The Apocryphal William Shakespeare:
Episode 4 with Sabrina Feldman

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What is your favorite Shakespeare play?

Locrine? maybe The London Prodigall? Or perhaps the superhit Mucedorus, reprinted in at least 17 quarto editions, more than any other extant play of the era.

These dramas and more are part of the “Shakespeare Apocrypha,” works that were attributed to William Shakespeare during the 17th century, in several cases during the Stratford man’s lifetime.

In this episode, Allan Armstrong interviews Dr. Sabrina Feldman, author of The Apocryphal William Shakespeare, to discover the story behind these intriguing but nearly-forgotten plays that have been kicked out of the Shakespeare Canon.

Once renowned crowd-pleasers, works like The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, Mucedorus, Fair Em, and The Troublesome Reign of King John now exist on the fringes of early modern drama. Scholars have largely ignored these works because they are considered vastly inferior to the accepted Shakespeare plays. Yet many were published with William Shakespeare’s name or initials on their title pages, and a half-dozen of them were included in the 1664 Third Folio of Shakespeare’s works.

Who wrote the Shakespeare Apocrypha? And how do we explain the close ties between some of these plays and the works universally accepted as Shakespeare’s?

In this podcast, we’ll hear excerpts from these plays that provide a taste of the distinctive and highly entertaining qualities that made them wildly popular in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

The Conversation Continues

Part 2  Poet Ape: A Plagiarist Among the Playwrights

Recommended Reading

Books and articles for further exploration:

 

Sabrina Feldman manages the Planetary Science Instrument Development Office at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Born and raised in Riverside, California, she attended college and graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley, where she enjoyed the wonderful performances of the Berkeley Shakespeare Company, studied Shakespeare’s works for a semester with Professor Stephen Booth, and received a Ph.D. in experimental physics in 1996. She has worked on many different instrument development projects for NASA, and is the former deputy director of JPL’s Center for Life Detection. Her scientific training, combined with a lifelong love of literature and all things Shakespearean, gives her a unique perspective on the Shakespeare authorship mystery. Dr. Feldman lives in Pasadena, California with her husband and two children.

Special thanks to actors Mark Anders, Chris Ensweiler, Leslie Law, David Anthony Lewis, Hannah Mootz, and Mark Waldstein.

 

Third Folio Title Page
Title page of the Shakespeare Third Folio (1664), which added Pericles and six apocryphal plays to the works published in the First Folio.
The Birth of Merlin, or, The Child Hath Found his Father. A lowbrow comedy published in 1662 as a co-authored work by William Rowley and Shakespeare.
Scene from A Yorkshire Tragedy, as staged by Icabod Productions (Yorkshire, UK) in 2005. Photograph by Robert Booker; Jamie Smelt as Walter Calverley; Lisa Druett as Phillipa Calverley
The Shakespeare Society of America produced many apocryphal plays, including Sir John Oldcastle.