Discussion:
Shakespeare's novel
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Donald Cameron
2020-12-22 22:36:35 UTC
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Assembling reasons why and why not an English novel from Shakespeare,
mostly off the top of my head. Preaching to the choir here, I know.

On the one hand, NOT:
1. Novels were supposedly not written before the 18th century.
2. Shakespeare did plays and poetry, not prose.
3. No muse for the novel in his day.
4. He didn't even do domestic comedy, much less realism.
5. Public demand for novel was minimal, when people didn't read.
6. Probably Shakespeare had little interest in ancient forms of the
novel, like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murasaki_Shikibu
7. No real evidence he ever read Cervantes' *Don Quixote*.
8. Certainly no ms. of a Shakespeare novel, or probably even a forged
one.



On the other hand, WHY NOT:
1. There is lots of evidence of proto-types of novels in other
genres, like romance, history, science fiction, tales, short story,
fantasy, horror, and surreal, maybe gothic; and there was the growth
of "bildungsroman," showing emotional and moral growth of a character.
2. Other authors seem to approach writing the English novel, such as
Deloney, who used dramatic technique in novels; Greene; Nashe, *The
Unfortunate Traveler*; Spenser, who did *Faerie Queen* with many
sub-plots; More, *Utopia," called a "frame narrative"; Painter,
*Horrible and Bruell Murder of Sultn Solyman*, which was popular;
Sidney, "The Arcadia"; and Spenser, *The Shepherd's Calendar."
In the 17th century, there was Swift, Lyly, Scudery, and Bacon's *New
Atlantis; A Work unfinished*.
3. Surely we can make out the coming novel form by connecting the
dots. So who knows how close Shakespeare came to completing his first
novel?

Speculating about "Shakespeare's novel," one can look at his
retirement from the stage in 1611 at the age of 47 to his home in
Stratford. Question is, Did he give up his life as a professional
writer, before dying in 1616?
1. What did he do with his writing abilities between 1611 and 1616?
2. He is known for his ability to "mirror life," borrow and
improvise to compose all forms of narrative, even out of the box in
terms of following classical unities.
3. His last collaborations scholars say were writing sessions mixed
with social pleasure, while participating in writing of Henry VIII,
Two Noble Kinsmen, and the "lost play," Cardenio.
4. With all these successes, wasn't he in position to advance a novel
to audiences he knew very well?

Maybe there was an unfinished ms. left when he died, and Susanne filed
it away, or her husband did. It still might show up in someone's
trunk or grave. Or was it of some questionable disposition that his
censurers wouldn't allow to see the light? Something from the Dark
Side Shakespeare experienced?

File it away with all the other Shakespeare ms. not found.
John W Kennedy
2020-12-23 01:41:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Donald Cameron
Assembling reasons why and why not an English novel from Shakespeare,
mostly off the top of my head. Preaching to the choir here, I know.
1. Novels were supposedly not written before the 18th century.
Of course they were. Thomas Lodge's “Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie”
is a novel (as the era understood it), as was Greene’s “Pandosto: The
Triumph of Time”, and long before them stand such figures as Petronius
and Apulius. But it is generally understood that, although there had
been earlier stirrings, such as “Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His
Sister[-in-law]” and “Robinson Crusoe”, the English novel begins with
the 1740 publication of Richardson’s “Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded” (a
work that was composed almost by accident). For all the faults of
“Pamela”, read in the context of, say, “Love Letters”, it lights up the
world like Dorothy opening up the door into Technicolor.
Post by Donald Cameron
2. Shakespeare did plays and poetry, not prose.
3. No muse for the novel in his day.
4. He didn't even do domestic comedy, much less realism.
5. Public demand for novel was minimal, when people didn't read.
But people did read, and did buy novels.
Post by Donald Cameron
6. Probably Shakespeare had little interest in ancient forms of the
novel, like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murasaki_Shikibu
7. No real evidence he ever read Cervantes' *Don Quixote*.
Yes there is. The Cardenio episode in DQ is clearly the source of the
lost “Cardenio” play, and was recognized immediately as the source of
“Double Falshood”
Post by Donald Cameron
8. Certainly no ms. of a Shakespeare novel, or probably even a forged
one.
1. There is lots of evidence of proto-types of novels in other
genres, like romance, history, science fiction, tales, short story,
fantasy, horror, and surreal, maybe gothic; and there was the growth
of "bildungsroman," showing emotional and moral growth of a character.
2. Other authors seem to approach writing the English novel, such as
Deloney, who used dramatic technique in novels; Greene; Nashe, *The
Unfortunate Traveler*; Spenser, who did *Faerie Queen* with many
sub-plots; More, *Utopia," called a "frame narrative"; Painter,
*Horrible and Bruell Murder of Sultn Solyman*, which was popular;
Sidney, "The Arcadia"; and Spenser, *The Shepherd's Calendar."
In the 17th century, there was Swift, Lyly, Scudery, and Bacon's *New
Atlantis; A Work unfinished*.
3. Surely we can make out the coming novel form by connecting the
dots. So who knows how close Shakespeare came to completing his first
novel?
Speculating about "Shakespeare's novel," one can look at his
retirement from the stage in 1611 at the age of 47 to his home in
Stratford. Question is, Did he give up his life as a professional
writer, before dying in 1616?
1. What did he do with his writing abilities between 1611 and 1616?
2. He is known for his ability to "mirror life," borrow and
improvise to compose all forms of narrative, even out of the box in
terms of following classical unities.
3. His last collaborations scholars say were writing sessions mixed
with social pleasure, while participating in writing of Henry VIII,
Two Noble Kinsmen, and the "lost play," Cardenio.
4. With all these successes, wasn't he in position to advance a novel
to audiences he knew very well?
Maybe there was an unfinished ms. left when he died, and Susanne filed
it away, or her husband did. It still might show up in someone's
trunk or grave. Or was it of some questionable disposition that his
censurers wouldn't allow to see the light? Something from the Dark
Side Shakespeare experienced?
File it away with all the other Shakespeare ms. not found.
--
John W. Kennedy
"The blind rulers of Logres
Nourished the land on a fallacy of rational virtue."
-- Charles Williams. "Taliessin through Logres: Prelude"
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