Middleton rewrote some of Shakespeare’s greatest plays: Study

November 14th, 2007 - 10:24 am ICT by admin  

For long, it has been suggested that both plays have passages uncharacteristic of Shakespeare, and that Middleton had edited them after The Bard’s death.

Now, the new research shows that Middleton made about 10 per cent contribution in each of Shakespeare’s plays.

The evidence has been found both on stylistic grounds, and in references to historical events that took place after Shakespeare wrote the plays.

Middleton’s contribution seems to be so extensive that Oxford University Press (OUP) has included both Macbeth and Measure for Measure in a new two-volume complete works of Middleton (1580-1627).

Gary Taylor, Middleton’s joint general editor at OUP, said that the two Shakespeare plays would not have been included without compelling evidence.

“What’s new is that we have greater confidence that it was Middleton. We can precisely identify which bits are Middleton,” Times Online quoted him as saying.

The Oxford Middleton provides evidence that in Macbeth, elements like perjury, remarriage, a mother whose husband is legally but not actually dead, and a husband/father/Scot suspected of treason are linked to the scandalous political trials associated with the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in 1616.

The passage also echoes the circumstances of Middleton’s childhood, as his father died when he was just five, and his mother remarried less than ten months later. His stepfather left him and his mother to go abroad, and was assumed to have died.

Professor Taylor said that Middleton had been overshadowed by Shakespeare perhaps because the latter’s plays were published in 1623, just seven years after his death.

“Middleton’s plays weren’t similarly collected . . . While Shakespeare’s company owned the legal right to have his plays printed, Middleton owned his own, and no one published one volume of his plays,” he said.

“That meant that, with the closing of the theatres in the Civil War, when they started up again following the Restoration, people only knew of three playwrights - Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Fletcher,” he added.

It was not until the 19th century that interest in Middleton was revived. By then, Professor Taylor said, “Shakespeare had more than a 200-year headstart”.

The researchers checked every word and phrase against databases of early modern English literature.

They suggest that Middleton is responsible for these lines in Macbeth: “Everyone that does so is a traitor and must be hanged” “And must they all be hanged that swear and lie”

According to them, Middleton’s own plays include lines such as: “Have ‘em all hanged up” “swear and lie”. (ANI)

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