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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

Chapter 1 - Shakespeare and the Idea of Early Authorship


This is an essay about early Shakespeare and loss. It attempts to put some kind of order on a span of several years when Shakespeare is first writing plays, or parts of plays, in a commercial environment with fellow professionals. It discusses a period of time, the mid-to-late 1580s and early 1590s, for which much information about Shakespeare and other working dramatists is lost. It asks, how do you write about that kind of loss? And, what sort of data-sets do you hold up to the blank spaces of those years, knowing only the likelihood of Shakespeare’s activity, to enable plausible deductions about his early working life? It considers how the early canon has been categorized and written about, situates the documentary evidence for Shakespeare’s first forays in writing in the context of surviving evidence about theatrical activity in the 1580s, contextualizes Shakespeare’s overall career in the light of those of his peers, and, finally, considers some of the defining features of Shakespeare’s earliest writings.