Over the past few years, June Schlueter and I have published works confirming North’s authorship of certain source-plays. Our most recent work, Thomas North’s 1555 Travel-Journal: From Italy to Shakespeare, shows that North used his diary and experiences of his trip to Rome to write early versions of The Winter’s Tale and Henry VIII. Similarly, our essay, “The Shakespeare/North Collaboration: Titus Andronicus and Titus and Vespasian,” published in Shakespeare Survey 67 (2014), reveals numerous independent lines of evidence indicating that North wrote Titus and Vespasian, the source-play for Titus Andronicus, in 1560-1.
What we refrained from mentioning in these works was that we could have also provided a similar series of compelling arguments for North’s authorship of essentially every play in the canon, each focusing on a particular time period of North’s life. We could with nearly all the plays reveal little-known texts and manuscripts from the years in question, showing how North used personal events and material from his latest writings, studies, and travels to create the play. All this evidence, extending across five decades, is mutually reinforcing and thoroughly comprehensive.
Still, within this ocean of facts, some discoveries are so compelling that, even when examined in isolation, they prove North’s original authorship of a particular source-play beyond all reasonable doubt. In these cases, we need not examine the hundreds of Shakespearean passages that derive from North’s translations, or know about the satires that discuss Shakespeare’s adaptation of North’s source-plays, or understand how North based the plays on the events of his life. With these particular facts, we really need to know nothing else; they are probative in and of themselves. These are the smoking guns.
This video, “How we know North wrote Henry VIII,” shows examples related to North’s authorship of the history play.
Similarly, this video shows, “How We Know North Wrote Richard II:”
These posts also discuss some smoking-gun discoveries:
- Appendix G: Arthur Brooke’s “Romeus and Juliet” and North’s Wedding-Turned-FuneralIn 1562, two years before Shakespeare was born and seven years after Thomas North traveled through the Lombardy regions of Italy with the Viscount Montague, young Arthur Brooke referred to a stage tragedy on Romeo and Juliet. Brooke, who had connections to the Inns of Court, cited the play in a foreword to his long … Read more
- 54. The Description of Romeo’s Sorrow Comes From North’s ‘Dial’ & Pre-Dates 1562 PoemShakespearean editors have long known that an English play of Romeo and Juliet existed even before the future playwright was born in Stratford in 1564. Young poet Arthur Brooke complimented the staged version in the foreword to his 1562 poem on the doomed lovers. Those scholars who have carefully studied all the iterations of the … Read more
- 53. Shakespeare and Brooke Both Borrowed from North’s pre-1562 “Romeo and Juliet”: Changing Juliet’s Wedding into a FuneralIn 1562, two years before Shakespeare was born and seven years after Thomas North traveled through the Lombardy regions of Italy with the Viscount Montague, young Arthur Brooke referred to a stage tragedy on Romeo and Juliet. Brooke, who had connections to the Inns of Court, cited the play in a foreword to his long … Read more
- 52. An Original Poem by North & Turning Juliet’s Wedding into a FuneralAs detailed in earlier posts, North would often write original passages in his translations. That is, he would veer from the language of his source-text, at times preferring to craft his own speeches and descriptions as opposed to closely transcribing the work in front of him. One extraordinary example is North’s original, 110-line poetic complaint … Read more
- 51. Cassio’s Book-Learning vs. Iago’s Real Experiences in War (North’s Marginal Notes)In the opening exchange in Othello, Iago criticizes the recently promoted Cassio because he knows nothing about war other than what he has read in books and does not have Iago’s actual experiences in battle. The origin of the passage clearly comes from one underscored by North in his own Dial of Princes, in which … Read more
- Quotes and Descriptions of North’s Plays That Appeared Long Before Shakespeare Adapted Them (1-4)Frustratingly, when Elizabethan writers often referred to plays performed by Leicester Men’s–including all of Thomas North’s plays–they never named the playwright. This is why it has taken so long to determine who wrote them. Still, many writers did do the next best thing: They often quoted the play. To those innocent of the fact that … Read more
- 50. “Exit Pursued by a Bear:” The Nobleman Antigonus, the Banishment to Sicily, Being Eaten Alive by A Bear, the Sky-Darkening Storm that Kills the Mariners, and the Clamors, Cries, and RoarsPerhaps, the most famous stage direction in the Shakespeare canon occurs in The Winter’s Tale and involves the doomed character Antigonus. He leaves the play abruptly after abandoning the banished baby Perdita on the shores of a distant land: “Exit pursued by a bear,” reads the stage-direction. We soon discover that Antigonus doesn’t survive, and … Read more
- 49. North Marked the “Description of Sorrow” in his “Dial” That He Used in “Romeo and Juliet”In North’s own copy of his translation of the 1582 edition of The Dial of Princes, the translator adds a marginal note highlighting the “description of sorrow (Fol. 296 in 1582 edition; 475 in 1619 ed.) The passage describes how people act when they are depressed: they crave solitude, hate the day, love the night, … Read more
- 48. North’s Marginalia in “Arden/Shrew” Chapter: The Battle of the Sexes.In this very same chapter on how to deal with Shrews of North’s Dial that North, himself, marked in the table of contents –what we call here the Arden/Shrew chapter (see posts 43-6) –North underscores the last line in a passage stressing the contrarian nature of women. This is in Aurelius’s speech to his wife, … Read more
- 47. North’s Marginalia, “Slaunderous Tongues,” & Lightly Weighing Words in “Arden of Faversham”In this very same chapter of The Dial that North marked in the table of contents and used for other passages in Arden of Faversham (see posts 43-6) — and on this same page (149r) examined earlier –directly beneath the emphasized passage on “the fear of the Gods…and the speech of men,” North underlines the … Read more
- 46. More of the “Arden” Passage in North’s Marked ChapterAs we saw in the previous posts, in 1591-2, North marked up his own copy of The Dial of Princes, using it as a workbook for plays he was either revising or writing at that time, especially working from chapters that he underscored in the table of contents. In one of these chapters, on page … Read more
- Shakespeare’s Borrowings: Just the Pics
- 45. North Marked Passages in his “Dial” That He Used in “Arden”As we saw in the previous post, in 1591-2, North marked up his own copy of The Dial of Princes, using it as a workbook for plays he was either revising or writing at that time. For example, North only marked three of the 177 chapters in the table of contents. All three chapters and … Read more
- 44. North’s 2nd Marked-Chapter Relates to “Taming of the Shrew” and “Arden of Faversham”As noted earlier, in 1591-2, North marked up his own copy of The Dial of Princes, using it as a workbook for plays he was either revising or writing at that time. For example, North only marked three of the 177 chapters in the table of contents. All three chapters and their titles are relevant … Read more
- North’s Marginal Notes (His Personal Workbook for Early 1590s Plays)On March 29, 1591, Thomas North purchased a used, 1582-edition of his Dial of Princes for 5 shillings, signing the back and dating the purchase—a copy now kept at the Cambridge University Library. Then he began rereading or skimming certain sections, skipping from here to there, underscoring certain lines and passages, and adding various notes … Read more
- 43. In 1592, North Underlined and Wrote Out the Subtitle to “Arden of Faversham” (1592)North’s note-writing begins early in this copy of Dial of Princes, even in the prologue and table of contents. Importantly, out of 13 pages in the table of contents listing 177 chapters, North only adds notes to three of those listed chapter titles. All three chapters and their titles are relevant to his plays–and two … Read more
- All The Borrowings So FarEach post below examines a Shakespearean passage (or series of passages) that derives from the earlier writings of Thomas North:
- 32. Edgar as the Impoverished, Unperfumed Learned-Theban, Who Stands in Esperance and Knows the Cause of Thunder.Numerous scholars have discussed King Lear’s unswerving focus on the virtues of poverty and charity –especially in contrast to the corruption of wealth. Throughout the tragedy, many of the characters are forced into destitution and misery–especially Edgar (Poor Tom) and King Lear – only to end up embracing the impoverished and natural state of the … Read more
- 20. North’s Marginal Notes and “Richard II”The Rise of One Requires the Fall of Another, Like Buckets in a Well or Sun Melting Snow On March 29, 1591, Thomas North purchased a used, 1582-edition of his Dial of Princes for 5 shillings, signing the back and dating the purchase—a copy now kept at the Cambridge University Library. Then he began rereading … Read more
- 19. Griefs of the Inward Soul, Seeing Things Thru Water, & Dissolving the Bands of LifeNorth began translating both the colossal Plutarch’s Lives (1579/80) and Nepos’ Lives (1602) many years before he would eventually sell them to printers. In the interim, North often used the stories and ideas he found in these unpublished translations as source-material for his plays. For example, in the mid-1590s, North decided to use Richard II … Read more
- 11. The Garden of Lombardy, 100 Milch Kine to the Pail, and 6 Score Fat Oxen in a StableAs shown in Thomas North’s 1555 Travel Journal: From Italy to Shakespeare, the experiences that the young dramatist documented during his journey to Rome are most relevant to what would become two of North’s first plays: Henry VIII and The Winter’s Tale. But we also find the impressions that North wrote about the various Italian … Read more
- 7. Coriolanus’s Belly-Fable Conflates 3 Fables, All Written by NorthIn an earlier example, we noted that the playwright of Julius Caesar was able to recall passages from North’s Dial while copying passages from North’s Plutarch. In this example, he intertwines stories from three of North’s translations. As is well known, in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Menenius’s fable, in which “all the body’s members / Rebelled against … Read more
- North’s Handwritten Notes in his “Dial” Mark the Passages He Used for his PlaysOn March 29, 1591, Thomas North purchased a used, 1582-edition of his Dial of Princes for 5 shillings, signing the back and dating the purchase—a copy now kept at the Cambridge University Library. Then he began rereading or skimming certain sections, skipping from here to there, underscoring certain lines and passages, and adding various notes … Read more