine
Endings and More” (n.3 above). He extends the accepted definition of a
feminine ending to include extra syllables within the line, as well as at its end.
17. Timberlake, Feminine
Ending, 80; and see the table for More, 81.
“Original Text,” 135.
19. Timberlake, Feminine
20. The case was
fully set forth by Gary Taylor, “The Date and Auspices of the Additions to Sir
Thomas More,” in Shakespeare and “Sir Thomas More”, ed. Howard-Hill,
101–49; it has been supplemented by Jackson, “Date and Authorship” (as in n.4
21. Ants Oras, Pause
Patterns in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama: An Experiment in Prosody
(Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1960.
22. Scenes i, vi,
vii, viii, x, and xiii; Jowett, “Original Text,” 147. In making my counts I
have been careful to adopt Oras’s principles, which he spells out in detail.
23. Oras, Pause
24. D. J. Lake,
“Three Seventeenth-Century Revisions: Thomas of Woodstock, The Jew of
Malta, and Faustus B,” Notes and Queries 228 (1983): 133–43;
see 134 n.3. Lake showed that
the two plays by Marlowe named in his title had been revised in the seventeenth
century before being published in the quartos of 1633 (Jew) and 1616 (Faustus).
He showed also that the manuscript of Thomas of Woodstock, the only
early text in which the play survives, must have been penned in the seventeenth
century. He thought that play had been originally composed in the early 1590s
but had been subjected to “creative transcription” by Samuel Rowley at the
later date. But it is probable that, as Lake came to realize, Rowley was the
sole author of the play and wrote it in the seventeenth century: MacD. P.
Jackson, “Shakespeare’s Richard II and the Anonymous Thomas of
Woodstock,” Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 14 (2002):
17–65; “The Date and Authorship of Thomas of Woodstock: Evidence and its
Interpretation,” Research Opportunities in Medieval and Renaissance Drama
46 (2007): 67–100 (see 96 n.8 for Lake’s change of mind).
“Revisions,” 135 n.7
Chadwyck-Healey electronic database Literature Online (LION) is
The dates I give for plays are those of the Oxford Textual Companion for
Shakespeare and those of Alfred Harbage, rev. S. Schoenbaum, Annals of
English Drama 975–1700 (London: Methuen, 1964, supplements 1966, 1970) for
other dramatists. My LION figures for contracted forms are for the
results when the exact spellings cited are entered in the search box, but all
variant spellings of “hath,” “has,” “doth,” and “does” are included in the
totals for these forms. LION does not distinguish between capitalized
and non-capitalized spellings. When using LION it is usually advisable
to check the entries turned up by searches. Keying in “then’s,” for example,
will also yield examples of the irrelevant “Nay then S r,” where “S r” equates
to the abbreviated form of “Sir” with a raised “r.” LION searches of Sir
Thomas More helpfully segregate results for the “Main text” (the original
play as transcribed by Munday) from the “Back matter” consisting of the
additions. The database includes 386 “dramatic works” supposedly “first
performed” by 1595 and 212 “first performed” in the period 1596–1610. However,
these figures include scores of very short medieval works of miscellaneous
kinds. For the period 1570–1595 the total is 116. LION contains multiple
texts of Shakespeare plays (substantive quartos, the First Folio, and the
Cambridge edition of 1863–6), but of course the above totals count each play
only once. When LION searches are conducted according to supposed
periods of first performance, results are apt to include some plays that
rightly fall outside the stipulated limits. A chronological table in The
Cambridge Companion to English Renaissance Drama, ed. A. R. Braunmuller and
Michael Hattaway (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) is based on the
Annals but excludes entertainments, pageants, masques, school plays, and
Latin academic plays. It lists 89 plays as first performed 1570–1595, 173 as
first performed 1596–1610.
62 and 130; G. E. Bentley, The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, 7 vols.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941–68), IV, 632–6.
29. For details of
these I have relied on Frederick O. Waller, “The Use of Linguistic Criteria in
Determining the Copy and Dates for Shakespeare’s Plays,” in Pacific Coast
Studies in Shakespeare, ed. Waldo F. McNeir and Thelma N. Greenfield
(Eugene, Oregon: University of Oregon, 1966), 1–19.
“Revisions,” 134. He cites Herford and Simpson’s edition of Jonson’s works in
support of his statements about the timing of Jonson’s revisions.
33. For Thorney
Abbey, see Annals, 203; for Woodstock, see n.24 above.
34. In the LION
database for all drama up till 1642, the spelling “doo’s” (for “does”), used
once in More, is first found elsewhere in Jonson’s The Case Is
Altered (1597, but not published until 1609 “with interpolations”), where
it occurs three times; the next nine examples are chronologically clustered in
five plays of the period 1598–1605: Chettle and Munday’s The Downfall of
Robert Earl of Huntingdon (1598), Shakespeare’s Henry V (1598–9),
Shakespeare’s Hamlet (160–1), Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels (1601),
and Heywood’s If You Know Not Me, Part II (1605); the only other
instances are in Fletcher’s A Wife for a Month (1624) and Newman’s The
Andrian Woman (1627).
35. The question
is fully discussed by John Carney Meagher (ed.), The Huntingdon Plays: A
Critical Edition of “The Downfall” and “The Death of Robert, Earl of
Huntingdon” (New York: Garland, 1980), 96–107.
original-text More expletives in vogue during the period 1596–1610 but
rare before then, are “bir Lady” (twice in More), “afore God,” (twice in
More), “a murren on’t” (especially with that spelling), and “body of
me,” and the spelling “hoh” (in that spelling) as a call rather than laughter.
A rather remarkable number of the possible chronological markers cited here and
in the text of this article are found in plays by Chettle, Munday, and
Haughton, who worked on collaborations for Henslowe and the Admiral’s Men:
“deny’t” and “a murren on” in Chettle and Day’s The Blind Beggar of Bednal
Green (1601, posssibly with Haughton); “doo’s” in Chettle and Munday’s The
Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntingdon (1598); “they’d,” “you’r,” “afore
God,” “a murren on,” “bir lady,” and “Gods me” in Haughton’s Englishmen for
My Money (1598); “afore God” in Haughton’s Grim the Collier (1600);
“you’r” and “bir lady” in Chettle and Munday’s The Death of Robert Earl of
Huntingdon (1598) and Munday’s \John a Kent (1596?). It is possible
that Haughton was involved with the first version of Sir Thomas More.
One or more of the same playwrights—Chettle, Munday, Haughton—may have been at
least part-author of the Admiral’s Men’s play Captain Thomas Stukeley (1596,
revised 1599), which uses the exclamations “afore God,” “body of me” (4 times),
and “Gods me” (twice); also “ber lady” (twice) in that spelling.
37. Gabrieli and
Melchiori (eds.), Sir Thomas More, 12.
39. Levin L.
Schücking, “Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More,” Review of English
Studies 1 (1925): 40–59 (50–1).
“Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More,” 52–3. See also his discussion on
53–5, where he suggests, among other things, that More’s Justice
Suresbie owes some mannerisms to Justice Shallow in 2 Henry IV (1597–8).
41. In “More
and Woodstock,” Notes and Queries 248 (2003): 27–31, Thomas
Merriam found that seventeen variables used by Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza
for their Claremont McKenna Shakespeare Clinic’s studies of authorship are
correlated with chronology. From these data he produced a graph showing the
correlation, with a regression line revealing the trend. The position of Sir
Thomas More, in terms of its chronological principal component, suggests a
date about 1600. But Merriam does not draw this conclusion. Privately he
comments that “The scatter of the points about the regression line is such that
exactness down to the correct year is misleading”; a reworking of his data
placed More around 1597. Certainly the analysis can give only a rough
indication of more or less likely date.
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Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.
© 2011-, Annaliese Connolly and Matthew Steggle (Editors, EMLS).