If somebody thinks that a poet who lived almost half a millennium ago cannot make today’s news, they are greatly mistaken. The mysterious nature of Shakespeare’s personality and history make him a very promising and interesting subject for literary scholars even today.
It has been again proved by Professor Douglas Bruster from the University of Texas. In his paper which will be published in the September issue of Notes and Queries he presents irrevocable evidence (according to him, at least) of the fact that often debated lines from the 1602 edition of the play The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd were not borrowed (as it is generally believed) from William Shakespeare, but actually written by him for this exact work of literature.
It is not the first time somebody tries to prove it – the last attempt has been made by British scientist Brian Vicker in 2012. His work was marked by extensive use of sophisticated computer programs aimed at plagiarism detection in order to single out linguistic patterns characteristic for Shakespeare in the ‘Additional Passages’ that created so much controversy over time.
As it often happens, Bruster tries to prove the same thing using a completely different approach: instead of studying the language and its patterns, he instead pays attention to the handwriting in which the play was written, trying to find the evidence that it was Shakespeare who originally wrote them. What is today considered to be Shakespeare’s writing consists mainly of three poorly scribbled pages from the British Library – and it is the basis upon which Professor Bruster has built his work.
According to Bruster, attributing these lines to Shakespeare solves another problem most previous studies of the subject have encountered: their poor writing. If you know that they were written by Shakespeare’s hand, Bruster argues, it is possible to eliminate the misspellings and typos and eventually recreate these passages in the form they were initially intended to be written – and when you do so, you understand that these passages are excellent, like one would expect from Shakespeare.
However, not all Shakespeare scholars believe that it is time for his name to get into the news again – for example, Tiffany Stern, professor of early modern drama from Oxford, although being quite impressed by Bruster’s work, still thinks that news attributions to the Shakespearian canon are based not so much on real evidence as on the wish of this or that publisher to offer the readers yet another little piece of Shakespeare.
And how do you think? Did the most important British playwright really take part in writing The Spanish Tragedy? Or maybe he never existed at all, like some scholars tend to believe?