The Problem of 'The Raigne of King Edward The Third' 1596: A Statistical Approach

The Bard, 3/4, 1982, pp. 133-142

Reprinted as first chapter of the CUP posthumous edition of the Diss. Thesis (1988)

Part I: The Literature from 1900

    Edward III first appeared, as an entry in the Stationers' Register, on 1 December 1595. The First Quarto was published in the following year: The Raigne of King Edward the third: As it hath bin sundrie times plaied about the Citie of London. London. Printed for Cuthbert Burby. 1596. [1] A second quarto, also printed for Burby, appeared in 1599. There is a good deal of difference of opinion about when the play was most probably written. According to Farmer, on the title page of his facsimile edition of the first quarto, the play was written about 1589. However, Muir (15) thinks it likely it was written after 1593, because of its allusion to Lucrece in lines 1019‑1021:

“Arise true English Ladie, whom our Ile
May better boast of then ever Romaine might,
Of her whose ransackt treasurie bath taskt,
The vaine indevor of so many pens…”

No other critic has made much of this. Both Ribner (20) and Schaar (21) think the play was written 1592‑3; Østerberg (18) before 1592; Jackson (11) about 1590; Wentersdorf (26) 1589-­90; and Lapides (13) any time between 1588 and 1592.

    For purposes of comparison we may note that there is general agreement that all three parts of King Henry VI were written before the end of 1591. Chambers, Harrison and the Arden editors place Richard III and Titus Andronicus closely following in 1592‑3. If it were Shakespeare's then, Edward III would be among his earliest creations. By the end of 1595 The Taming of the Shrew, The Comedy of Errors, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer night's Dream and Richard II had all been staged. The first and second parts of Tamburlaine had been produced a number of years earlier, in 1587 and 1588. So if Edward III were Marlowe's, it would be a work of his maturity.

    Capell published Edward III in 1760 as "a Play thought to be writ by Shakespeare". It has been reprinted a number of times, the first quarto of 1596 being taken as authoritative. Since 1760 the question of Shakespearean authorship has been batted to and fro by editors and critics. Some have maintained that the whole of the play was by Shakespeare, and some that none of it was. Others to whom parts or the whole have been attributed include Drayton, Greene, Lodge and Peele. No general agreement has yet been reached. The balance of opinion has tended to favour divided authorship, the "Countess" scenes in particular being allotted to Shakespeare.

    In the present century the history of criticism begins with Tucker Brooke's edition of the play in his book The Shakespeare Apocrypha, 1908 (4). Brooke included in the Apocrypha edited texts of fourteen plays or parts of plays; but as candidates for acceptance into the canon he dismissed them all. The selection made for the First Folio cannot be faulted. We have the genuine articles ‑ and the apocrypha, mostly poor stuff. Though some have merits, even great merits, they are not Shakespearean merits. In short, they can never pass Shakespearean standards and must be judged by apocryphal standards. Edward III fails along with the others.

    The play is "broken‑backed", falling into two irreconcilable halves. The first two acts are a love intrique. The beginning of Act III brings a complete change of plot and a considerable diminution of dramatic force. The last acts, "though full of fine dramatic poetry", are not Shakespeare. And looking again at the "Countess" scenes, "so much more Shakespearean at first sight", one sees they are in reality by the same author as the rest of the drama. The two references to the Countess story in 111.3 and 111.5 show that the author of Act III must have had the contents of I and II before his mind. Brooke finds other reasons for favouring singleness of authorship: wherever in the last three acts the necessity of portraying actual events disappears, there is a return to the style of the earlier unhistoric scenes. Such parts actually "give more pleasure to the true student and lover of the play than the brilliant intrigue scenes of the first acts which have a rather cloying sweetness". These scenes will hardly bear re‑reading frequently. "Tried by the test of what they say, not how they say it, these passages sound hollow and insincere; the sophistry of nearly all the arguments becomes more objectionable ... as one comes to feel ... how much the characters guide their actions by the dictates of complex academic reasoning and how little by the inner voice of nature."

    Brooke, in fact, finds the military scenes of the last three acts more to his taste than "the quibbling mawkishness" of Warwick and the Countess. He singles out for high praise IV.viii. 6‑8 (2275‑7) and V.27‑30 (2376‑80).

"We recognize the writer's love of noble situations and his sympathy with high‑minded characters, but the continual inferiority of his hand to his heart is equally obvious. The inability to grasp strongly the realities of life produces in the historical scenes a woodenness and restraint, which mark these portions of the play as distinctly un­Shakespearean, despite several bursts of magnificent poetry."

Tucker Brooke's verdict is, then, that all of the play is by one author, and that author not Shakespeare. He says he would like to see "this fine though very imperfect play recognized as the crown and conclusion of the work of George Peele", a thesis which he then argues to maintain.

     Brooke believed that the sources of the lay were, for the "Countess" scenes Painter's Palace of Pleasure, and for most of the rest Holinshed's Chronicles, with an unknown source for the Villiers‑Salisbury episode in Act IV. However in 1911 R.M. Smith (23) showed with chapter and verse that the whole of Act I scene 1, and the whole of the main part of the play from 111.1 to the end of V had been taken from Froissart; and finally that the Countess episode was described in detail by Froissart, taken over by Bandello and from him by Painter, and so finally back into Edward III.

"Many critics, who insist that the Countess episode interrupts the main play, urge the fact as proof that the episode was thrust into an earlier version by Shakespeare. But this episode holds in the French chronicle the same position which the dramatic version of it holds in the play. It is evident, therefore, that the dramatist merely followed the order of events that Froissart had established, and selected only certain details from Painter for the Countess scenes."

On the possibly Shakespearean authorship of the play Smith writes:

"The contention ... that Shakspere wrote the entire play can be dismissed at once. None of them [the critics] offer reasons other than aesthetic to support the theory. The whole drama is by no means up to Shakspere's level. There is an absence of comedy, and a general want of characterization. Furthermore, the drama was never considered Shakspere's until the eighteenth century, nor is there external evidence in favor of his authorship. Finally, the whole play was written at one time by one dramatist who took nearly all of his material from Froissart's Chronicles; and Shakspere probably never consulted Froissart for chronicle history plays."

On the Marlovian possibility Smith continues:

"lt is equally difficult to believe that Marlowe wrote the play. Aside from the Marlowesque blank verse and bombast which were employed in all drama after the appearance of Tamburlaine in 1587. Edward III bears none of that dramatist's well known characteristics. There is no protagonist, no attempt at such plot construction as is found in Edward II; nothing but the presentation of an interesting chronicle narrative taken wholly from one source. Furthermore, the portrayal of such a woman character as the Countess was totally foreign to Marlowe's genius. These facts, with others, make it probable that the whole drama was written by one playwright three or four years earlier than Mr. Fleay's date 1594. perhaps 1590. before Marlowe had put his final stamp upon Chronicle History Plays."

    Who that one playwright might have been, Professor Smith does not venture to conjecture.

    Smith laid a firm foundation for our present understanding of the sources of Edward III, in plot and sub‑plots, which has not subsequently been undermined; but, against his hopes, it seems to have had no effect at all on the debate about the authorship. This has remained as conjectural as ever. By far the most critical evidence has come from the work of Alfred Hart (8). This is statistical in nature and will be considered on a later page. At this point we may notice the opinions advanced by Golding, Crundell and Østerberg. Of these only the last is worth serious attention.

      Golding (7) reports that from his perusal of the play that he soon became "convinced" that its author was "undoubtedly" Robert Wilson; and he noted and lists 30 parallels with A Larum for London totalling 125 lines of verse. Of these Nos 5 to 11 are with Edward III. 1.2 to 11.2. Golding has been alone in his attribution; and no other critic has reported being impressed by his parallels. Parallelisms, it would seem, are more or less convincing as evidence of community of authorship by their appeal to a subjective judgment. Moreover, the quality of that judgment is dependent on the discriminatory powers of the controversialist and the intimacy of his knowledge of a whole epoch of creative writing. The extent to which his arguments may also be found acceptable by others may be affected by current critical fashions and academic sterotypes. This sort of evidence is certainly not such with which the unlearned should venture to concern himself.

     The arguments of Crundell (5) are somewhat more widely based that those of Golding. He claims that there is a general likeness of Edward III (in both parts) to the work of Michael Drayton; and that it is more reasonable to regard it as an early work of Drayton's than to ascribe the play to Shakespeare or Greene. The "likeness" is to be found in incidents, rhetoric, style, borrowings, and the comparison of certain passages.

     Østerberg (18) considers only the Countess scenes, 1.2 and II, and expresses no opinion about the rest of the play. These scenes are of the highest poetic and dramatic merit, and Shakespearean in character. The balance of the evidence is decidedly in favour of Shakespearean authorship.

     Østerberg bases his appreciation on the following qualities of the "Countess" scenes:

            (1)   their technical mastery;

            (2)   dependence for dramatic tension on character rather than action;

            (3)   the human earnestness as well as artistic excellence;

            (4)   sound though limited psychology;

            (5)   the union of linguistic and rhythmic power, poetic imagination and thought;

            (6)   the ethical standard maintained throughout.

 He then proceeds to examine parallels between passages in Edward III and others in Venus, Lucrece, Romeo, Love's Labour's Lost, the Sonnets. These are numerous and extensive, and some of them are striking. Østerberg also makes comparisons of sentiment, phraseology and rhythm, and tricks of word‑repetition.

    He finds communalities of vocabulary between Edward III and Shakespeare's poems, observable in common usages, but also "striking coincidences in the use of rarer and even 'remarkable' ones." He lists, scornful (i.e. scorned), wistly, reverent, cloak (v), stain, let (i.e. hindrance), forbidding, untuned, insulting, lament (n), languishment, misdeed, mote, oratory, cabinet. He records also combinations. "Fly it a pitch above the soar of praise" of Edward III shows the combination of soar‑above‑pitch found also in 2 Henry VI, Romeo, Julius Caesar and Richard II. Love's Labour's Lost furnishes a number of uncommon words held in common with Edward III: mote, muster, via, unseen wind, solicitor, immure, barbarism, cadence, foragement, faceless. Communalities are also found with a number of the Sonnets, A Midsummernight's Dream, John, Merchant of Venice, Taming of the Shrew, 2 Henry IV, Henry V (gimmal, ordure, fluent), Hamlet, Measure for Measure, Lear (dislodge, grained ash), Coriolanus (twist, n), Antony (snaffle, tissue, treasurer), Timon ('solder, trans. wither).

    Østerberg examines parallelisms pointed out by others, e.g., by Robertson in Greene, but believes them to be mainly delusive. He has counted, and names, a number of words found in Edward III but not elsewhere in Shakespeare, and he argues against giving them importance. On this point Muir's discussion (v. infra) is greatly to be preferred. Osterberg enters on some other matters, such as versification, which need not concern us. He concludes by advancing his theory of authorship. This is that there was an early play, written by several authors in conjunction, probably Marlowe, Kyd and Greene. About the time of the re­opening of the theatres in 1594 the play was acquired by the company to which Shakespeare belonged, and "as usual" Shakespeare was employed in dressing up the play. He then inserted his own vivid and spirited piece of poetry.

    We are indebted to Kenneth Muir for the most recent full and scholarly review of the authorship problem. His first essay (15), 'A reconsideration of Edward III" appeared in Shakespeare Survey in 1953. In a revised form (16) it was re‑published as Chapter 2, 'Shakespeare's Hand in Edward III', in his book, Shakespeare as Collaborator. 1969. The third chapter, 'Edward III', examines the play's merits and demerits. Muir notes that some of the imagery in the Countess scenes recalls that of the Sonnets, Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's Lost. He concludes that if one were to follow Tucker Brooke in attributing the play to Peele, or parts of it, one could account for the great unevenness in the quality of the poetry by supposing that Shakespeare revised a play by Peele, rewriting the Countess scenes and making extensive alterations in Act IV. But the evidence for Peele's hand in Edward III is slight, he thinks.

    In his 1953 essay (15) Muir discusses the vocabulary tests published by Hart (8), which are examined later on. Muir is particularly impressed by the frequency of compound and participial words, conspicuously high both in Edward III and in the works of Shakespeare, where they are two or three times as frequent as in Marlowe, Greene and Peele. Muir seems to consider the test alone as sufficient to dismiss these three as candidates for the authorship.

     Muir then offers his own counts for one of Hart's tests, not applied by him to Edward III. This is the occurrence of words not used before in Shakespeare's plays. Muir divides Edward III into two parts, hypothetically Shakespearean and non‑Shakespearean. The former, part A, is selected to include Act I scene 2, lines 90 and following, the whole of Act II and Act IV scene 4. Part B, the non‑Shakespearean part, is the rest of the play. This excludes a substantial piece, including a soliloquy by the Countess, but starts with her re‑entry at line 276 down to the end of Act II with line 1037. Of Act IV it includes lines 1914 to 2079 inclusive. The entire play runs to 2600 lines, and by Muir's division Part A has 928 lines and Part B 1672. He tabulates the numbers of new words in Parts A and B in six different counts: (a) when only Shakespeare's plays are taken into account, and (b) when the poems are also comprehended: and by date: if Edward III was written in 1597 (before I Henry IV), if in 1596 (before King John), or in 1594 (before Richard II). In all six presentations the number of new words in Part A outnumbers the new words in Part B; and in terms of lines per word, almost exactly twice as many lines on average are required for a new word in Part B as in Part A. We may note that the difference between the two parts is statistically significant in all six presentations. We need instance only one of them. As we are considering Shakespeare as a writer, or a total personality, rather than as mere playwright, it seems well to take Muir's count which includes both poems and plays; and as Edward Ill was published in 1595, Muir's counts for 1594 seem to be the most appropriate. In this count he found a total of 145 new words, 78 in Part A, 67 in Part B. The number to be expected, on the supposition of a single writer for both Parts, would be proportionate to the number of lines available, 928:1672, i.e. not 78:67 but 51.75:93.25. The difference between observation and expectation is 26.25, and χ2, the sum of (O‑E)2 /E where 0 is the observed and E the expected number, is 13.315 + 7.389 = 20.704. This is far larger than any number which could plausibly be attained even by an exceedingly remote chance. We can say then that, on this criterion, there is a large and real difference between the two parts of the play ‑ from whatever cause.

     Muir then proceeds to a study of the imagery. He says there are about twice as many images in proportion to the number of lines in A as in B, one image per 3.8 lines as compared with one per 7 lines. An observation of this kind is not susceptible to statistical tests without a rigid if arbitrary definition of what constitutes an "image". The same limitation applies to Muir's observations on iterative imagery and image‑clusters. Muir then has a short passage on parallels, finding them in As You Like It, Hamlet, Richard III, Love's Labour's Lost, Twelfth Night, Winter's Tale, Much Ado, 2 Henry IV, Macbeth, Antony, 3 Henry VI, Henry V, Measure for Measure.

     Muir concludes by admitting that his arguments may not be conclusive. If Shakespeare was not the author of Edward III, he was at least intimately acquainted with it and deeply influenced by it. A theory which would cover all the facts is that Shakespeare, as perhaps in Pericles, was hastily revising a play by another dramatist, certain scenes being entirely re­written, and the remainder being left with comparatively few alterations.

     In the revised edition of this essay, which he published in 1960 as the second chapter of his book Shakespeare as Collaborator, Muir has changed his views and their presentation very little. He lists as inconclusive the following statistical observations reported by Alfred Hart:

     (a) the average number of words used in some of Shakespeare's Histories is not very different from the number used in Edward III, nor very different from the number used in some of Marlowe's plays;

     (b) the vocabulary common to Edward III and some of Shakespeare's Histories is not very different in proportion to the vocabulary common to Edward III and some of Marlowe's plays; (this objection is not well founded, v. infra);

     (c) nor is there any significant difference in the use of certain prefixes and suffixes in Edward III in comparison with some of Shakespeare's Histories and some of Marlowe's plays. We shall come in due course to a detailed discussion of Hart's work.

     Muir then takes note of Mary Bell's thesis on Edward III, in which she included a concordance. He is impressed by the compounds: light borne, under garnished, summer leaping, sole reigning, bed blotting, honey gathering, poison sucking in Part A; and in Part B ever bibbing. Bayard‑like, high‑swollen, iron‑ha rted, sweet‑flowering, stiff‑grown, nimble jointed, swift‑starting, and just‑dooming in Part B "to mention only a few". Yet while all the '‑like' compounds appear in Part B, all the six 'thrice‑' formations are in Part A. Miss Bell reported a close resemblance between the vocabularies of the three Henry VI plays and Edward III: many words used once only in Henry VI are to be found also in Edward III. "This evidence", says Muir, "is ambiguous, since some critics still believe that Henry VI is not wholly Shakespearean." Surely what the critics still believe is subjective and non‑evidential. If it can be said that Mary Bell has disclosed communalities and resemblances between the vocabularies of 1 Henry VI and Edward III, this is objective factual evidence connecting two plays, whoever their Authors may have been? Muir then develops his commentary on the imagery of Edward III with greater depth and variety than in his essay of 1953.

    In concluding his chapter Muir inclines to the theory of double authorship, with the "Countess" scenes and IV.4 allotted to Shakespeare. The strongest support for this judgement is the presence of close parallels with Henry V and Measure for Measure. He then, as in the 1953 essay, suggests a Shakespearean revision of another dramatist's work. This theory has the weakness that no named playwright, certainly not Greene or Marlowe or Peele, can be suggested for the job.

     Over the years from the fifties to the seventies of the present century there seems to have been a variable tendency to shift from the theory of multiple authorship to that of single authorship. In a University of Texas dissertation of 1956, W.B. Dobson (6) engaged in an elaborate discussion of the sources of each scene, the author's habits of composition, the possibilities of single or multiple authorship, and the probable date of composition. He thinks there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the Countess scenes are interpolations by a second author. In comparison with other scenes, these passages have a firmer plot structure and are superior in originality. They introduce the character of Lodowick, who does not reappear in later scenes. They portray the Countess and the King in a manner inconsistent with characterisation in the rest of the play. They make more frequent and noticeably different use of imagery. They are somewhat less rigid in metre, and have a higher percentage of rhyming lines, and in general a more lyrical and rhetorical style. The Countess scenes may echo the style of Shakespeare's lyrical plays and narrative poems ‑ but are not necessarily written by Shakespeare.

     A few years later, in 1960, in a dissertation presented to the University of Cincinnati, K.P. Wentersdorf (25) takes an almost diametrically opposite point of view. Similar arguments are also advanced in his article of 1965 (26). He shows how Shakespeare's imagery differs from that of his contemporaries. The homogeneity of Edward III militates against any theory of multiple authorship. Main groups of imagery are drawn from the same areas of experience as those Shakespeare drew on. The author of Edward III used the same kind of images in the same proportions from the same mental standpoint as Shakespeare. The possibility that the parallels of Edward III and the canon result from borrowing is untenable, as many relate to later work. "The view that Shakespeare is the borrower is not forbidden by chronology; to accept it, however, one must assume that Shakespeare was well acquainted with Edward III at a very early stage in his career, since there are many parallels in the narrative poems, and that he either possessed or developed the same artistic tastes as the unknown Author in the manner of image‑subjects. Furthermore that the play impressed itself on his mind so powerfully that he reproduced multiple echoes from it throughout the rest of his long career. A hypothesis requiring all these assumptions has little to recommend it in the face of the natural interpretation of the clusters, namely that these thoughts and images developed in the mind of one man ‑ William Shakespeare.

     In his study of the imagery of Edward III (1965), Wentersdorf (26), quoting other authors noted that Tillyard (1944) (24) regarded the play as "evidently written", not by a professional dramatist, but by a university‑trained courtier who had been greatly influenced by Shakespear's idiom; Irving Ribner (1957) (20), he thought, read not only the love element but a great deal more of the play as Shakespearean in origin; and Frank O'Connor (1961) (17) considered the whole play of single authorship, manifesting clear evidence of Shakespeare's draftsmanship throughout. Wentersdorf dates the play at any time between 1588 and 1595, but most likely near the earlier of these two dates. The play breathes the nationalistic feeling that was strong in the years before the Armada. Wentersdorf sees many resemblances between Edward III and the first part of Henry VI. "Quite apart from the similarity of tone, Edward III has many points of resemblance in diction, imagery and the treatment of subject matter in the play about Talbot." This was written not later than 1591‑2, possibly a year or two earlier, as it has plausibly been asserted that it preceded Henry VI Parts H and III. "It seems most likely, from the topical allusions to the Armada and to the Nonpareil, about 1589‑1590."

     Wentersdorf considers arguments against Shakespearean authorship have been based on its stylistic inferiority, especially when compared with Henry V. If it was written in 1594‑5, the argument that Shakespeare could not have been the Author is stronger than if the play was written in 1589‑90. The account of the sea‑battle is modelled on reports of the English triumph over the Spanish in 1588. The account in Froissart of the Battle of Sluys, 1340, described ships grappled together and hand to hand fighting. The account in Edward III has the anachronistic use of artillery. The highly imaginative description of the artillery effects is evidently one of the dramatist's additions.

    The contribution of Claes Schaar (1962) (21) was to analyse the parallelisms between Edward III Act II and Shakespearean Sonnets, especially 7, 94, 127. Like other critics Schaar has been greatly struck by identities of "scarlet ornaments" and "lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds". As long ago as 1911, Arthur Platt (19) pointed out that the reference to lilies that fester is appropriate in the sonnet, but in Edward III is irrelevant. "Scarlet ornaments" passes in the Sonnet, but applied to the cheeks of King Edward is quite ridiculous. The Sonnets were antecedent to the play, and must have been available to the Author before the publication date of 1596. Platt writes "after repeated reading of the play I feel more and more convinced that the whole of it is due to one hand alone, and that not Shakespeare."

    Schaar thinks the whole of Lodowick's description of the behaviour of King Edward bears comparison with a series of passages in canonical works (TGV, Shr, R2, 1H4). The notorious identities discussed by Platt above have their full force only in the Sonnets, and where they occur in the plays they do not ring naturally. Likewise parellel phrases in Edward III and Measure for Measure are better expressed and are more appropriate in the Shakespearean play than in the apocryphal one. The better versions are likely to be the later ones. Schaar writes "I have come to visualise the [Author] as having at his elbow a manuscript copy of Shakespeare's sonnets, or of some of them, dipping occasionally into the slender volume to appropriate an image or a phrase. [The present writer finds this imagined way of composing quite unthinkable.] If so he had access only while composing the last part of I.ii, and the first part of Act II." Sonnets 7, 33, 94, 127 and 143 were available to the [Author]. The iterative imagery in these parts of Edward III suggest Shakespeare's authentic work." Schaar concludes that if Shakespeare had a finger in the main part of Edward III, he had at least a hand in the Countess scenes.

    Koskenniemi (1964) (12) differs from the majority of critics in objecting to the tendency to divide the play into two parts, one about twice the magnitude of the smaller. He quotes both Tillyard (1944) (23) and Ribner (1957) (20) in support of the view that the Countess scenes play an integral part in the education of the King. Tillyard saw a main theme in the educatio of those that have power: in the education of the King to selfmastery, of the Black Prince to enter battle in hand to hand fighting, his education moreover through the wise words of Audley to face death with equanimity. Queen Philippe teaches the King to show mercy to hostages; and she herself is given a moral lesson in what should be a royal attitude to the exceptional bravery of a subject (Sir John Copeland). Respect for marriage and respect for an oath are inculcated in more than one episode. Numerous images are supplied to support the emotional background of these teachings: school, learning, teaching, law,justice, crime and punishment. This presentation, which is taken up again by William Armstrong (1965) (2) makes the play something of a sermon.

    Koskenniemi examines the case for other possible candidates for the Authorship, including Peele, proposed by Tucker Brooke (4). He thinks there is no similarity in imagery. He also examines the candidacy of Thomas Kyd (proposed by G. Lambrechts), but here objects that a common imagery, with striking parallels, has little evidential value, since it all comes from a stock of imagery common to and used by many dramatists of the time. Koskenniemi concludes that Shakespeare wrote at least some parts of Edward III and revised the whole. King Edward III is mentioned fifteen times in Shakespeare's history plays; and the King and the Black Prince are held up as models of military and political virtue.

    McD. P. Jackson has contributed two notes. The second (1971) (11) is of minor interest to us here: he argues that the Author's foul papers served as copy for the Quarto. In an earlier work (1965) (10), he states categorically "It is now virtually certain that Shakespeare had at least a share in the writing of Edward III", and that "there are excellent reasons for believing he wrote it all." To support this emphatic judgment he calls upon Muir and Wentersdorf to stand at his side. Jackson gives an early dating to Edward!!!. confirming Wentersdorf: about 1590.

     The debate about this play has ranged far and wide; but the conclusions of any one critic are usually taken seriously only by members of his own party. Schoenbaum (1966) (22) takes the play as a text for a sermon on the need for caution in appraising internal evidence. His dismissive resumé of the work of Alfred Hart (very generally ignored by others) amounts to little more than allowing him to show that the Author of Edward III had in common with Shakespeare "a remarkably rich vocabulary". Schoenbaum also gives some attention to image clusters, mentioning that some acceptedly Shakespearean clusters appear in the works of other writers. "No matter how promising a new test may seem, it behooves the investigator to proceed with extreme caution."

     F. R. Lapides (1966) (13) prepared a new critical edition of The Raigne of Edward III as a Rutgers Dissertation. He collected and collated his text from all available copies of the Quarto. He tries to show that in image parallels, associational clusters, vocabulary tests, Shakespeare is the only Elizabethan who could have written the play. It was written no earlier than 1588 and no later than 1592. His thesis includes a theatrical history of the play, a study of the sources, Froissart and Painter, a critical study of the plotting, of the character drawing and of the poetry. Finally he examines the efforts of the printer(s), working from Author's foul papers, and marks and discusses the variant readings. This thesis would seem to be a useful source‑book for textual criticism (which, however, is not the main focus of this paper).

    F.D. Horn (1969) (9) also produced a critical edition of the play as a dissertation for the University of Delaware. He undertook a careful image study and discovered no fewer than twelve clusters. He concludes that the play could only have been the work of Shakespeare. "Charges of faulty structure and poor characterisation are found unconvincing after close study. There is a sense of unity throughout the play, strengthened by a strong central theme. Even though this dominant theme tends to cast all Englishmen in roles as strong, prudent and generous warriors, and all Frenchmen as boastful, imprudent and ultimately craven individuals, the [Author] has created an entire play, not only of persons, but also of personalities, especially important figures such as King Edward, the Countess of Salisbury, Prince Edward, Warwick and Artois," Edward III"dramatizes the dangers of frivolous deeds and the rewards of noble behavior, and demonstrates that the appropriate response to potential tyranny is wise and understanding counsel."

    As the latest addition to the critical literature we have Georgie Melchiori's book (1976) (14) Shakespeare's Dramatic Meditations. Dealt with in depth are four of the Sonnets of most equivocal mood and many‑sided interpretation, Ss. 94, 121, 129 and 146. S.94 is held to provide the most intimate parallels with Edward III (also with Measure for Measure and Hamlet). It is the mighty who are the lords and owners of their faces, the King and not Warwick. The mighty, only apparently just, have absolute control over their outer forms.

   The others, their stewards, may be honest, like Warwick, and masters of their honour, but are in honour bound to serve the "excellence", that is to say the superior status, of their lords and masters, whatever the form their superiority may take. Meichiori thinks that S.94 (and many others) was written after and not before Edward III.

    The present writer cannot accept the line of argument and the comparisons adduced by Meichiori. Shakespeare distinguishes between the lords and masters and the "others". Those others, however honest, have a contemptible status in Shakespeare's scheme of things, and, in his view, deserve no attention at all. The first seven lines of the octave are given entirely to the dominance of those that have power; and of course the whole of Edward III is given to the supreme aim of the conquest of power. Meichiori is right in thinking and saying that Shakespeare has a highly critical attitude towards them. But they are still the only persons of consequence in his world. The masters, by having the power, and compelling their stewards, such as Warwick, to exercise it, divest themselves of responsibility, and in so escaping the consequences, become dehumanised, and "moving others are themselves as stone,/Unmoved, could and to temptation slow". But the analogy fails at many points. King Edward's blood is on fire. Temptation has such a grip on him that he has become its slave. It is made clear that King Edward tries to have at least a companion in villainy, and to move Warwick to do his business for him. The appositeness of the Sonnet to Edward III consists only in this, that the Author is completely aware of the extent to which they that have power to hurt and will do none can attain their ends by devious means.

    Many and various are the views that have been taken by scholars about Edward III. On the whole they tend to be critical and to feel that the play falls below the level of the canonical work. But there is no argreement on what the faults are. Even the phrases used in criticising it, in another context could be read as expressions of appreciation. Great attention is paid to metaphor and imagery; and industrious search is made for parallels in other works, both by Shakespeare and others. But there is no criterion of what is a parellel and what is not. If a parallel is found (e.g. "scarlet ornaments"), commonly no conclusion can be drawn on whether A borrowed from B, or B from A, or whether B and A are one and the same person. There is no agreement among the scholars on whether the play is or is not by a single author. There is no agreement on whether the play does or does not fall into two parts, the "Countess" scenes and the others, either by difference in authorship, or in time or mood of composition. It would not seem that the work of disintegration has been effectively done. In their preoccupation with poetic and dramatic values, the critics have paid but scant attention to the mind of the playwright.

    Once one does call him into view one sees the evidence of a formidable intellect. Here is a man who has constructed for himself a highly individual Weltanschauung which (for what the impression is worth), underlying both parts of the play, speaks for a single authorship. This man's view of life, informed by a wide and mature experience, is essentially realistic and pessimistic. But the vision which sees the world is guarded by distance and objectivity. There is a powerful and compassionate awareness of human suffering; but the author reserves his own integrity by personal non‑involvement. He will not permit the emotions either of his characters or of his audience to touch that ironic internal serenity. As is often the case with pessimists, there is a wry sense of humour and a grasp of the comic aspects of human pretensions, failures and absurdities. The author has not merely played with but has felt his way into the human problems of the great institutions, statecraft, kingship, war and peace. He sees them in the terms of a philosophy which, though not profound, is universal and all­embracing. In the writer's world the stage is vast; and on it, eternal and unequal protagonists, Man stands in confrontation with Destiny.[2]

    The next section of this paper will give the textual justification of these views.



[1] For this paper the Tudor Facsimile Text, cd. John S. Farmer, published in 1910, has been relied on; with reference for a modern scholarly edition to that of R. L. Armstrong in Six Early Plays Related to the Shakespeare Canon, cd. E.B. Everitt (Anglistica 14 [Copenhagen 1965] ). Bracketed numbers in the paper refer to items listed in the bibliography.

[2] "That this huge stage presentation nought but shows
Whereon the Stars in secret influence comment.” Sonnet 15



(1) Armstrong R.L. (ed.) 1965 Edward III in Six Early Plays Related to the Shakespeare Canon, E.A. Everitt (cd.). Copenhagen.

(2) Armstrong, William A. (ed.) 1966 Elizabethan History Plays. London.

(3) Bell, Mary 1959 Concordance to the Shakespeare Apocrypha. Thesis, University of Liverpool.

(4) Brooke, C.F. Tucker (cd.) 1908 The Shakespearean Apocrypha being a collection of fourteen plays which have been ascribed to Shakespeare. Oxford.

(5) Crundell, H.W. 1939 'Drayton and Edward III', Notes and Queries 176, 258‑60.

(6) Dobson, Willis B. 1957 'Edward III: a study of its composition in relation to its sources', Dissertation University of Texas, reported in Shakespeare Newsletter, May 1957, 7, 19.

(7) Golding, S. R. 1928 'The authorship of Edward III', Notes and Queries 154, 313‑315.

(8) Hart, Alfred 1934 'The vocabulary of Edward III', p.219‑224 in Shakespeare and the Homilies. Melbourne.

(9) Honr, F.D. 1969 'The Raigne of King Edward III: a critical edition. Dissertation, University of Delaware. Dissertation Abstracts 30, 2969A.

(10) Jackson, McD. P. 1965 'Edward III, Shakespeare and Pembroke's men', Notes and Queries n.s. 41, 329‑31.

(11) Jackson, McD. P. 1971 'A note on the text of Edward III', Notes and Queries 216,423‑4.

(12) Koskenniemi, I. 1964 'Themes and imagery in Edward III', Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 65, 446‑80.

(13) Lapides, F.R. 1966 'A critical edition of The Raigne of Edward III', Rutgers Dissertation. Dissertation Abstracts 27, 1788A.

(14) Melchiori, Giorgio 1976 Shakespeare's Dramatic Meditations, an Experiment in Criticism. Oxford.

(15) Muir, Kenneth 1953 'A reconsideration of Edward III', Shakespeare Survey 6, 39‑48.

(16) Muir, Kenneth 1960 and 1969 Shakespeare as Collaborator, pp. 10‑30 'Shakespeare's hand in Edward III'. London.

(17) O'Connor, Frank I.1961 Shakespeare's Progress. New York.

(18) Østerberg, V 1929 'The "Countess scenes" of Edward III', Shakespeare Jahrbuch 65, 45‑91.

(19) Platt, Arthur 1911 'Edward III and Shakespeare's Sonnets', Modern Language Review 6, 511‑13.

(20) Ribner, Irving 1957 The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare. Princeton.

(21) Schaar, Clacs 1962 Elizabethan Sonnet Themes and the Dating of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Lund.

(22) Schoenbaum, S 1966 Integral Evidence and Elizabethan Dramatic Authorship. London.

(23) Smith, Robert M 1911 'Edward III: a study of the authorship of the drama in the light of a new source', Journal of English and German Philology 10, 90‑104.

(24) Tillyard, E.M.W. 1944 Shakespeare's History Plays. London.

(25) Wentersdorf, K.P. 1960 'The authorship of Edward III', Dissertation, University of Cincinnati. Dissertation Abstracts 21, 905‑6.

(26) Wentersdorf, K.P. 1965 'The date of Edward III', Shakespeare Quarterly 16, 227‑231.