Arts Editor Jessica Moffatt-Owen got invited to Palgrave Macmillan’s launch of their exciting new project: William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays. Here are her thoughts on this new book.
Not going to lie, I love a good press event. Wine, free books, canapÃ©s, what more could you want? Turns out that actually this press event was even better for me than usual, because it was all about Shakespeare. Being a third year English student, doing two Shakespeare modules in my final year, I found it invaluable. Basically, the event was an additional lecture, by experts in their field, where I was the only person in the room note-taking…
Having previously published William Shakespeare: Complete Works, this new publication released from Palgrave Macmillan is an extension; a sister text. It focuses on texts and manuscripts which have evidence to suggest that Shakespeare had a helping hand with the writing of the play. It’s peculiar how you can tell, or at least get an inkling, when you read plays in which parts were written by Shakespeare. You just get a gut feeling from the style.
The collaborative process, which was common in the Renaissance, is something which I found fascinating to discover. It is the general consensus that in fact, the various contributors didn’t sit and write together, around the table, with a few beers. They individually wrote their sections, and another person was employed to edit them together – which seems like an absolutely bonkers way of doing it, but I guess it worked!
For anyone who is planning on studying Shakespeare, I would say that it is a fantastic book to get your teeth into. It provides a brilliant contextual basis for Renaissance playwrights, and Shakespearean contemporaries. There are also some hilarious plays, and some chilling tragedies. I was lucky enough to watch some readings performed from the collection by actors of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which gave me goosebumps.
Shakespeare can feel clichÃ©d, overdone and over-studied, particularly if you’re an English student like me. However, this collection gives the joy of Shakespeare, while providing plays I certainly had never heard of previously. Yes, there might be a few dull moments in some of the works, but that’s part of the joy of the collection: the collaborative element, which means a variety of tones and styles (unfortunately, not everyone had the same command of the English language as William Shakespeare!).
Highlights for myself? The Spanish Tragedy and Sir Thomas More are up there. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone, even those unsure about furthering their knowledge of Shakespeare – whether for degree purposes, Masters research, or just curiosity. As Palgrave Macmillan and The Royal Shakespeare Company have collaborated, there is a wealth of knowledge effusing from the pages, from the incredibly knowledgeable (and humorous) editors Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. Overall, a brilliant scholarly addition to my bookshelf.