Essays

Cymbeline – Geeking About “Geek”

You may have heard that the word “geek” was originally used to describe circus freaks who would entertain the crowd by biting the heads off of live fish (or some other bizarre feat). While it’s true that circus freaks were referred to as “geeks” in the early 20th century, it’s not true that this is [...]

Aye, No; No, Aye – Mortal and Immortal Conflict

One of the interesting qualities of Elizabethan playwriting is the seamless connection between thought, word, and action. What makes the art of the soliloquy work, for example, is the lack of division between what the character is thinking and what the character is saying: They do not form their thoughts into words, but rather their [...]

Richard and His Uncles – Part 1: Discovering the Public Soliloquy

One of the more difficult passages to untangle in Richard II is found in Act II, Scene 1. Immediately following the death of the Duke of Lancaster, Richard announces that he’s claiming all of Lancaster’s property for himself in order to pay for the Irish wars: RICHARD And for these great affairs do ask some [...]

Bolingbroke vs. Richard II

In 2008, I played Bolingbroke in Shakespeare & Company’s summer rep production of Richard II. (Lucas Gerstner, who plays Bolingbroke in our reading on September 29th, played Richard in the same production.) This essay was written during that production, and its discoveries continue to shape our current work on the play. As I’ve mentioned previously, [...]

R2: Woodstock – The End of the Story

As I’ve mentioned before, the manuscript for Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock has seen better days. Torn pages and missing words are damaging enough, but perhaps the most devastating loss to the play is its finale: At least one full leaf is missing at the end of the play, taking with it at least 120 [...]

Authorship of R2: Woodstock, Part 4: The Two Truths

Every piece of evidence surrounding the authorship of Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock points to one of two truths: (1) If the play was written in the early 1590’s, then Shakespeare must have written it. (If not, then its deep similarities to later Shakespearean plays would indicate that Shakespeare spent the bulk of his career [...]

Authorship of R2: Woodstock, Part 3: Stylometry

In considering Richard II and Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock we continue to struggle with the question: Which came first? In the case of Richard II we know that the play was definitely written by August 29th, 1597, when it was entered into the Stationers’ Registry. (It was first published later that year.) Internal evidence [...]

Authorship of R2: Woodstock, Part 2: Sequel or Prequel?

Given the deep connections between the two plays, it would be logical to assume that either Richard II was written as a sequel to Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock or that R2: Woodstock was written as a prequel to Richard II. Since it’s comparatively more common for authors to write sequels rather than prequels, let’s [...]

Authorship of R2: Woodstock, Part 1: Out of the Text

Is it by Shakespeare? It’s the question that dominates any discussion of Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock. And it’s not merely a matter of the personal aggrandizement or exceptional excitement which would result from identifying a previously unknown work by Shakespeare: If Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock and Richard II are both cut from a [...]

Hamilton’s Cardenio 6: The Lingering Questions

Hamilton may be clearly wrong in identifying the Second Maiden’s Tragedy as the lost Cardenio, but there remains an important and lingering question: If the handwriting in the Second Maiden’s Tragedy manuscript does belong to William Shakespeare, what does that mean? Well, it could mean that this is, in fact, a lost play by Shakespeare. [...]