Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Book Review • SHAKESPEARE AND CO. by Stanley Wells • 2007

Shakespeare and Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher and the Other Players in His Story

shakespeareandco

In the 1616 Folio of Ben Jonson’s Workes, published seven years before the more famous Folio of Shakespeare, Jonson adds to his flamboyant title-page a Latin motto:

Neque me ut miretur turba, laboro;
Contentus paucis lectoribus –

Adapted from the Latin poet Horace, this motto claims that Jonson doesn’t ‘work to be gaped at by the mob, but am happy with a few readers.’ The latest venture by the eminent Shakespearean scholar Stanley Wells, newly published by Penguin Books under the title Shakespeare and Co., is certainly not restricted to enjoyment by a few erudite readers.

Wells has written an exciting and adventurous book which clearly examines the nature and times of his favourite writer. This wonderfully readable book explores not just the life and writings of the nation’s ‘Bard’, but uncovers the many and diverse playwrights who were contemporaries and near-contemporaries to the Stratford lad, and who influenced or were influenced by his writings – as Wells defines them, ‘the other players in [Shakespeare’s] story’.

Wells presents in an easily-understood style a glorious evocation of the ‘collaborative’ nature of early modern drama. Calling upon over a century of historical and literary research, he translates the stuff of cold historical fact and conjecture into a ready narrative. In so doing, Wells presents us with characters which, for many theatregoers of today, would be names lost in the obscurity of time. When Shakespeare was writing, these same names – Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher, John Webster – would attract their audiences at the numerous playhouses dotted around London and its suburbs.

These were glamorous, radical individuals, who fought duels, fought in wars, and fought each other for the love of women, men and boys, whilst at the same time writing topical, occasionally notorious, and immensely popular drama. Wells brings these playwrights’ lives to life and in the process adds so much to our appreciation of the author’s obvious hero, William Shakespeare.

Time and again, we are presented with textual echoes from Shakespeare, or even times when Shakespeare has blatantly copied someone else’s style or content. Time and again, the fascinating and troubling history of the time inevitably filters through into the writing of drama. These were people at the cutting edge of the nation’s cultural history.

In recent years, companies such as the RSC at Stratford and the Globe in London have revived these obscure playwrights. We have marvelled at Jonson’s Sejanus, guffawed at George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston’s Eastward Ho!, or sat back in amazement at John Webster’s Duchess of Malfi. With Wells’s excellent narrative flair, we are led easily and concisely through the history of these and other late Elizabethan and early Jacobean plays, understanding how they fit into our own national heritage with no less importance than the great writings of Shakespeare.

With all the rhetorical skill which this eminent academic can muster, this book will please both lay reader and scholar alike. The most up-to-date opinions on sources and collaborations, combined with illuminating examples of primary textual material, aid our understanding and further our understanding and awareness of an age lost in the mists of time.

Having read Shakespeare and Co., I feel as though I have been mixing in the smelly realms of the South London playhouses, being jostled by pickpockets and ladies of ill repute, watching expensively-clad gallants strut about on stage, vying for the audiences’ attention with the equally well-clad actors. I have tasted the beer and choked on the stench of the nearby bear-baiting arenas. I have settled in a water ferry, shouted ‘northward ho!’ back home across the Thames. I have listened to the crackle of thatch as a fire catches hold at the Globe, as women and children run screaming and as drunken louts fling their beer-bottles into the flames. I have watched a beautiful boy pretending to be a beautiful girl pretending to be a beautiful boy. All this and more is brought to life in the pages of Shakespeare and Co. Utterly enchanting.

Kevin Quarmby © 2007

Originally published on R&V 07-08-07

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ace News Desk

This site has been designed to provide reports together with news events as they happen when they happen across the world

Dave Plummer Saxophonist

Wedding & Events Saxophonist - Leicestershire and Hampshire

writerchristophfischer

Books, Reviews and bookish thoughts

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Creative writing and art by Charlotte Begg

Mallory James

Writer - Author - Historian

Act Professional

A How-To Guide for Actors from Someone Who Has No Idea What She's Doing

Iris Theatre

Supporting the next generation of professional theatre practitioners

thekeystonegirlblogs

The site for 'Madcap Mabel' - Mabel Normand

AADD-UK

The site for and by adults with ADHD

Scandalous Women

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The Naptime Author

Anne Clare explores the world of writing, one stolen minute at a time.

FRENCH PAINTERS

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHY

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

ART BLOG

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Woman the fuck up

Hear me roar. Writer, mother, actress, maker of beautiful things, witch. Not taking any more shit and neither should you.

solentaviatrix

Dedicated to Women Pilots of the Solent

cardboardcities

illustration, colour, fashion + lifestyle blog UK

Colossal

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Improbability Archivist

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, Doctor Who,

WCH On This Day

Working Class History anniversaries every day

janetbotanics

Yoga classes and aromatherapy products in Andalusia, Spain.

1stangel.co.uk/loisbryanphotography/

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

History And Other Thoughts

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

THE VIRTUAL VICTORIAN

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl

The everyday adventures of the staff & students of Old College

juxtaposed

Subject to change.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Women of History

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Jon Danzig's World

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

The pallet Junkie

Hand crafted furniture

Dreaming Reality

If Existence is a dream, let us dream perfection....

victimfocus

Exploring best practice and research in sexual violence. A loud voice in the fight against victim blaming. Written and Managed by Jessica Eaton, Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology

Teagan's Books

Now available: "Murder at the Bijou - Three Ingredients I"

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland

The History Woman's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Art by Jess Miller

sculpture and artwork

Cooking on a Bootstrap

The #1 budget recipe website

surprise saffron

relishing in life's surprises, delighting in food, travel, art

Wish I Were Here

Journeys Through Place and Time

Doron Art

A journey into my world of Painting

Taylor Revert

An anything-and-everything blog from life's number one fan

Random Facts in History

History is complex, massive, and full of strange events and coincidences. Learn with me as I hunt those out and bring them into the light.

Life with an Illness

Sharing my chronic illness journey, while helping others. I spread awareness, love, and positivity along the way!♡

%d bloggers like this: