[CHWP Titles] [CHWP 2008]

The Shakespeare Apocrypha in the Time of Google

José Luis Madrigal

Graduate Center, City University of New York

Jmadrigal@gc.cuny.edu |||| http://dialnet.unirioja.es/servlet/extaut?codigo=74011 |||| About the author

CHWP A.40 , publ. March 2008. © Editors of CHWP 2008.

[Abstract / Résumé]

KEYWORDS / MOTS-CLÉS: Shakespeare Apocrypha, idiolect, Linguistic individuation, stylometry / Les textes apocryphes de Shakespeare, idiolecte, individuation linguistique, stylométrie

section 1. Introduction
  2. Linguistic individuation
  3. The Yorkshire Tragedy (AYT)
  4. The Life and Death of Lord Thomas Cromwell
  5. The London Prodigal (LP)
  6. The Puritan Widow
  7. Conclusion
8. Notes

  1. Introduction

Practically no issue in Shakespeare studies has been settled, but if I had to choose one in which there is a fair degree of consensus, it would be the widespread opinion among scholars that the First Folio published in 1623 constitutes the bulk of Shakespeare’s canon, while those plays published under his name before and after his death, but not included in the first collection, must be regarded as spurious, with the exception of Pericles. In fact, the textual authority bestowed on the First Folio since the eighteenth century, as well as the decision to dump the rest of the excluded plays into the bin of “Shakespeare Apocrypha”, has attracted little dissent. For years reputed scholars have argued that some canonical plays may have been written in collaboration, but as far as I know very few have challenged the prevailing view about the apocryphal plays. This apparent inertia can be explained in part by the persistent bardolatry in Shakespeare scholarship initiated about three hundred years ago and still much in vogue. It is not a coincidence that all Shakespeare’s plays suspected of being written in collaboration seem to be the least interesting too. Scholars involved in this kind of research will never confess it, of course, but in most cases their ultimate goal is to prove that the Bard, unlike Homer, never slept or even took a little nap. Critical taste, though, is fickle. What is gross and tasteless in one period is viewed by the next as the epitome of truth in art. Andre Gide in1946 still thought of King Lear as “forced, arbitrary… gigantically factitious”1, while 60 years later most of us would not hesitate to rank it as the greatest of all Shakespearean tragedies. No apocryphal play will surely enjoy such a turn of fortune, but let us hope that the authorship issue concerning these plays will no longer depend on critical taste, but on sound and exhaustive textual examination. The approach should be clear. If a play has Shakespeare’s name on the title page of a quarto published in his lifetime and was acted by his own company, only strong internal evidence should overturn its authorship. Unfortunately, the opposite has been the case. A few personal impressions written by prominent scholars a long time ago and some stylometric analyses carried out more recently have been sufficient ground to remove Shakespeare’s name from a number of plays known and accepted throughout the seventeenth century as his works. A thorough revision, thus, is long overdue. But first I would like to clarify a few fundamental concepts about linguistic individuation.

  1. Linguistic individuation

We all feel that every writer has a unique way of saying things, but if we try to point out what is unique about it, we end up describing features common to many. Another puzzling aspect about language production is that every writer shares all words with his community, but every single piece of his writing is unique. The degree of uniqueness is truly remarkable. No matter how derivative a text is, its singularity is even greater, unless the text is a crude imitation or its author at one point decided to engage in plagiarism. We can prove this fact easily. Pick up any text out of the 20 billion documents posted in the web, select a ten-word combination at random, and search on Google for documents matching that word string. The chances are that the chosen sequence will appear solely in documents related to that text. Try again with, say, Richard III, but now, instead of a 10 word-string, select shorter phrases in a two-set combination, like “give me a watch” and “weary sun” (5, 3, 71)2. You will see that Google mostly indexes documents related to this play. Repeat the operation as many times as you like. My bet is that nine out of ten times you will find only documents related to Richard III; and in the few instances that you do not, the texts will be somewhat close to Shakespeare. I will illustrate this with another example. Right before “give me a watch”, King Richard says, “fill me a bowl of wine”. A variant with the verb “give”, instead of “fill”, appears twice in the Shakespearean corpus: one a few verses below in the same scene (Richard III, 5, 3, 80) and a second time in Julius Caesar (4, 3, 181). But the exact equivalence, “fill me a bowl of wine”, exists exclusively in Richard III and A Yorkshire Tragedy. Later, I will thoroughly examine this coincidence with the apocryphal play, but now let me reflect on this particular phenomenon.

We repeat words and expressions as we speak or write, but the degree of repetition decreases as the number of words in a particular utterance increases. The longer the utterance, the lower the chances for this utterance to repeat. And vice versa: the shorter the word-string uttered, the higher will the degree of occurrence normally be, except for rare word combinations. All this seems pretty obvious. What was not so obvious until the advent of the Web is that:

  1. The repeated matches of common word-strings occur mostly among documents generated by members of a particular linguistic community.

  2. The repeated matches of rare word-strings occur mostly (if not always) among documents generated by one source and/or a very restricted circle of speakers.

  3. The repeated matches of very rare or unique word-strings occur solely among documents generated by one source.

Random word-combination is almost non-existent at the core of language production. We are conditioned by grammar rules, but especially by external and internal linguistic habits that we can hardly control. Whether we speak or write, word strings pop up inadvertently as we form utterances. We may alter these word-strings, we may substitute them, we may at times create new ones, but whatever we do, we are doomed to combine word-strings previously recorded in our brain. Speaking is recalling. Every speech echoes other speech. Every voice echoes other voices. But the most persistent echo that we hear is, of course, the echo of our own voice. As David Hume would put it, individuation is characterized by invariability through time3. But then, what is invariable about one’s language? Well, forget about style markers or syntactic structures, because style and syntax adapt and change according to topic and genre. Forget also about frequencies in function words or in sentence length distributions, as these features are even more prone to change under different circumstances. Linguistic individuation, it seems, manifests itself in a more subtle and until now almost impossible way to trace: not by how often a speaker repeats a set of particular words or verbal patterns, but rather by the particular way in which that speaker repeatedly uses and reuses a whole myriad of formulas, fixed expressions and free word combinations stored in his or her brain. This simple phenomenon is, in my opinion, the clue for linguistic identification. To be sure, people share a large stock of common expressions with their linguistic community, but the differentiating factor lies in the fact that while we all tend to repeat what we hear, nobody will ever repeat so much, so often, and so consistently as we do in regard to what we have already said or written in the past4.

Verbal repetition, though, consists mainly of short word sequences. A long utterance rarely occurs twice, unless there is a conscious effort to reproduce it again or it is an idiom, whereas short word-strings occur constantly in everyone’s speech. Most of these strings are common, but every writer will have scattered through his texts a significant amount of rare word combinations with few or no matches outside his corpus. Until now, of course, it was very difficult to establish the degree of rarity or uniqueness, but search engines like Google have mainly solved the problem in a dramatic way as we can determine now in a split second how many matches are found in the Web for any given sequence. If we go back to the sentence “fill me a bowl of wine”, we can at once see that “fill me” appears in more than two million documents and “a bowl of wine” in about 11,000, but the full sentence “fill me a bowl of wine” is found solely in 113 documents, all belonging to Richard III and A Yorkshire Tragedy, while the variant “give me a bowl of wine” is found in just 314 matches, most again in documents belonging to Richard III and Julius Caesar, but also in A Fair Quarrel by Thomas Middleton and Rowley. This simple operation shows that apparent common utterances are not so common after all. Actually, as soon as we begin to collate sentences and short word-strings between a targeted text and all the other texts produced by the source of that text, we are struck by the high number of occurring matches of short word-strings. In Richard the Third’s passage that includes “fill me a bowl of wine” (Act V, Scene 3, verses 67-73), we observe these matches with the Shakespearean corpus:

Send out a pursuivant at arms To Stanley's regiment

send for his master with a pursuivant presently (Henry VI, Second Part, 1, 3, 18)

bid him bring his power Before sunrising

Lord Stanley, bid him bring his power (Richard III, 5, 3, 318)

bid him bring his pen (Much Ado, 3, 5, v 30)

Fill me a bowl of wine

Give me a bowl of wine (Richard III, 5, 3, 80; Julius Caesar, 4, 3, 175)

lest his son George fall Into the blind cave of eternal night

lest his ungovern'd rage dissolve the life (King Lear, 4, 4, 22)

And let her head fall into England's lap (I Henry VI, 5, 3, 29)

Give me a watch. Saddle white Surrey

            Give me my boots, I say; saddle my horse (Richard II, 5, 2, 86)

Look that my staves be sound

Look that you bind them fast (Titus Andronicus, 5, 2, 172)

None of these word-string matches is exclusive to Shakespeare, even if some are rare, but the cumulative effect confirms the principle of word-string repetition within every speaker’s idiolect. Also, we can see at a glance how difficult it is to get a match of two rare word-strings in two unrelated texts, like, for example, “me a bowl of wine” and “bid him bring his”. A search on Google indexes 106 documents, all belonging to Richard III. More examples could be added, but for the time being the example just presented illustrates well the following points:

  1. Every speaker forms sentences by combining a limited set of word-strings.

  2. These word-strings are used and reused by the speaker without any real awareness of previous occurrences unless used in the same text or within a very short period of time.

  3. The degree of verbal matches between a text and a set of texts produced by the same source is usually higher than between that same text and any other set of texts, as long as the size of the corpora is reasonably large and the subject matter somehow related.

  4. Most word-strings are common to the linguistic community, but a fair amount of them are rare and sometimes unique to one source.

  5. No two texts or sets of texts will share a significant number of rare word-strings unless they are produced by the same source.

  6. Recurring word-strings are somewhat conditioned by time, topic, and situation, but they may pop up at any time during the speaker’s lifetime.

If all these six principles are true, we can rest assured that all plays attributed to Shakespeare, whether published in the first Folio or in quartos, will immediately reveal their identity. The conditions are most favorable. We have a large corpus that includes 36 plays and we can carry out the negative check on a gigantic scale thanks to Google. I will focus my research on four apocryphal plays: A Yorkshire Tragedy, The London Prodigal, Cromwell, and The Puritan, since all were published in quartos with Shakespeare’s name on the title page and at least three were acted by the King’s Men.

  1. The Yorkshire Tragedy (AYT)

This play is by all accounts the one in The Shakespeare Apocrypha that contains the most powerful external evidence in favor of Shakespeare’s authorship. It was entered in the Stationers’ Register as written by William Shakespeare on May 2, 1608, and the same year appeared in a quarto with his name at full length on the title page. There was a second edition in 1619 and again it bore Shakespeare’s name. Also, the edition of 1608 specifies in the title page that “the Majesties Players” acted the play “at the Globe”. Against these facts, doubters have pointed out that:

  1. the printer of the 1608 quarto, Thomas Pavier, published, too, Sir John Oldcastle as a Shakespeare play, but we now know that it was written in collaboration by three different playwrights.

  2. Heminge and Condell, editors of the First Folio, would have never excluded AYT had it been written by Shakespeare, as they were friends and peers of his and, more important, belonged to the King’s Men, the company who acted the play.

The first argument must be discarded at once since Pavier also issued Henry V in 1602 and 1608, and Henry V is indisputably a play written by Shakespeare. As for the absence of AYT from the First Folio, various reasons other than different authorship can be given. Ben Jonson edited his own complete works in 1616 and surprisingly left out several plays written by him. We cannot forget either that AYT is a one-act play with less than 7,000 words, far shorter than the shortest play in the First Folio, so it is a real possibility that the editors of the First Folio regarded AYT as a minor work unworthy of being part of the collection. The internal evidence against Shakespeare’s authorship of AYT has rested on three main aspects: versification, linguistic preferences and contractions. But none of this evidence is by any means conclusive. Metrical evidence, in my opinion, is quite irrelevant. As for contractions and linguistic preferences, the problem is that we do not have foul papers, but printing texts so it is impossible to discern the degree of scribal and compositorial intervention. Who can assure us that the overwhelming presence of, say, “has” instead of “hath” in AYT reflects scribal rather than authorial preferences? I think that Duncan-Jones was quite right when she said that the positive evidence of AYT “has been seriously understated by twentieth century scholars” (112). She did not elaborate much, but she presented a verbal parallelism between King Lear and AYT that is more significant than most of the negative internal evidence provided by other scholars through the years:


King Lear

Unnatural, flinty, more than barbarous:

The Scythians or the marble-hearted fates Could not have acted more remorseless deeds In their relentless natures, then these of thine…

The barbarous Scythian, Or he that makes his generation messes To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and reliev'd, As thou my sometime daughter. (1, 1, 103-107)

Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend (1, 4, 173)

The content of this analogy in both texts is very similar and some of the word-strings are identical. As Duncan-Jones points out, “marble-hearted” has no equivalent in the whole Chadwyck-Healey database (LION), and, for that matter, in the whole Web. The only explanation, other than same authorship, is influence, but King Lear was written at least two years later than AYT, so these phrases “would have to be, not echoes of Lear, but anticipations of it” (Duncan-Jones, 212). I would also add that the adjectives “flint” and “remorseless” are paired together in a passage of The Third Part of Henry VI in which a character also unleashes a tirade of disqualifications:

Thou stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless.

Bid'st thou me rage? (I, 4, 145)

It would be naïve, of course, to ignore that writers, and especially playwrights, borrow all sort of images and formulas from each other, but I find it highly unlikely to imagine that somebody other than Shakespeare could use these two adjectives in an analogous context along with the verbal parallelisms already mentioned by Duncan-Jones. In fact, the phenomenon just witnessed in which rare word-strings are found both in a specific passage and scattered over a given corpus is almost always an indication of authorship. More examples will prove both this principle and the case for Shakespeare as the main author of AYT.

The first scene of AYT starts with these words:

Oliver.- Sirrah Ralph, my young Mistress is in such a pitiful passionate humor for the long absence of her love.

Ralph.- Why, can you blame her? Why, apples hanging longer on the tree then when they are ripe makes so many fallings; viz., Mad wenches, because they are not gathered in time, are fain to drop of them selves, and then tis Common you know for every man to take em up.

If we collate this 70-word passage against the Shakespearean corpus we have roughly a first set of three 4-string-words and two other sets, each including seven units of three and two word-strings:


because they are not

can you blame her?

to take (th)em up


my young Mistress

in such a

on the tree

then when they

are fain to

of her love

for every man


passionate humor

long absence

mad wenches

so many

tis Common

to drop

you know

The Shakespearean corpus is large, so it is not a surprise to find word-combination matches with another contemporary play. However, the high amount found in this sample is a clear sign of close proximity. The question, of course, is to figure out how many matches are needed to confirm an authorship. In general, the best way consists of gathering rare word-strings and checking if there are other contemporary authors who share them. In this sample, “passionate humor” registers fewer than 1000 instances on Google, while “mad wenches” has 1,860 and “my young mistress” over 10,000. No text in the Web but AYT and the Shakespeare corpus includes more than one together. If we combine each one with the discriminator “wilt”, these are the contemporary plays indexed by Google:

passionate humor” wilt

W. S., Richard III

Thomas Lodge, Rosalynde

mad wenches” wilt

W.S., Love’s Labour’s Lost

John Lyly, Sapho and Phao

my young mistress” wilt

W.S, Othello

W.S., Hamlet

Att. W.S, The London Prodigal

George Wilkins, The Miseries of Enforced Marriage

Thomas Middleton, The Phoenix

It can be argued that the reason why Shakespeare outnumbers all other dramatists is because no corpus in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama is half the size of Shakespeare’s, so I will focus this time on very rare word-strings shared by AYT and Shakespeare, but not by any other contemporary playwright. Below I include a short list of parallelisms:

should catch cold and

if a should catch cold and get the Cough (AYT)

lest the bargain should catch cold and starve (Cymbelline, 1, 4, 52-56)

swear thou art

I'll swear thou art (AYT)

double damn'd: Swear thou art honest (Othello, 4, 2, 48)

upon the left hand of

she'd run upon the left hand of her wit (AYT)

Upon the left hand of the even field (Julius Caesar, 5, 1, 21)

ere he dies

proves a rich man ere he dies (AYT)

in this age his own tomb ere he dies (Much Ado, 5, 2, 24-28)

look it be done

Look it be done: shall I want dust (AYT)

I say, look it be done! (AYT)

dismiss your attendant there: look it be done (Othello 4, 3, 10)

stain the honour

Your self to stain the honour of your wife (AYT)

Flight cannot stain the honour you have won (First Part of Henry VI, 4, 5, 28)

plain and right

No, plain and right. (AYT)

Then plain and right must my possession be (Henry IV, II, 4, 5, 230)

had small reason

You had small reason, knowing his abuse (AYT)

methinks Samson had small reason for it. (Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1, 2, 54-56)

do not fright

Pray, do not fright me, sir (AYT)

Nay, do not fright us with an angry look (Second Part of Henry VI, 5, 1, 133)

vouchsafe me hearing

but vouchsafe me hearing (AYT)

If you vouchsafe me hearing and respect (First Part of Henry IV, 4, 3, 39)

thou politick

Thou pollitick whore (AYT)

With silence, Nephew, be thou pollitick (First Part of Henry VI, 2, 5, 104)

make me afeard

Puh, you cannot make me afeard with this (AYT)

this is a knavery of them to make me afeard (Midsummer Night’s Dream 3, 1, 59)

We should not belittle these verbal parallelisms, especially when each has few instances in the Web and none appears in other contemporary plays. They do not occur in a vacuum either. Most parallelisms, if not all, are surrounded by other word-strings shared also by Shakespeare. Take, for example, “swear thou art”. If we read the whole passage in AYT5, we find up to eight string-words with their exact match in the Shakespeare corpus:

swear thou art

Thou mayest

when thou wilt

many a one

I can tell thee

a rich man

ere he dies

what's the news from

Thou mayest”, “when thou wilt”, “I can tell thee”, “many a one” are common, but “ere he dies” and “what’s the news from” are less so, and in any case the odds against somebody other than Shakespeare writing in one paragraph all these word combinations without any relation to him are really huge.

I do not intend to cram this paper with too many examples, but I would like to analyze a few more passages just to make sure that the rate of word-string repetition between AYT and the Shakespeare corpus remains constant throughout the text. This list of word-strings belongs to a passage in Scene III6:

do not fright

(Second Part of Henry VI, 5, 1, 133)

vouchsafe me hearing

(First Part of Henry IV, 4, 3, 39)

in pity of

(First Part Henry VI, King Lear, Venus and Adonis)

worth and credit

(Measure for Measure, 5, 1, 269)

The first two word-strings are very rare indeed. “Do not fright” has no match in any contemporary play, while “vouchsafe me hearing” has no match in the entire Web outside documents attached to AYT and The First Part of Henry IV. This in itself is an author’s signature, but other word-strings, like “in pity of” and “worth and credit”, add a nice flourish to it.

The sentence “thou chidst me", as spelt in AYT, has only 16 matches in the Web, all related to our text and Romeo and Juliet. The more modernized spelling, “thou chid’st me”, obtains 194 matches, but again all documents indexed by Google refer to AYT, Romeo and Juliet and Richard II. If we examine the whole passage, we find, once more, identical word-strings with the Shakespearean corpus:

Chide me? (AYT)

Chide me no more (Coriolanus, 3, 2, 161)

let it not move me (AYT)

prayers would move me (Julius Caesar, 3, 1, 67)

for if thou chidst me angry, I shall strike (AYT)

for if thou dost him any slight disgrace, he will practise against thee by poison (As you like it, 1, 1)

thou chidst me angry (AYT)

thou chid'st me well (Richard II, 3, 2)

thou chid'st me oft for loving Rosaline (Romeo and Juliet, 2, 3)

I shall strike (AYT)

and they shall strike Your children (Richard II, 3, 3, 93)

The very rare utterance “Look it be done”, is found exclusively in AYT and Othello, and is followed in our text by other quite remarkable verbal parallels:

Wear nothing in my pockets but my hands (AYT)

now wear nothing but high shoes, and bunches of keys (Henry IV)

Oh much against my blood! (AYT)

it goes much against my stomach (As you Like It, 3, 2, 14)

Oh much against my blood! Let it be done (AYT)

No more talking on't; let it be done (Coriolanus, 1, 1, 10)

I was never made to be a looker on (AYT)

Made me a looker-on here in Vienna (Measure for Measure, 5, 1, 333)

a bawd to dice (AYT)

France is a bawd to Fortune and King John (King John, 3, 1, 62)

And made em yield (AYT)

I'll make him yield the crown (Second Part of Heny VI, 1, 1, 247)

So far I have being dealing with verbal parallels and rare word-strings, but we can be more methodical. If we select adverbs ending in –ly, AYT shares them all with the Shakespeare corpus, except sullenly and wretchedly. No other playwright comes close. Middleton, seen by some scholars as AYT’s author7, misses at least four: sorely, roughly, ungodly, and proudly. Obviously Middleton’s corpus is smaller in size, but I would guess that if Shakespeare had nothing to do with AYT, the rate of coincidence would be lower. A further Key Word In Context (KWIC) concordance test carried out with all these adverbs produces the following matches in Shakespeare and Middleton corpora:



as freely

a deadly

as perfectly

fairly promise(d)

love dearly

nobly descended

fully satisfied

as familiarly as

as familiarly as

lovely boy(s)

a deadly

Similar results are found with the common prefix un-. Shakespeare shares all but two (unkild and unmurdered), while Middleton misses these two, plus ungodly, unshaped, and unrelenting. Another approach is to choose all occurrences of very common words in the targeted text, make a (KWIC) concordance test with the Shakespearean corpus, and see the length and the frequency rate of the resulting combinations. I include below the results of all those sequences found with fewer than 1000 instances on Google around the word “thou”:



thou pollitick


thou shalt not live to


swear thou art


thou chidst me


now thou and I


I think thou wilt


Dost thou put


thou sayest true


thou consent


thou prevent


I carried out similar tests between other contemporary plays and the Shakespeare corpus and the results were irrelevant, except with two plays by Middleton: The Witch and The Phoenix. The Witch, in particular, showed an analogous number of rare word combinations shared with Shakespeare:

The Witch v WS


If thou desir'st to


thou canst not guess


thou got'st


Art thou yet so


Thou wouldst speak


whate'er thou art


hast thou met


till thou canst


thou told'st me


This latest test means two things: 1) that The Witch is very close to Shakespeare, and 2) that this kind of test can serve as a discriminator but it is not conclusive, since two or more members of a close circle of writers can show a similar range of rare combinations around commonly recurring words. I will supply, though, a silver bullet. The word “sweet” appears in four adjective-noun combinations in AYT:

sweet babe

sweet husband

sweet boy

sweet blood

Apparently none seems to be exceptional, but if we search on Google for documents sharing these four combinations together, we find instances solely in AYT and the Shakespeare canon; if we limit the search to “sweet blood” and “sweet boy”, then the only documents found are Titus Andronicus and AYT.

A computer-assisted KWIC program enhances enormously our capacity to discriminate and discover resemblances, but a careful reading of the text can help us detect the presence of Shakespeare in AYT, too. In the first part of the Sonnets, the poet reminds a younger man not to waste his time and instead beget a descendant. Among the metaphors and images, Sonnet 6 uses the common analogy of summer and winter in reference to youth and old age, but the way the poet expresses the ravages of time brings to mind a passage in AYT:


Sonnet 6

Follies in thee begin now to deface

The spring time of thy youth did fairly promise

Such a most fruitful summer to thy friends

Then let not winter's ragged hand deface,

In thee thy summer ere thou be distilled (6.1-2)

The same gentleman who is about to “chide” the Husband for his dissipate conduct says: “Well or ill met, I care not”, which has this parallel in another sonnet: “For what care I who calls me well or ill”(112.3).

Shakespeare’s linguistic stamp throughout the AYT text is unquestionable. The amount of rare and sometimes unique verbal parallels does not leave room for any other viable alternative, especially when the name “William Shakespeare” is in full display on the title page of the 1608 quarto. Middleton may have had a part in the composition, but my impression is that his collaborating input was minor. I do not give much importance to specific linguistic preferences, because, as I already said, we have no idea how the text was transmitted from the writer’s foul papers to the printing quarto. I do not ignore that the oath “puh”, for instance, is absent in Shakespeare, while relatively common in Middleton, but without ruling out the possibility of a second hand in AYT, I am more inclined to interpret this anomaly as a case of textual corruption rather than authorial preference. As for the verbal parallels between Middleton and AYT provided by Holdsworth8, I must say that I do not find them, for the most part, significant except in a couple of instances. Some examples, I must say, are really weak. He compares, at the outset, a passage of AYT with several Middleton plays:



[Enters a servant very hastily.]

What the devil? how now? thy hasty news?

[To his man.]


May it please you, sir--

[Servant in a fear.]

Why now master Gumwater? What’s the newes with your hast?

Gum. I have a thing to tell your worship (A Mad World, My Masters)

How now, what’s the newes thou art come so hastily? (The Phoenix)

What haste comes here now?… what’s the news? (A Trick to Catch…)

How now, what’s the news? (The Puritan)

Holdsworth claims that the collocation of “haste, what, how now or now, and news links these (Middleton’s) speeches very firmly to the passage in AYT” (3), but frankly I find the linkage rather loose in each case. If I have to look for stock expressions, I would rather note these parallelisms found between the Shakespearean corpus and AYT:

Enters a servant very hastily (AYT)

Enter a messenger, hastily (Coriolanus, 1, 1)

What the devil? how now? thy hasty news? (AYT)

What the devil hast thou brought there-apple-johns? (Henry IV, II, 2, 4, 2)

How now? thy hasty news? (AYT)

How now? Where's your master? (All’s Well that Ends Well, 4, 1, 31)

thy hasty news? (AYT)

his hasty words (The Taming of the Shrew, 4, 3, 161)

teach thy hasty spleen (King John, 4, 3, 106)

May it please you, sir9 (AYT)

May it please you, lords (Richard II, 4, 1, 159)

May it please you, noble madam (Henry VIII, 3, 1, 23)

May it please you, madam (All’s Well that Ends Well, 1, 3, 26)

May it please you, My grandsire (Titus Andronicus, 4, 2)

may it please you, Don Alphonso (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1, 3, 42)

A Google search including “may it please you” and “how now” finds mostly documents of Shakespeare’s plays (Richard III, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen, Henry VIII), but also The Witch by Middleton and The Puritan. The defenders of Middleton as author of AYT may regard this last instance as a vindication of their case, but I see it rather as a confirmation of how influenced Middleton was by his older and more celebrated colleague. Holdsworth seems to forget this fact, piling up expressions as typical of Middleton when a simple negative check would have shown that the author whose name is on the title page of AYT uses most of them too. I will just list a few: “Thou sayest true”, “neither of either”, “as familiarly as”, “He is gone, he is gone”, “stand and crouch”, “draws his dagger”, “there it goes”, “I do not think but”. “I will not bate”. It is interesting to notice that this last sentence appears in All Well’s that Ends Well, but also in the apocryphal play Cromwell. Holdsworth’s equivalent, “I bate in courage”, taken from The Revenger’s Tragedy, pales in comparison. I would like to point out, too, that some scholars attribute the Revenger’s Tragedy to Middleton, but there is no definitive proof for it. Holdsworth, however, draws a large number of examples from this play, as well as from The Puritan, even though the quarto of 1607 has Shakespeare’s initials on the title page.

The strongest piece of evidence presented by Holdsworth consists of two verbal parallels between a paragraph belonging to the Husband’s soliloquy and several different passages from early writings by Middleton:



Had not drunkenness been forbidden, what man would have been fool to a beast, and Zany to a swine, to show tricks in the mire?

The swine delights to wallow in the mire, The giddy drunkard in excess of wine (The Wisdom of Solomon Paraphrased, F1)

It lays a man I’th’ mire still, like a Jade that has too many tricks (More dissemblers, G1)

what is there in three dice to make a man draw thrice three thousand acres into the

compass of a round little table, and with the gentlemans palsy in the hand shake out his posterity thieves or beggars?

Dicing Landlords, that pass away three hundred Acres with three Dice in Hand (Father Hubburd’s Tales, B4)

You may live more gallanter far upon three dice, then many of your foolish heirs about London upon thrice three hundred acres (The Black Book, F2)

Othersome shall be troubled with a palsey in their hands… will shake all the money out of their hands that comes into them… Videlicet, in… dicing houses (Plato’s Cap, D1v)

dice… that shake out beggars, thievesA Trick, H4

There is no question that these verbal parallelisms meet all the requirements for linguistic individuation, as they appear in different texts by the same author and they all have fixed “word-strings”. I do not think, though, that Middleton wrote the entire soliloquy. My feeling is that it was written in collaboration, since other significant parallelisms point to Shakespeare. “My lands shewed like a full moon” echoes vaguely “shewes gallantly, like a moon at full” (Middleton’s Chaste Maid, C2v), but the decreasing of the moon, as a metaphor for loss of land, is found nowhere else but in Shakespeare:


The First Part of Henry IV

My Lands shewed like a full moon about me, but now the moon's ith last quarter, waning, waning: And I am mad to think that moon was mine

See how this river comes me cranking in

And cuts me from the best of all my land

A huge half-moon, a monstrous cantle out. (3, 1, 101-102)

Also, the last part of the monologue includes two pairs of verses that echo in rhythm and rhyme two verses of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:


Midsummer, 1, 1, 213

Divines and dying men may talk of hell,

But in my heart her several torments dwell.

I, that did ever in abundance dwell,

For me to want, exceeds the throws of hell.

O, then, what graces in my love do dwell,

That he hath turn'd a heaven unto a hell!

The rhyming words “dwell” and “hell” appear also in The Rape of Lucrece (v.1555), whereas “dwell”, as a rhyme word, is used often in the Sonnets. More important, a thorough collation of the last part of the soliloquy and the Shakespeare corpus presents an abundant repertoire of verbal correspondences:

cursed head

Macbeth, 5, 7, 109

Hamlet, 5, 1, 269

In execution

Coriolanus, 2, 1, 157

Stretch him

King Lear, 5, 3, 374

make him give

The Tempest, 2, 2, 30

to redeem him

Measure for Measure, 2, 4

men may talk of

Henry VI, III, 3, 1, 61

in my heart

Henry VI, III, As you Like

not take up

As you Like It, 5, 4, 54

Pawn his

Coriolanus, 3, 1, 21

that did ever

Henry VI, III, 3, 3, 102

in abundance

Coriolanus, 2, 1, 13

As always, a majority of these word-combinations are common, but “cursed head” and “men may talk of” are not. So, if we pair together either of these two rare word-strings with any other combination taken from the list, very few instances, outside AYT and the Shakespeare corpus, are found on a Google search. Below I include several sets of two combination-words found mostly in documents of AYT and plays by Shakespeare:

that did ever" "men may talk of" (Third Part of Henry VI)

"men may talk of" "in my heart" (Third Part of Henry VI)

"Pawn his" "in execution" "in abundance" (Coriolanus)

"cursed head" "in want" "in my heart" (Hamlet)

"cursed head" "in this case" "in want" (Hamlet)

I could continue, but I will stop here. More extensive examination will be needed, but in view of the evidence here presented, there is no reason to question Shakespeare as the main author of AYT or to doubt any longer the veracity of the description entered in the Stationers’ Register of May 2, 1608 that reads: “A booke called A Yorkshire Tragedy written by Wylliam Shakespeare”. As for the specific linguistic details and some verbal parallelisms that point to Middleton, I do not think that they are enough to overturn Shakespeare’s authorship, while they could simply mean that the younger playwright either collaborated in some parts or, what is more likely, put on paper the final version published in 1608, adding here and there some lines of his own.

  1. The Life and Death of Lord Thomas Cromwell

No play in the Shakespeare Apocrypha has been more unanimously vilified than The Life and Death of Thomas Cromwell. One editor, Tucker Brooke, stated in 1908 as “absolutely certain… that William Shakespeare was never concerned with a single line of it”, adding that it was pleasant to find that the first and the last of the critics of Cromwell were in “complete and emphatic agreement” with him10. In fact, Malone had decried the play as “below the compositions of even the second-rate dramatick authors of the age”, while Swinburne had amplified Malone’s disapproval in typical over-the-top fashion:

Thomas Lord Cromwell is a piece of such utterly shapeless, spiritless, bodiless, soulless, senseless, helpless, worthless rubbish, that there is no known writer of Shakespeare’s age to whom it could be ascribed without the infliction of an unwarrantable insult on that writer’s memory.” (The Shakespeare Apocrypha, xxix).

No wonder why in the past one hundred years nobody has dared to revisit the play. The external evidence, though, is far from “worthless rubbish”, as both the first quarto of 1602 and the second of 1613 have William Shakespeare’s initials printed on the title page. Also, the Chamberlain’s Servants, the theater company of which Shakespeare was a member, acted the play. It is possible, of course, that the printer used the W.S. initials, as well as the name of his company, to cash in on Shakespeare’s popularity, but before we can speculate, we should first make sure that the language of the play has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s. I will therefore select the first 80 words of Cromwell, as I already did with AYT, and see how many word-strings have a match with the Shakespeare corpus11:


the Moon, and the seven stars


but I am sure


I think it be

I cannot tell

my old master

I can hardly

my young Master

with the Sun


Come, masters

be stirring

he keeps

read out

The expression, “the moon and the seven stars”, makes you wonder, all at once, about Brooke’s assessment, since Shakespeare is the only contemporary playwright who shares it with Cromwell:

with the sun, and the moon and the seven stars

we that take purses go by the moon and the seven stars (Henry IV, I, 1, 2, 10)

The rest of the combinations are not that impressive, but if we search on Google for documents that include together “my old master”, “my young Master” and “come, masters”, only instances of Cromwell and the Complete Works of Shakespeare come up. A more thorough examination all along the text confirms, in fact, that almost every passage in Cromwell is crammed with common and not so common word-string matches shared by the Shakespearean corpus. Below I present a selection of rare word-strings. The combinations are classified in chronological order in regard to the date on which the Shakespeare’s play was presumably first performed. I have also added instances found in other contemporary plays:

Cromwell, 1602


First performed

First printed


Lord… there shall talk

King Henry VI, I



It grieves my soul to

King Henry VI, II



this news be true

King Henry VI, III



no spark of honor

King Henry VI, III



too much lenity

King Henry VI, III



all the land will rue it

Richard III



my peace is made

Richard III



commend me to thy Lord

Richard III



Anonymous, True Tragedy of Richard III, 1594

arrest him at my suit

Comedy of errors



Heywood, A W. Killed w. kindness, 1603

wouldst thou speak with

Titus Andronicus



The life of Sir John Oldcastle, 1600

fetch me pen and ink

Titus Andronicus



Thomas of Woodstock, 5, 1, attributed to Shakespeare (fetch)

Come, go along, and see

Taming of the Shrew



How now, my friend

Taming of the Shrew



Anonymous, True Tragedy of Richard III, 1594

Robert Greene, Orlando furioso, 1594

Perforce I must

Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2, 2



Robert Greene, Alphonsus, 3, 1

Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy, 3, 1, 1589?

Whom I have sent for to

Merchant of Venice



the moon and the seven stars

King Henry IV, I



I care not if I do

King Henry IV, II



Marlowe, Dido Queen of Carthage. 1580’s

would it were otherwise

King Henry IV, II



Anonymous, King Leir, printed in 1605

to come speak with me

King Henry IV, II



let us presently

Much Ado about Nothing



Arden of Feversham

Florio’s Montaigne

let these men be

Much Ado about Nothing



I kiss your hand, and

Henry V



I must needs be gone

Twelfth Night, 2, 3



Robert Greene, Alphonsus, 1599

            ------------------------------------ 1602 ---------------------------------

well, what remedy?

Merry Wives of Windsor



The London Prodigal, 1605

He'll tickle

Troilus & Cressida



would it were otherwise

Troilus & Cressida



Anonymous, King Leir, printed in 1605

Do you call, sir

Measure for Measure



it grieves me for

Measure for Measure



kneel not to me




let us to the king

The Winter’s Tale



Came you from the King

Henry VIII



wherefore I sent

Henry VIII



Marlowe, Dr. Faustus,

This list is simply overwhelming. First, there are up to 18 combinations only found between Cromwell and the Shakespearean plays. Secondly, a majority of the non-Shakespearean plays sharing any of these rare string-words are either apocryphal (The London Prodigal, The life of Sir John Oldcastle), attributed to Shakespeare (Arden of Feversham, Thomas of Woodstock) or former versions of Shakespeare’s plays (True Tragedy of Richard III, King Leir) Also, the chronological range of the plays rules out any possibility of influence or imitation, since we have matches of plays written before and after 1602, covering the whole spectrum of more than twenty years. Finally, there are at least eight Shakespearean plays that have more than one rare combination match, which means that, in all likelihood, no instances, outside Cromwell and these Shakespeare’s plays, will be found on any Google search. Each fact in itself is significant, but all combined make it a certainty that Shakespeare was indeed concerned with most, if not all, of the lines of The life and Death of Cromwell. If there is any doubt, I will give an old school example of comparative analysis for those who are still struggling with the idea of ascribing this “wretched” play to the Bard.

Right after Cromwell’s arrest on treason charges, two citizens converse about his downfall. One is still confident that the king will help him out; the other is much more sceptical, because:

The grace and favour he had with the king

Hath caused him have so many enemies:

He that in court secure will keep himself,

Must not be great, for then he is envied at.

The Shrub is safe, when as the Cedar shakes. (V, 4, 20)

The last comparison has a clear biblical resonance (Ezekiel, 31) and it could also be proverbial (“high cedars fall when low shrubs remain”), but in Elizabethan and Jacobean Theater the contrast is only seen in Shakespeare:

Marcus, we are but shrubs, no cedars we (Titus Andronicus, 4, 3, 47)

Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge

Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle,

Under whose shade the ramping lion slept,

Whose top-branch overpeer'd Jove's spreading tree

And kept low shrubs from winter's pow'rful wind. (Henry VI, III, 5, 2)

The lesser thing should not the greater hide;

The cedar stoops not to the base shrub's foot,

But low shrubs whither at the cedar's root. (The Rape of Lucrece)

            They that stand high have many blasts to shake them,

And if they fall they dash themselves to pieces


Ay, and much more; but I was born so high,

Our aery buildeth in the cedar's top,

And dallies with the wind, and scorns the sun. (Richard III, 1, 3, 267-72)

There is always the possibility, of course, that the one who wrote Cromwell borrowed this recurring image from Shakespeare, but if this is the case, he had completely absorbed Shakespeare’s idiolect, as these verbal parallelisms drawn from the passage below corroborate:

As for the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk,

Whom I have sent for to come speak with me,

Howsoever, outwardly they shadow it,

Yet in their hearts I know they love him not:

As for the Earl of Bedford, he is but one,

And dares not gainsay what we do set down.

Cromwell, Act IV, Scene V

As for the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk

As for the Duke of York, this late complaint (Henry VI, II, 1, 3, 80)

Whom I have sent for to come speak with me

Whom I have sent for to determine this (Merchant of Venice, 4, 1, 110)

Whom I have sent for / to come speak with me

I sent for you… to come speak with me. (Henry IV, I, 1, 2, 43)

Yet in their hearts I know

they think in their hearts they may effect (Merry Wives of Windsor, 2, 1)

As for the Earl of Bedford

The Earl of Bedford had a prisoner

he is but one

for he is but one (Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, 5, 1, 284)

  1. The London Prodigal (LP)

The external evidence of this play is almost as powerful as AYT. Printed in 1605 by Butter, the same publisher of King Lear, the title page of the quarto states that the play was written by William Shakespeare and performed by his company, the King’s Men. Yet, in spite of this, “no serious scholar has taken the attribution seriously” (William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion, 138). Well, I will not elaborate much this time. Instead, I will just let a short list of rare word-strings shared by LP and the plays written under the name of “William Shakespeare” speak for it. In parentheses I include the number of documents found in Google12:

hath he borne himself (141)

How hath he borne himself since my departure (LP)

Hath he borne himself penitently in prison? (Measure for Measure, 4, 2, 100)

the love I bore (880)

by the love I bore his father (LP)

To wreak the love I bore my cousin (Romeo and Juliet, 3, 5, 109)

The love I bore your queen (Winter’s Tale, 2, 5, 242)

The love I bore to your brother (Funeral Elegy)

I grant indeed (468)

I grant indeed to swear is bad (LP)

I grant indeed it hath not appeared (Othello, 4, 2, 217)

I grant, indeed, that a wicked king (The True Law of Free Monarchies)

turn it to a jest (102)

Nay, look you, you turn it to a jest (LP)

Let us confess and turn it to a jest (Love’s Labor’s Lost, 5, 2, 429)

yet thinking to turn it to a jest (Greene, Groatsworth of Wit)

know not what may fall (144)

you know not what may fall (LP)

I know not what may fall; I like it not (Julius Caesar, 3, 1, 267)

I have the letter here (313)

Yes, I have the letter here, here is the letter (LP)

I have the letter here; yes, here it is (Coriolanus, 1, 2, 11)

I cannot weep (752)

Nay, I cannot weep you extempore (LP)

I cannot weep; nor answer have I none (Othello, 4, 2, 122)

I cannot weep; for all my body's moisture (King Henry VI, III, 2, 1)

I denied you not (117)

Nay, I denied you not (LP)

I denied you not (Julius Caesar, 4, 3, 92)

But what say you to (480)

But what say you to Thursday? (Romeo and Juliet, 3, 4, 31)

Nay be not angry, sir (110)

Nay, be not angry, sir. (Cymbeline, 5, 3, 65)

lead apes in hell (264)

That women dying maids lead apes in hell (LP)

And for your love to her lead apes in hell (The Taming of the Shrew, 2, 1, 37)

I'd rather die Maid, and lead apes in Hell (Richard Braithwait, The Turtle's Triumph)

By the mass I (612)

By the mass I think it be (LP)

by the mass I have drunk too much sack (King Henry IV, II, 5, 3, 4-8)

By the mass I was about to say something (Hamlet, 2, 1, 57)

and a proper man (157)

By my fai' and so he is, and a proper man (LP)

judgments in whosoever, and a proper man of person (Troilus and Cressida, 1, 2, 121)

marry, there's the point (83)

Aye, marry, there's the point, Sir Lancelot (LP)

Yea, marry, there's the point (King Henry IV, II, 1, 3, 18)

God save you, sir (775)

The Taming of the Shrew, 4, 2, 80

All’s Well that Ends Well, 5, 1, 11

Hamlet, 2, 2, 213

Henry IV, II, 5, 3, 49

Henry VIII, 4, 1, 56

Lord Cromwell, 3

Thomas Kyd, Soliman and Perseda

A quart of sack (312)

A quart of sack in the three Tuns (LP)

Go fetch me a quart of sack (Merry Wives of Windsor, 3, 5, 5)

serve me such another trick (67)

if ever the rascal serve me such another trick (LP)

An you serve me such another trick (As you Like It, 4, 1, 16-20)

in the way of marriage (628)

Merry Wives of Windsor, 1, 4

Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

Middleton and Dekker, The Roaring Girl

make amends ere long (782)

we shall live to make amends ere long (LP)

We will make amends ere long (Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5, 1)

charm your tongue (235)

Away, sirrah, charm your tongue (LP)

Go to, charm your tongue (Othello, 5, 2, 218)

I will charm your tongue (King Henry VI, III, 5, 5, 34)

so good a man as (736)

will stretch to press so good a man as you (LP)

I do not know you so good a man as myself (King Henry V, 3, 2, 36-40)

and were he not (531)

and were he not …he should see (LP)

and were he not …he would embrace (Julius Caesar, 2, 1, 278)

for your friend's sake (169)

forbear you for your friend's sake (LP)

And, for your friend's sake, will be glad of you (Two Gentlemen of Verona, 3, 2)

Shall I be plain (169)

Shall I be plain among you, gentlemen? (LP)

Shall I be plain? I wish the bastards dead (Richard III, 4, 2, 21)

worthy soldier (568)

most gallant knight, A worthy soldier (LP)

Good fortune, worthy soldier, and farewell (Antony and Cleopatra, 3, 2, 26)

How now, worthy soldier? (Antony and Cleopatra, 3, 7, 80)

both in purse and… person (153)

Fat, fair, and lovely, both in purse and person (LP)

serve your uses both in purse and in person (King Henry IV, II, 2, 1, 40-44)

Thanks, fairest (114)

Thanks, fairest (LP)

Thanks, fairest lady (Cymbeline, 1, 6, 34)

You have said well (748)

You have said well: indeed, right well (LP)

You have said well (Henry VIII, 3, 2, 194)

Hark you, sir (566)

Hark you, sir, a word (LP)

Hark you, sir: I'll have them very fairly bound (The Taming of the Shrew, 1, 2)

Hark you, sir, do you know where ye are? (Pericles, 2, 1)

But hark you, sir (Mucedorus)

Hark you, sir Puntarvolo (Jonson, Out of humor)

but hark you, sir (Marlowe, Dr. Faustus)

let's about it (253)

Come, let's about it (LP)

Come, therefore, let's about it speedily (King Henry VI, III 4, 6)

Go to, sirrah (168)

Henry VI, II, 4, 2, 98

Marlowe, The Jew of Malta, Tambourine

I like thee well (282)

King John, 1, 1, 153

The Gentlemen of Verona, 4, 4, 4-8

Anonymous, King Leir, 3, 5

ere I part with (177)

That ere I part with Master Weathercock (LP)

And, ere I part with thee (Two Gentlemen of Verona, 3, 1, 246)

halfpenny, ere I part with it to fetch him out (Ben Johson, Every Man in his humour)

fill me some wine (109)

Timon of Athens 3, 1, 4-8


The French Schoolmaster (1573)

Thomas Preston, Cambises

at my poor house (235)

Romeo and Juliet, 1, 2, 26

bold to trouble you (187)

Master Weathercock, I shall be bold to trouble you (LP)

Madam, I have been bold to trouble you (King Henry VI, I, 2, 3)

I have been bold to trouble you (Milton, Comus)

and welcome heartily (106)

And welcome heartily; farewell (LP)

Come, Kate, and wash, and welcome heartily (The Taming of the Shrew, 4, 1, 88)

I do affect (559)

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 1, 2, 96

All’s Well that Ends Well, 1, 1, 19

Knows what belongs to (192)

Knows what belongs to war

and one that knows what belongs to reason (Timon of Athens, 3, 1, 17)

He knows what belongs to a gentleman (Hovey, The Marriage of Guenevere)

call me cut (202)

chill give you leave to call me cut (LP)

if thou hast her not i' the end, call me cut (Twelfth Night, 2, 3, 88)

make him fly the land (182)

I'll make him fly the land, or use him worse (LP)

What had he done, to make him fly the land? (Macbeth, 4, 2, 4)

I'll attach you (142)

And I'll attach you first

Or I'll attach you by this officer (Comedy of Errors, 4, 1, 8)

I would you were a (142)

I would you were a sprite (LP)

In sooth, I would you were a little sick (King John, 4, 1, 34)

me thy sword (412)

get me thy sword (LP)

lend me thy sword (The First Part of Henry IV, 5, 3, 38)

Give me thy sword (King Lear, 3, 7, 83)

wagging of a straw (151)

but for the wagging of a straw (LP)

Tremble and start at wagging of a straw (Richard III, 3, 5, 9)

Tis no such matter (167)

Tis no such matter, man. (LP)

'Tis no such matter. Then you do not love me? (Much Ado About Nothing, 5, 4, 92)

in happy time (939)

you come in happy time (LP)

you are come to me in happy time (The Taming of the Shrew, Induction, I, 89)

deceived in him (787)

and I have been deceived in him (LP)

Do you think I am so far deceived in him? (All’s Well that Ends Well, 3, 6, 6)

I am sorry that I am deceiv’d in him (Othello, 4, 1, 270)

Where be these knaves? (111)

The Taming of the Shrew, 4, 1, 53

day that ever I was born

Alas the day that ever I was born

O, well-a-day that ever I was born! (Romeo and Juliet, 4, 5, 17)

The sheer quantity of the verbal parallelisms presented here makes it amply clear that Shakespeare had a direct participation in LP. How much or how extensive, it may be debatable, but I sense that he is the sole author, since almost every line in the play is filled with word-strings found in his corpus. I will give an example to illustrate it. “Alas the day that ever I was born” is followed by these lines:

Father.- Sweet mistress, do not weep, I'll stick to you.

Lucy.- Alas, my friend, I know not what to do.

Compare it now with these lines in Othello:

O sweet mistress, speak! (5, 2, 148)

Do not weep, do not weep. Alas the day! (4, 2, 147)

Alas, my friend and my dear countryman (5, 1, 113)

The collocation of “sweet mistress”, “do not weep”, “alas the day” and “alas, my friend” certainly links both texts together, while if we pair these phrases in a series of two (<“do not weep” “alas the day”>, <”sweet mistress” “alas my friend”>) and search on Google, mostly documents related to LP and Othello will show up. A few lines down, we have:

It grieves me at the soul, to see her tears

Thus stain the crimson roses of her cheeks.

Lady, take comfort, do not mourn in vain

A thorough collation with the Shakespearean corpus produces the following word-string matches:

It grieves me

to see her tears

roses… her cheeks

crimson rose(s)

take comfort

The large amount of verbal correspondences in less than thirty words is significant, but if we put them in context, they look really impressive:

          It grieves me to see so many dip their meat (Timon of Athens, 1, 2, 42) 

let it be your glory to see her tears (Titus Andronicus, 2, 3, 144)

The air hath starv'd the roses in her cheeks (Two Gentlemen, 4, 4, 116)

Take comfort: he no more shall see my face (Midsummer, 1, 1, 209)

  1. The Puritan Widow

The external evidence of this play is slimmer than the other three plays previously studied, as the only sure data pointing to Shakespeare are his initials on the title page of the quarto published in 1607. There is no record in the Stationer’s Register and no evidence either that the company who performed the play, The Children of Paul’s, was involved with any of his other plays. Since the mid-eighteenth century the play has been generally labeled as anonymous, but for more than a hundred years a number of scholars have supported the attribution of Thomas Middleton as the author of The Puritan Widow on the grounds of internal evidence. The more recent contributions by McDonald Jackson and David Lake seem to be conclusive, so much so that some editors have had no qualms to publish the play under Middleton’s name. My own research, however, comes to a somewhat different conclusion. I do not doubt that Middleton had a part in the composition, but I do not think that he is the sole author; instead, all the evidence that I have gathered indicates that he wrote the play in collaboration with William Shakespeare. I will give some examples. The play begins with this line:

Oh, that ever I was born, that ever I was born!

We already saw the word-combination “that ever I was born” in LP, but look more carefully at the three instances in the Shakespeare canon:

O that ever I was born! (Winter’s Tale, 4, 2, 11)

O cursed spite That ever I was born to set it right! (Hamlet, 1, 5, 212)

Alas, alas! Help, help! My lady's dead!

O well-a-day, that ever I was born! (Romeo and Juliet, 4, 5, 16-17)

No equivalent is found in Middleton. A few lines down, the widow’s brother tries to console his sister with the following speech:

Nay, but, kind Sister, I could weep as much as any woman, but, alas, our tears cannot call him again: me thinks you are well read, Sister, and know that death is as common as Homo, a common name to all men.

We find in Shakespeare the word-strings “nay, but”, “kind sister” “but alas”, “death is as” or “I could weep”, but the most conspicuous verbal parallel appears in The First Part of Henry IV:

Go to; 'homo' is a common name to all men. (2, 1, 37)

Had we not had the initials “WS” on the title page of the quarto, this verbal parallelism would not mean a great deal, since the sentence is a quote taken from Lily’s Latin Grammar, a handbook commonly read by schoolboys in Elizabethan England, but the existence of the initials “WS” in The Puritan cannot but make the link significant, especially when other references to Lily’s book appear in the Shakespeare corpus13. Linguistic individuation, though, is not defined by one or two phrases here and there, but it usually manifests itself in scores of word-strings and rare verbal combinations. Let us do a collation between The Puritan’s first scene of the first act and the Shakespeare canon and see the results:

ACT I, Scene I

O that ever I was born

Winter’s Tale, 4, 2, 11

we …borne to die

Romeo and Juliet, 3, 4, 6

homo (is) a common name to all men

First Part of Henry IV, 2, 1

a lusty widow

Taming of the Shrew, 4, 2, 54

for shame, for shame!

As You Like It,

ne'er a whit at all

Titus Andronicus, 4, 2

shed a tear

Henry VIII, 3, 2, 507

thy father's death

Richard III, 4, 4, 388

weep for me

Henry VIII, 3, 1, 156

thou grievest

Love’s Labour’s Lost, 5, 2, 252

dear knight

Twelfth Night,

take truce with

Romeo and Juliet, 3, 1, 128

let me weep

Romeo and Juliet, 3, 5, 88

be of good cheer

Merchant of Venice, 3, 5, 3

we are all mortal

Much Ado About Nothing, 1, 1, 24

hear me what I

Henry V, 2, 1, 34

Go to, y'are

Twelfth Night, 1, 5, 23

the world is full of

Richard II, 3, 4, 6

be of good comfort

King John, 5, 7, 29

I cannot choose but

Romeo and Juliet, 1, 3, 57

Timon of Athens, 5, 1, 173

be my grave

King Lear, 1, 1, 113

The Tempest, 5, 1, 345

hearted man

Richard II, 5, 3, 92

with a breath

Henry VIII, 1, 4, 39


Antony and Cleopatra

King John

Twelfth Night

I could not speak

Comedy of Errors, 2, 2, 7

I shall never have the

All’s Well’s That Ends Well, 1, 3, 12

he was an honest

Second part of Henry VI, 4, 2, 25

you may light

Much Ado About Nothing, 2, 1, 15

light upon you

Second Part of Henry VI, 4, 8, 19

talk at table

Coriolanus 4, 7, 6

in the mouth of every

First Part of Henry VI, 3, 1, 205

never to marry

Winter’s Tale, 4, 1, 86

The Taming of the Shrew, 4, 2, 36

as well as another

Merry Wives of Windsor, 1, 4, 72

Well, go thy ways, old

(The Taming of the Shrew, 5, 2)

joy and grief

All’s Well that Ends Well, 3, 2, 29

King Lear, 5, 3, 228

It is a long list, but by no means complete. I have only chosen rare or not-too-common word combinations. Some have few instances outside the Shakespeare corpus ("ne'er a whit at all" "go to, y'are", “well, go thy ways”), others are rarely seen in Elizabethan or Jacobean plays, and the large majority has no match in the Middleton canon. Actually, the only remarkable combinations shared by Middleton in this first scene are these:

And … shed a tear for

A Chaste Maid

take truce with

A Trick to Catch the Old one


The Honest Whore

In view of such a small proportion, it seems clear that Middleton had a very minor role in the composition of the first scene in comparison with Shakespeare. Still, I do not rule out his participation. One combination in particular, “the properer phrase”, has no equivalent in the Web outside The Puritan and Your Five Gallants. My impression, therefore, is that Middleton in this first scene just made some adjustments and little additions to a draft previously written by Shakespeare. Below I include a series of word combinations with no instances in the Web outside the Shakespeare canon and The Puritan.

Oh that ever I was born” “never to marry”

Winter’s Tale

born to die” “I cannot choose but”

Romeo and Juliet

"take truce with" "let me weep"

Romeo and Juliet

"a lusty widow" "never to marry"

Taming of the Shrew

"we are all mortal" "you may light"

Much Ado

"Go to, y'are" unmatchable

Twelfth Night

dear knight” unmatchable

Twelfth Night

"with a breath" "weep for me"

Henry VIII

"be of good comfort" unmatchable

King John

"joy and grief" "I shall never have the"

All’s Well that Ends Well

"joy and grief" "be my grave"

King Lear

The principles of linguistic individuation are much at work here. Seldom do rare combinations reappear in more than one text unless there is a relation of sorts, but if the rate of reappearance is high and we consistently find on a Google search pairs of word combinations in texts produced by one author and only this author, the relation cannot mean anything else but an identity of authorship.

Shakespeare’s involvement is not that clear in the second and third scenes of the First Act, although this analogy comparing “peace” to “a getter of (undesirable) children” links The Puritan to Coriolanus:

Puritan, I, 2


and therefore, not to cog with Peace, I'll not be afraid to say, 'tis a great Breeder, but a barren Nourisher: a great getter of Children, which must either be Thieves or Rich-men, Knaves or Beggers

Peace is a very apoplexy, lethargy; mull'd, deaf, sleepy, insensible; a getter of more bastard children than war's a destroyer of men (4, 5)

Even so, a few word-strings, like a “true emblem”, “as nimble as” and “cog with”, found in Middleton but not in Shakespeare, indicate that the younger dramatist must have been in part responsible for the writing, especially if I google-search them and only documents of The Puritan come up.

The fourth scene of the first act is clearly Shakespearean, as these few parallelisms attest:

Pray turn the key (Puritan, 1, 4)

turn the key I pray (Puritan, 1, 4)

I pray you, turn the key (Othello, 4, 2, 112)

Good porter, turn the key (King Lear, 3, 7, 65)

what's your offence? (Puritan, 1, 4)

what's your offence? (Much Ado, 4, 1, 172)

Faith, my offence is ordinary (Puritan, 1, 4)

O, my offence is rank (Hamlet, 3, 3, 42)

it shall go hard, but I'll shift for thy life (Puritan, 1, 4)

It shall go hard, but I'll prove it by another (Two Gentlemen, 1, 1, 87)

it shall go hard but I’ll make him a philosopher’s (II Henry IV, 3, 2, 324)

it shall go hard but I will better the instruction (Merchant of Venice, 3, 1, 23)

It shall go hard if Cambio go without her (The Taming of the Shrew, 4, 4, 97)

It shall go hard yet, but I'll guard her honour (The Revenger’s Tragedy)

Whether I live or die, thou'art an honest George (Puritan, 1, 4)

Whether I live or die, be you the sons (All’s Well, 2, 1, 14)

Do's vex me more than my imprisonment (Puritan, 1, 4)

Not all these lords do vex me half so much (Second Part of Henry VI, 1, 3, 56)

            Fie, what vain breath you spend! (Puritan, 1, 4)

Is but the vain breath of a common man (King John, 3, 1, 10)

I doubt not but to raise strange belief (Puritan, 1, 4)

I doubt not but to ride as fast as York (Richard II, 5, 2, 130)

I doubt not but to fashion it (Much Ado, 2, 1, 154)

The amount and quality of these parallels make it hard to believe that the initials “WS” in the Puritan do not relate to the author of Much Ado, especially when we google-search for documents containing together “I doubt not but to” and “what’s your offence” and only instances of the aforementioned play, along with the Puritan, are shown. Still, Middleton could have made some additions and inserted a few lines. For example, at the end of the scene we have the expression, “Bear at Bridge-Foot in heaven”, which reoccurs in Middleton’s No Wit, No Help, and nowhere else. Also, the word “gullery” is common in Middleton’s canon but absent in Shakespeare’s. This parallel with The Revenger’s Tragedy is very telling too:

I know how to wind Captain Idle out of prison (Puritan, I, 4)

            To wind our younger brother out of prison (The Revenger’s)

I suspect that The Revenger’s Tragedy, like the Puritan, is a work in collaboration between the two dramatists, and so I am not certain who wrote the last line presented above, as I do not know for certain if these two verbal parallels below are by Middleton or by Shakespeare:

Nay, I'll come nearer to you, Gentleman (Puritan, I, 4)

I might come nearer to you (Timon of Athens, 1, 2, 70)

            as my discourse shall make it known to you

Beseech your honour To make it known to us (Timon, 5, 1, 71)

The fact that the word “gullery” appeared a few lines before makes me think that Middleton, in effect, wrote this passage from the Puritan, and, therefore, must also be involved in the composition of Timon. At any rate, I can state with a certain margin of confidence that the author who wrote parts of Timon must have written parts of Puritan too, since a google-search looking for documents including “come nearer to you” and “make me known to” only produces instances related to these two plays.

I have not done a thorough collation of the whole play with the Shakespeare and Middleton canon, but the one I did, even if not complete, points to a close collaboration of the two playwrights. Below I present a table including relevant verbal parallels drawn from each writer and a tentative assessment of their participation in each scene:

Act II, Scene I



to spite my

to spite my

money to dice with-all

How now? what's the news?

gallant Knight

venture upon

Where? Where…?

break nothing

direct him hither

O welcome

the fates forfend!

He's walking in the

What blessings

your own light

Tempt me not

Tempt me not

not so old

I cannot abide

I cannot abide

them come near

Nay, pray be patient

honorable love

There's hope

look upon you

a good wench

a good wench

better comfort

blunt fellow

a bed with

here's none but

here's none but

you may stay

you may stay (RT)

bestow on me

This is most strange

This is most strange

high days

no more endure

business with me

fie, for shame

Give ear

Give ear

If this be true

come to pass

come to pass

for your fair sakes

presage of your

be prevented

be prevented

told you of

take heed

take heed

meddle not with

meddle not with

they do, they do

I will reward

I will reward

wrought these

Neither to speak

Middleton seems to have written the first part of the scene. The phrases “money to dice withal” (Honest Whore), “direct him hither” (Revenger’s Tragedy) and “the fates forfend” (The Nice Valor) have no equivalent in Shakespeare and very few instances in the Web outside these Middleton plays. However, “Nay, pray be patient” (Coriolanus) and “for your fair sakes” (Love’s Labour’s Lost), with no other instance in the Web, suggests that Shakespeare may have intervened in the last part.




The street before the

honest, chaste, and

wallow in the

Truly la

for shame, for shame

put up, put up

put up, put up

out of my part

Down with 'em

Down with 'em

I will prove it

I will prove it

lay hands (up)on the villain

Lay hands on me

Go, carry

shall along with

Away with him

Away with him

I would wish

I would wish

The large amount of verbal parallels with the Shakespeare canon seems conclusive in this scene, especially if we google-search “honest, chaste, and” (Othello) and “lay hands (up)on the villain” (Taming of the Shrew) and few or no instances appear outside the Puritan and these Shakespearean plays.




O wondrous

O wondrous

beyond our thoughts

whether he be… dead

his hurt

I shall find the

I would he were here

the use of … tongue

Enter… in a rage

Where be these

Where be these

hear me speak

hear me speak

a cunning man

a cunning man

he's a villain

may well be called

as dead as

what's this to my

but rob

I will about it straight

all will be well (I hope)

This scene is clearly Shakespearean. The combination “I will about it straight” appears only in Measure for Measure, Marlowe’s Tamburine, and the Puritan. This parallel is also significant:

All will be well, I hope (Puritan)

    I hope all will be well (Hamlet, 4, 5, 40)

and hope all will be well (Othello, 3, 4, 13)




you will accompany me

I arrest you, sir

I spoke truer

rail against

The three verbal combinations found in Middleton and not in Shakespeare make me believe that he wrote most of this scene.




Who knocks?

Who knocks?

who's at door?

have you forgot me?

How do you like

pardon my rudeness

Go forward

Go forward

giddy and

giddy and

may it please your …worship

excellent device

excellent device

heard a better


could not choose but

fine fellow

go thy ways

go thy ways

quickly have

out the money

ay, that I will

Go, go

Go, go

little villain

I begin to love

be drunk

be drunk

in thy company

in thy company

I may well call a

saved me from

saved me from

mass, that's true

Ay, marry, sir

Ay, marry, sir

sup tonight

let's talk of

a trick worth

full of hazard

What will you say

put it to me

Be sure of it

make him light

here comes the gentleman

By your leave, sir

By your leave, sir

god you god den (RT)

would you speak with me

no, not with

make you stay

make you stay

I can assure you

I can assure you

Why, what's the matter?

Why, what's the matter?

You were to blame

charm him

rot him

it was … hap to

not empty

for his wit

for his wit

Alas, poor wretch

to be free from

Within my power

The mingling of rare word-combinations belonging to both Shakespeare and Middleton throughout the scene points to a mutual participation. “Pardon my rudeness”, “mass, that's true”, “full of hazard” or “god you god den” are peculiar enough to tilt the balance in favor of Middleton, but the parallel below is too strong to dismiss Shakespeare’s presence in this scene:



Put. An excellent device, he says; he likes it wonderfully.

Gent. A my faith, I never heard a better.

O excellent device! Was there ever heard a better (Two Gentlemen, 2, 1, 96)




Three at once

Let it suffice

Let it suffice

first sleep

in … right wits

in … right wits

cog with you

Come, come, let's

Come, come, let's

the husk

yes, yes, yes

yes, yes, yes

I shall but shame myself

Mass, that… well remembered

commend your care

what may I call your

it will, it will

Plague of all

at his pleasure

at his pleasure (RT)

what's he yonder (RT)

admirable fellow

Turn over

lightning and thunder

must crave

must crave

may furnish

may furnish

a fine time

Middleton most likely wrote the whole scene. “I shall but shame myself” (The Second Maiden), “Mass, that… well remembered” and “cog with you” (Nice Valour) have no instances in the Web outside the Middleton canon.




I hope you will not

I hope you will not serve … so

let him be hang'd

he's dead

he's dead

thy father's death

Middleton wrote this short scene. The combination “I hope you will not serve… so” has no equivalent in the Web outside the Puritan and A Trick to Catch the Old One.




leading to

nor nothing

saw him once

So fair, and

And yet so

And yet so

I will not stick

I will not stick with

Yes, forsooth

Yes, forsooth

Truly la

are much to blame

y'are much to blame

you know my mind

you know my mind

sincere love

Go to, I'll

Go to, I'll

cut you off

put … in comfort

Madam, Madam

Please you, Gentlemen (T)

fall to your business

Why, what's the matter

Why, what's the matter

I warrant you, Sir

I warrant you, Sir

My life for yours

My life for yours

I pray desire

Why, assure

Why, assure

have a care

have a care

not trouble you

not trouble you

make me laugh

now it begins

now, now, now

now, now, now

So long a coming

Now I come

Now I come

quickly, quickly

So, so, so

So, so, so

I must needs say

I must needs say so

The table above shows how close the Middleton repertoire is to Shakespeare’s. It is not easy therefore to determine the degree of participation, but I suspect that Middleton wrote most of this scene due to a few combinations not found in the Shakespeare’s canon, like “sincere love”, “fall to your business” and “so long a coming”.




Oh here they come

Oh here they come

vouchsafe me audience

True, true

True, true

Why make you question of that

I love you dearly

with all my heart

with all my heart

Nor I neither

Nor I neither



play thy part

The combination “why make you question of that” (No Wit, no Help) has no other instances in the Web, but “vouchsafe me audience” (Love’s Labour’s Lost) is also exclusive to Shakespeare. Still, Middleton has clearly a bigger part in the composition of this scene.




the street before the

Hie thee

Hie thee

almost ready

all ready?

Go.. run to

and then run

Run… and then run

be fitted

out of joint

out of joint (RT)

Hark, hark!

Hark, hark!

how bravely

how bravely

shot up in one night

by the same token

tumbled down

a common fiddler

Middleton is the principal, if not the sole, author of this scene. The phrase “shot up in one night” reappears in Hengist, King of Kent and has no other match in the Web.




Who's there?

Who's there?

Tis I.

Tis I.

who would have thought

who would have thought


No, by my faith

No, by my faith

I'll not stay

you shall stay

you must note

you must note (RT)

go presently

go presently

Do you follow

I'll not be long

I'll not be long

It is difficult to assert the degree of participation of either dramatist in this scene. Surely, Shakespeare hits a higher number of combinations, but none is too remarkable to ascribe the scene to him over Middleton.




O monstrous

O monstrous

I never heard of such


are to be married

Tis too true

Tis too true

be not too much

be not too much


will make 'em

and to that end

and to that end

in private to

in private to

to speak truth

to speak truth

such needful

a free word

be it spoken

be it spoken

How now, fellow?

May it please you

May it please you

newly lighted

(new) lighted from his

he loves me well

There's good hope

We are in a similar situation as the previous scene, even if here the following parallelisms may tilt the balance in favor of Shakespeare:

I never heard of such villainy in our own country

I never heard of such another encounter (The Winter’s Tale, 5, 2, 14)

my Lord is newly lighted from his Coach

Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse (Henry IV, I)




By your leave

By your leave

My Lord, your honour is


not to flatter

not to flatter

best beloved

best beloved

was truly

resolve him of

I'll prove it

I'll prove it

how came my

how came my

O Villain

O Villain (RT)

was ever heard

I'll rend

should not stand

come Lady

men of estimation

sweet little

great credit

Pah, pah

If you vouchsafe

happy change

I doubt it not

I doubt it not

Except for “happy change”, all the other combinations point to Shakespeare. See also this parallelism:

What honest Spirit but will applaud your choice

Queen of Goths, dost thou applaud my choice? (Titus Andronicus, 1, 1, 334)

The table below shows a tentative assessment of the degree of participation in each scene by the two dramatists:


Scene I

S (M)

Scene II

M (S)

Scene III


Scene IV

S (M)


Scene I

M, S

Scene II



Scene I


Scene II

S, (M)

Scene III


Scene IV

M (S)

Scene V



Scene I

M (S)

Scene II

M, S

Scene III

M (S)


Scene I


Scene II

S, M

Scene III

S (M)

Scene IV


  1. Conclusion

Given the bulk of external and internal evidence gathered, it appears that Shakespeare had an important role in the composition of the four plays under study, even if we cannot determine with certainty the degree of his participation. I think that LP was written entirely by him, and probably Cromwell, too. As for AYT and The Puritan, the data point to Shakespeare as the main author, but Middleton was certainly involved. Middleton’s role, though, must have been secondary in the first case and much more active in the second. But this and other matters regarding the Shakespeare Apocrypha should be addressed in more systematic studies. In the mean time, I do hope that some of the methodology used in this paper will contribute somehow to a better understanding of linguistic individuation.


Due to some doubts raised by my two reviewers concerning the reliability of the Web in dealing with internal evidence, I would like to sum up -- and, if possible, clarify -- a few points about the theoretical base of my paper.

All Google searches carried out on the Web seem to confirm that while a long utterance rarely reoccurs, most short word strings or mini phrases show a high degree of reoccurrence, but mostly in documents produced by members of a specific language community during a limited span of time. Sure enough the Web encompasses a mere fraction of the totality of utterances, but, even so, the aforementioned phenomena observed on any Google search point to an undisputable fact, which is the significant role that the hic-et- nunc of individual memory plays both in language acquisition and language production. Hardly will a speaker utter word-strings at random or outside the linguistic mores of his community. The higher the word-string reoccurrence, the closer will the relationship between utterances be in regard to time and place, as no speaker is able to consistently utter word-strings not previously recorded in his brain.

Every speaker owns, as it were, a domain formed by the sum of his word-strings, which, like a kaleidoscope, is in a constant state of flux. Naturally speakers derive word-strings from a common stock, even if there is a degree of chance and innovation in every utterance. But linguistic individuation lies not as much in rare or unique verbal combinations spotted here and there as in the particular selection of verbal units reoccurring in a given corpus. At the same time, the use of computational collations applied to large corpora has made clear that collocations, formulas, and idioms form the stuff of most utterances. We could add that the set of reoccurring word strings reflects a particular domain or a same source. In fact, Google searches show again and again that a set of three or four collocations is hardly shared by unrelated documents, and more often than not they belong to a same source.

The crux of the matter in attribution studies, however, is to distinguish between common and private domains, especially when collaboration and imitation are inextricably intertwined with writing practices, as it was the case with the playwrights of Shakespeare’s age. The Sorites paradox (how many grains are needed to call a heap a heap) lies at the heart of any attribution based on internal evidence since 1) it is quite impossible to determine with absolute certainty what degree of reoccurrence is required to establish authorship; and 2) it is even more impossible to know without external evidence whether any given parallelism is the result of borrowing or not.

Still, millions of grains surely constitute a heap and a large set of word strings shared exclusively by a few documents on the Web cannot mean but a private domain, especially if the name of the author is on the title page of those documents. Here common sense should be our criterion in the same way as common sense --supported by the weight of statistics-- tells us that the sun will rise tomorrow as it did today.

  1. Notes

1 Ed., G.H. Hunter King Lear, The New Penguin Shakespeare, 1999, 7.

2 All of Shakespeare’s quotes are drawn from the Oxford edition of 1914 by W. J. Craig, Complete Works of William Shakespeare, as it is posted in the Web (http://www.bartleby.com/70/).

3 A Treatise of Human Nature, Courier Dover Publications, London, 2003, p. 182.

4 In a recent article on author identification regarding criminal cases and student plagiarism, Malcolm Coulhard also bases linguistic individuation on “the proportion of shared vocabulary and the number and length of shared phrases”. “Author Identification, Idiolect and Linguistic Uniqueness”, in Applied Linguistics 2004 25(4):431-447.

5 “I'll swear thou art. Thou mayest set up when thou wilt. There's many a one begins with less, I can tell thee, that proves a rich man ere he dies. But what's the news from London, Sam? ["A Yorkshire Tragedy. Not So New as Lamentable and True." In C.F. Tucker Brooke, ed., The Shakespeare Apocrypha (Oxford, 1918), as it is posted in the Web (http://william-shakespeare.classic-literature.co.uk/a-yorkshire-tragedy/)].

6Pray, do not fright me, sir, but vouchsafe me hearing: my Uncle, glad of your kindness to me and mild usage--for so I made it to him--has in pity of your declining fortunes, provided a place for you at Court of worth and credit, which so much overjoyed me”, AYT, ed. Tucker Brooke, Scene 3, 46.

7 See especially MacDonald Jackson, Studies in Attribution. Shakespeare and Middleton, Salzburg: Inst. f. Angelistik u. Amerikanistik, Univ. Salzburg, 1979, 43-53 and David Lake, The Canon of Thomas Middleton’s Plays: Internal Evidence for the Major Problems of Authorship, London: Cambridge University Press, 1975, 163-174.

8 R.V. Holdsworth, “Middleton’s Authorship of A Yorkshire Tragedy”, RES, v. 45, n. 177 (1994)

9 The Witch has “Yes; may it please you, sir”. The phrase is common enough not to make a big deal, but perhaps we should keep in mind the two “witches’s songs” shared by this play and Macbeth.

10 C. F. Tucker Brooke, The Shakespeare Apocrypha: Being a Collection of Fourteen Plays which Have Been Ascribed to Shakespeare, Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1908, xxix.



Come, masters, I think it be past five a clock; is it not

time we were at work: my old Master he'll be stirring



I cannot tell whether my old master will be stirring or

no: but I am sure I can hardly take my afternoon's nap,

for my young Master Thomas, he keeps such a quile in

his study, with the Sun, and the Moon, and the seven

stars, that I do verily think he'll read out his wife.

12 The time of the search was August of 2006.

13 Examples taken from Lily’s Grammar (commonly known as the Accidence) are found in Titus Andronicus, 4, 2, 23 and Merry Wives of Windsor, 4, 1, 7-52. See Nina Green, “Lily’s Latin Grammar And The Identity Of Shakespeare” and H.R.D. Andes, Shakespeare’s Books, Kessinger Publishing, 2003, 13-15.