fletcherJohn Fletcher is a black hole for Oxfordian theorists. Too close and the whole Oxfordian shebang disappears in a wail of deplorable sucking noises. It's a good job his early life isn't as well documented as Shakespeare's or there wouldn't be any Oxfordian case at all.

He's a bit of a man of mystery until his 27th birthday in 1607 which was shortly followed by the appearance of The Woman Hater, co-written with Francis Beaumont. The two dramatists became a team and wrote many of the most successful plays of the decade following Shakespeare's retirement. The fact that Oxford was dead and gone before Fletcher appears on the scene is a fatal embarrassment to the idea that the plays were complete before 1604.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says "In 1612–13, he collaborated on three plays for the King's Company with William Shakespeare—Cardenio, Henry VIII (All is True), and The Two Noble Kinsmen. The first of these, The History of Cardenio, is not extant, although Lewis Theobald published a tragicomedy, based on the story of Cardenio from Cervantes' Don Quixote, called Double Falsehood, or, The Distrest Lovers, which he claimed to have ‘revised and adapted’ from the original, though there is no concrete evidence that this is the case. Henry VIII appeared last in the ‘Histories’ section in the Shakespeare first folio of 1623 without acknowledgement of Fletcher's involvement, but authorship analysis suggests that he wrote approximately half. "

It's all very well finding alternative shipwrecks and equivocation trials to account for The Tempest and Macbeth but here we have a collborator that Oxford could hardly have known, three works written almost 10 years after the Earl died and to make things 10 times worse, one of them, Cardenio, would appear to use extensive references to Don Quixote which De Vere could have known nothing about, however many books he enumerated in his will (none, of course). 

What's more, the apprentice, Fletcher seems to have influenced the master, Shakespeare, so even the fanciful idea that the Shakespearean half of Two Noble Kinsman might have been written eight years before Fletcher picked it up and finished it is rendered untenable. Worse yet, the influence is most palpable in The Tempest, a play Oxfordians have gone to extreme but futile lengths to redate. The ONDB again:

The Tempest echoes the structure of The Faithful Shepherdess (by Fletcher), and the collaborations show influence going both ways: The Two Noble Kinsmen is a darker reworking of Chaucer's Knight's Tale than was A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Henry VIII draws not only on Shakespeare's earlier history plays but also on a scene from The Maid's Tragedy. The critical desire to demonstrate that one or other of the two (typically presumed to be Shakespeare) ‘invented’ the genre of romantic tragicomedy continues to misrepresent the mutual/competitive nature of the development of genre in the Jacobean theatre. 

The three plays may not be Will's finest work—though since we don't know much about Cardenio, it's wise not to be too prescriptive. However that's not relevant to the damage they do to the idea that Oxford could have had a hand in them.

He couldn't. And didn't. He was dead.

So without proving things that can't be proved, Oxfordians cannot explain how Shakespeare came to be working with Fletcher years after their Earl had joined the choir invisible.



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Comments (4)

  • anon

    Without entering a dog in the "do we know more about him than Will" Sweepstakes, one would think that our knowing so little about Fletcher - son of the Bishop of London, ward of Giles Fletcher - until he appeared on the scene as a playwright in 1606 should give Oxenfraudians pause.  If somoeone with that history is a biographical cipher, why should we expect more of Shakespeare?  Doesn't slow them down, of course.

    One of the many crimes of Oxenfraudianism is that it robs not just from Shakespeare, but people like Fletcher as well.  His role as a moving force and influence in the rise of the tragicomedy is reduced to "a guy whose wrote plays like the ones Shakespeare wrote 20 years earlier".

    Feb 23, 2013
  • anon

    I'm still recovering from the claim that “ONE of the beauties of the Oxfordian theory is that it brings to life about two-thirds of the canon otherwise tending to be ignored;”

    The most consistent feature of all of their arguments is their lack of any respect or even liking for the drama and the dramatists themselves. They don't really care about anything other than the mangled pieces of the jigsaw they are playing with.

    Feb 25, 2013
  • anon

    Perhaps food for a follow up posting concerning John Fletcher. The play "Cardenio" is apparently, not entirely lost. A scholarly book lead by Gary Taylor, co-editor of the Riverside Shakespeare, called "The Quest for Cardenio" spells out several essays that support "Double Falsehood" as having in it a genuine Jacobean play and that its not a 18th century forgery.

    Three essays dealing with stylometrics (both visual and computer aided) by Mac Jackson, Richard Proudfoot and Taylor provide very compelling results that Fletcher, Theobald and Shakespeare are present in the Double Falsehood text. The gist of their findings is that Theobald did apapt either an unaldulterated copy of Fletcher and Shakespeare's Cardenio or adapted an already altered script. The distribution of scenes that are Fletcher's and those that were Shakespeare's are in line with "Kinsmen" and "Henry VIII". So while we don't have a genuine copy of "Cardenio", it does survive in "Double Falsehood" and with Shakespeare contributions.

    So this is another solid connection with a collaborator that came on the scene at 3-4 years after De Vere died. Also, the source material for "Cardenio", "Don Quioxte" was not published until 1605, a year after De Vere died.

    Mar 15, 2013
  • anon

    I can't claim I made much of it but did wonder a bit if there might be more to the 'Double Falsehood' than met the eye. After all, any relic of a Shakespeare play, however corrupt would, if genuine, polish up into something that ought to be watchable.

    Mar 16, 2013