Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fulke Greville As Shakespeare's Master

The Marshall Engraving from the 1640 edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets (left, Folger Library) and Fulke Greville, painter unknown (right, NPG)

The Statesmen and Favourites of England Since the Reformation (1670) by David Lloyd quotes Fulke Greville as having stated, "I am the master of Shakespeare."

We are left to wonder what Greville meant by that, and also to mull over Greville's claim to having penned the play Anthony and Cleopatra.

In his "Prologue to Volpone" (1606) Ben Jonson claims that regarding the creation of his play Volpone

"Five weeks fully penned it--
From his own hand, without a co-adjutor,
Novice, journeyman or tutor."  (lines 16-18)

In his Shakespeare and Co., Stanley Wells conjectures on what Jonson meant by the above:
These four nouns usefully define a range of the roles that a collaborator might enact.  A coadjutor would an equal collaborator, a novice a kind of apprentice, a journeyman a hack brought i perhaps to supply a comic subplot, and a tutor a master craftsman guiding a novice.
In terms of portraits, the "master" ran the studio and finished only the more important aspects of a portrait after his disciples had filled in costume and background, etc.  The master was the overall genius who dictated style and completed the final product, what in literature would be called the final draft.

Greville, I should add, was the Recorder of Stratford Upon and a very fine poet, who wrote beautiful sonnets that bear a closer resemblance to Shakespeare's than any other poems I've come across.  A.W.L. Saunders recently published a book (I've not read yet) called Shakespeare's Master arguing that Greville wrote the works of Shakespeare.  I'd like to get my hands on the book.  Sir Derek Jacobi blurbs it and seems greatly impressed.  Regardless of who did or didn't write Shakespeare, Greville appears to be a remarkable courtier.

1 comment:

  1. Have you been able to get hold of a copy of Saunders' book yet? I've only started looking, but it seems quite rare.

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