Another angle on Shakespeare's works. Was he a plagiarist?

An article by Robert McCrum of the Observer states :

In 1593 Robert Greene, a prominent playwright and braggart, the author of Orlando Furioso and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, was dying in penury at the age of 32. But before his inevitable rendezvous with the churchyard near Bedlam, in Bromley, Kent, he dashed off a pamphlet, A Groat's-worth of Wit Bought With A Million of Repentance, in which he settled some old scores.

Having accused Christopher Marlowe of atheism, Greene then turned his attention to the literary jack-of-all-trades whose outrageous success really stuck in his throat. This "rude groom" was not merely too full of himself ("in his conceit, the only Shake-scene in the country"), he was a provincial arriviste and inveterate plagiarist, "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers".

This denunciation of young William Shakespeare was a deranged polemic by a dying man, but actually it was not so far from the mark. If all writers are pickpockets, then Shakespeare was an inveterate "snapper-up of unconsidered trifles", like Autolycus in The Winter's Tale.

He swiped the best bits of Antony and Cleopatra (notably "The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne/Burned on the water…") direct from Plutarch, and took 4,144 out of 6,033 lines in Parts I, II and III of Henry VI verbatim or in paraphrase from other authors.

Apart from A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night, the plots for all his plays were ruthlessly appropriated from other, often classical, sources.

There is evidence that Shakespeare was wounded by Greene's attack, but his heirs blithely followed his example.

Milton cribbed from Masenius. Later, Laurence Sterne cribbed from Robert Burton, Samuel Coleridge from Schelling, and TS Eliot from all and sundry (in The Waste Land). JRR Tolkien borrowed heavily from the Norse sagas.

Read the FULL story at the Guardian Online >

Follow this link to another defence of William Shakespeare's authorship >

The First Shakespeare Theatre Uncovered >   The Plot >

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