Edward III (play)

"The Reign of King Edward the Third" is an Elizabethan play often attributed to William Shakespeare. It was first printed anonymously in 1596. However, since the eighteenth century, the possibility that all or part of it is the work of Shakespeare has been debated. The play makes many gibes at Scotland and the Scots, a view which has led some critics to believe that it is this work which caused George Nicolson, Queen Elizabeth's agent in Edinburgh, to write in 1598 to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, protesting the way Scots were being portrayed on the London stage.

Characters

The English

*King Edward III
*Queen Philippa, his wife, pregnant with John of Gaunt (usually referred to by the two-syllable French "Philippe" for scansion purposes)
*Edward the Black Prince of Wales, their son
*Earl of Salisbury (doing many things Sir Walter de Manny did in real life, as he was deceased by the events of the second half of the play), [See Melchiori, passim.]
*Countess of Salisbury, his wife
*Earl of Warwick, her father (fictitiously)
*William Montague, Salisbury's nephew
*Earl of Derby
*Lord Audley (portrayed as an old man, though he was historically no older than 30 at the time of the play)
*Lord Percy
*John Copland, an esquire, later Sir John Copland
*Lodowick, Kind Edward's secretary
*Two Esquires
*A Herald

upporters of the English

*Robert, Count of Artois, and Earl of Richmond (historically deceased)
*Lord Mountford, Duke of Brittany
*Gobin de Grace, a French prisoner

The French

*King John II
*Prince Charles, Duke of Normandy, his son
*Prince Philip, his youngest son (historically not yet born)
*Duke of Lorraine
*Villiers, a Norman Lord (an unnamed "knight of Normandy" in Froissart)
*The Captain of Calais
*Another Captain
*A Mariner
*Three Heralds
*Two Citizens from Crécy
*Three other Frenchmen
*A Woman with two children
*Six wealthy citizens of Calais
*Six poor Frenchmen of Calais

upporters of the French

*King of Bohemia
*A Polonian Captain
*Danish troops

The Scots

*King David, Bruce of Scotland
*Sir William Douglas
*Two Messengers

Synopsis

The plot of the play consists of two distinct parts. The first is centred on the Countess of Salisbury (the wife of the Earl of Salisbury), who, beset by rampaging Scots, is "rescued" by King Edward III, who then proceeds to woo her himself. In an attempted bluff, the Countess vows to take the life of her husband if Edward will take the life of his wife. However, when she sees that Edward finds the plan morally acceptable, she ultimately threatens to take her own life if he does not stop his pursuit. Finally, Edward expresses great shame, admits his fault and acquiesces.

In the second part of the play, in several scenes reminicient of Henry V, Edward joins his army in France, fighting a war to claim the French throne. The play switches between the French and English camps, where the apparent hopelessness of the English campaign is contrasted with the arrogance of the French. Much of the action is focused on young Edward, the Black Prince, who broods on the morality of war before achieving victory against seemingly insurmountable odds.

ources

As with most of Shakespeare's history plays, the source is Raphael Holinshed's "Chronicles", while Jean Froissart's "Chronicles" is also a major source for this play, but a significant portion of the part usually attributed to Shakespeare, the wooing of the Countess of Salisbury, is based on Novel 46, "The Countesse of Salesberrie" by William Painter in "Palace of Pleasure". Unlike Painter, who wrote Edward as a bachelor and the Countess as a widow, the author of the play is aware that both are married at the time, and Edward tries to get the countess to make a pact with him in which each kills the other's spouse and tries to make it look like a double suicide. In spite of the difference in plot, Melchiori (p. 104) points out the similarity of the playwright's language to that of Painter in spite of the plotting differences.

Authorship

In 1596, "Edward III" was published anonymously (although this was not uncommon in the 1590s). The principal arguments against Shakespeare's authorship include the facts that John Heminges and Henry Condell did not include the play when they compiled the "First Folio" of Shakespeare's plays in 1623, nor is it mentioned in Francis Meres' "Palladis Tamia" (1598), a work that lists most of Shakespeare's early plays. Also, many critics view the play as not worthy of Shakespeare's writing ability. Despite this, many critics have seen some passages as having a Shakespearean ring to them. In 1760, noted Shakespearean editor Edward Capell included the play in his "Prolusions; or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry, Compil'd with great Care from their several Originals, and Offer'd to the Publicke as Specimens of the Integrity that should be Found in the Editions of worthy Authors", and concluded that it had been written by Shakespeare. However, Capell's conclusion was not embraced by scholars.

In recent years, professional Shakespeare scholars have increasingly reviewed the work with a new eye, and have concluded that some passages are as sophisticated as any of Shakespeare's early histories, especially "King John" and the "Henry VI" plays. In addition, passages in the play are direct quotes from Shakespeare's sonnets. Stylistic analysis has also produced evidence that at least some scenes were written by Shakespeare [M.W.A. Smith, 'Edmund Ironside'. "Notes and Queries" 238 (June, 1993):204-5. Thomas Merriam's article in "Literary and Linguistic Computing" vol 15 (2) 2000: 157-186 uses stylometry to investigate claims that the play is a reworking by Shakespeare of a draft originally written by Marlowe.] . In the "Textual Companion" to the Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare, Gary Taylor states that "of all the non-canonical plays, ["Edward III"] has the strongest claim to inclusion in the Complete Works" [Wells, Stanley and Gary Taylor, with John Jowett and William Montgomery, "William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion" (Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 136] (the play was subsequently edited by William Montgomery and included in the second edition of the Oxford Complete Works, 2005). The first major publishing house to produce an edition of the play was Cambridge University Press as part of its New Cambridge Shakespeare series. Since then, an edition of the Riverside Shakespeare has included the play, and plans are afoot for the Arden Shakespeare and Oxford Shakespeare series to publish editions. Giorgio Melchiori, editor of the New Cambridge edition, asserts that the play's disappearance from the canon is likely due to a 1598 protest of the play's portrayal of the Scottish. According to Melchiori, scholars have often assumed that this play, the title of which was not stated in the letter of 15 April 1598 from George Nicolson (Elizabeth I's Edinburgh agent) to Lord Burghley noting the public unrest, was a comedy (one that does not survive), but the play's portrayal of Scots is so virulent that it is likely that the play was, officially or unofficially, banned, and left forgotten by Heminges and Condell. (Melchiori, 12-13)

Some scholars, notably Eric Sams [Sams, Eric. "Shakespeare's Edward III : An Early Play Restored to the Canon" (Yale UP, 1996)] , have argued that the play is "entirely" by Shakespeare, but today, scholarly opinion is divided, with many researchers asserting that the play is an early collaborative work, of which Shakespeare wrote only a few scenes.

Attributions

*George Peele--Tucker Brooke (1908)
*Christopher Marlowe, with Robert Greene, George Peele, and Thomas Kyd--J.M. Robertson (1924)
*Michael Drayton--E.A. Gerard (1928) and H.W. Crundell (1939)
*Robert Wilson--S.R. Golding (1929)
*Thomas Kyd--W. Wells (1940) and G. Lambrechts (1963)
*Robert Greene--R.G. Howarth (1964)
*William Shakespeare--Elliott Slater (1988), Eric Sams (1996)
*William Shakespeare and one other--Jonathan Hope (1994)
*William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe--Robert A.J. Matthews and Thomas V.N. Merriam (1994)
*William Shakespeare and others (not Marlowe)--Giorgio Melchiori (1998) [Giorgio Melchiori, ed. "The New Cambridge Shakespeare: King Edward III", 1998, p. 15] Melchiori (p.35) dismisses the Marlovian character of the play as having been written under the influence of Marlowe's "Tamburlaine, Part II", which was recent and popular enough to be fresh in the memory of theatregoers during the period in which "Edward III" was written. Melchiori does not believe that the play is entirely Shakespeare's, but he does not attempt to determine whose the other hands in the play are. He also voices his dislike of the publication of the "hand D" segments of "Sir Thomas More" out of context in many complete Shakespeare editions (ix).

Performance

In 1998, Cambridge University Press became the first major publisher to produce an edition of the play under Shakespeare's name, and shortly afterward, the Royal Shakespeare Company performed the play (to mixed reviews). In 2001, the American professional premiere was staged by Pacific Repertory Theatre's Carmel Shakespeare Festival, which received positive reviews for the endeavor.

Notes and references

External links

*
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=C0MqAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA171 Google Books edition] (Donovan's "English Historical Plays", vol. 1, London, 1896)


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