Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Atlanta's Edward III Controversy

Did Shakespeare write Edward III?

Jeff Watkins, founder and artistic director of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, thinks so. And it's crucial to his argument that his group is the only one in America to have produced all 39 of Shakespeare's plays.

Let the debate rage. If you fall back on the classic agreement of plays -- 37 (leaving out Two Noble Kinsmen) -- then there are a number of Shakespeare companies that have achieved this goal. If you count Kinsmen, then the Royal Shakespeare Company (granted, not in America) can raise its hand to make that claim.

Watkins isn't stopping at E3, however, and ye gods one can only hope that he's going for quality and not just quantity -- his group will be doing Double Falsehood (aka Cardenio) as well as Sir Thomas More, which would indeed make him the only company around to have produced 41 of Shakespeare's plays.

Maybe he can just put an asterisk next to Shakespeare(*) like they do in baseball.


Sharky said...

William Shakespeare: The Tupac Shakur of Theater.

(Only Tupac's actually has solid evidence to back it up.)

Duane said...

Come to think of it ... can Biggie Smalls (aka Notorious B.I.G) account for his whereabouts on or around April 23, 1616? I smell a new controversy...

Jon said...

I agree that Double Falsehood and Sir Thomas More are essential to add, but why stop there? Lots of titles have been attributed to Shakespeare, and who knows but some of them may actually have a shred of merit -- maybe he contributed a gag or advised on a line. So let's add Arden of Feversham! A Yorkshire Tragedy! The London Prodigal! The Birth of Merlin! The Merry Devil of Edmonton! The Second Maiden's Tragedy (the other Cardenio claimant)!

And we certainly must commission someone to create a hypothetical Love's Labour's Won.

Now that'll be a tolerably complete repertory list.

Sharky said...

We all know that "Love's Labours Won" should never be performed, unless there's a Time Lord on standby to banish the Carrionites should they attempt to invade our dimension again.

Alexi said...

In all seriousness, "Love's Labour's Won," is probably an alternate title for "Much Ado" or "All's Well." If "Love's Labour's Lost" actually had a sequel, it would be the only comedy to have one.

And really, how much comedy could be milked out of a follow-up to "LLL" anyway? Berowne and Rosaline meet (again), bicker (again), and fall in love (again)? Holofernes makes more bad Latin jokes? Dumain and Longaville switch love interests, but nobody notices?

Jon said...

"In all seriousness, "Love's Labour's Won," is probably an alternate title for "Much Ado" or "All's Well." "

In all seriousness I don't believe it, though I used to, and have read a great many commentaries proposing this (each with a different proposal). It may be the only comedy with a sequel, but Henry IV has one (which does indeed suffer from sequelitis -- it's in many ways a "remake" of what we now call Part I). Merry Wives is also a sequel of sorts (bring back the beloved character), and a right mess WS made of its continuity: when exactly in Falstaff's life is this happening, and why is this Mrs. Quickly a totally different person from the one we knew?

LLL is also the only play whose proper ending is interrupted and postponed, so it seems to be set up to bring the characters back after the requisite lapse of time. And indeed, maybe that sequel didn't amount to much (nobody bothered to preserve a copy). But I can believe it was written.

Alexi said...

Jon: "Henry IV Part 1" has a sequel and is a sequel, not uncommon for the histories that are part of cycles. With the exception of King John and Henry VIII, all the histories form a broad series which gives the sweep of English history from Edward III to Henry VII. Editors may play up their interconnectedness more than Shakespeare would have at first, but there's no denying the histories are written as cycles. That's not something that especially applies to comedies, even open-ended ones. There's no obvious source for LLL, so Shakespeare doesn't have the pressure of more material to cover to motivate writing a sequel.

"Merry Wives" is an utterly anachronistic, out-of-continuity jaunt. If it were a comic book, it would an alternate universe title. "WHAT IF Falstaff showed up in contemporary Windsor?" I also don't think this Mistress Quickly is a different person, merely that she has a different profession and (in this universe) has never met Falstaff and his cronies before. Master Shallow, on the other hand, is characterized differently enough to probably count as a separate character.

Basically, continuity and Merry Wives do not mix well.

Craig said...

The reference to "cycles" leaves me a bit perplexed, as the only proper Early Modern cycle of history plays I can name is Shakespeare's own...unless we let in the (dubious) two parts of The Troublesome Reign of King John, or count Heywood's two parts of Edward IV as a cycle--that sort of thing. The Admiral's Men seem to have had a trilogy about Julius Caesar, but that doesn't seem like quite the thing, either...

Anyhoo, if a copy of "Love's Labour's Won" ever surfaces, I'd be immensely sad to learn it was in fact a sequel to "Lost." So sad, in fact, that my delight at having another Shakespeare to read might by entirely canceled out. That discordant ending, that unresolved note of reality intruding on the courtly conventions of "Lost" that makes us question the sincerity of the whole confectionery world of the thing, as we're sitting in our cars and driving home after the curtain, is what really elevates the play, for me, to magnificence.

I mean, the scholarly oath of Act I was ultimately a joke, wasn't it? Cast aside almost the moment the ladies showed up. So what are we to make of the lovers' oaths of Act V, knowing as we do that the ladies are vanishing again even as we leave the theater?

That's Shakespeare, baby. Pure Shakespeare. It would cheapen the play almost beyond belief to find all those ambiguities wrapped up in a sequel. I hope he never did so. Of course, he wrote "Windsor," after all, and what that did to Falstaff is also hard to watch.