July 22, 2016


Darren Freebury-Jones



I must confess that I find it rather difficult to get excited about productions of Shakespeare’s tragedy of love, Romeo and Juliet. The play is one of the bard’s biggest hits, and it tends to get put on very frequently, at the expense of some of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, like, say, his collaboration with George Peele, Titus Andronicus, or his Coriolanus. It also gets put on at the expense of many other great early modern tragedies, such as Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, (his contested) Arden of Faversham, and his original Elizabethan love-tragedy, Soliman and Perseda; or Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine plays and The Jew of Malta; not to mention the tragic works of John Marston, John Webster, and sundry others. That said, I have no qualms about Everyman selecting this much-loved classic in order to show off the marvellous talent they have at their disposal. But if you’re going to select a sacred cow, you’d better bring it to pastures new…

And that’s exactly what the directors Mark Modzelewski and Jack Paterson have done. The play began with myriad voices, the prologue incantatory, with vivid tableaus. From the off, I could perceive that Everyman were going for something quite different with this production: they were going to deliver all the great moments in Shakespeare’s play that have been adored for centuries, but they were also going to keep it fresh, with visceral emotion and raw intensity between the warring houses. Many speeches were split between characters, giving more of an ensemble feel, and Benvolio, a role I once played myself, had suddenly become two characters, aptly named Ben (played by Edward Kettle) and Volio (Stephanie Smith). All this made for a Romeo and Juliet that delivered the classic moments and the adulated lines, but mixed things up with great success. If I have one criticism, it is that I felt the cast could have made more of the humour in the first half of the play. What I enjoy most about Shakespeare’s text is the dichotomy between the comedic first half and the despairing second half, engendered by Mercutio’s death. Whether the directors had decided to rein in the comedy for the sake of eliciting emotive responses from the audience, or whether the fact that this was the first night meant the cast were less likely to take risks, I’m not sure. That said, Cari Barley did an excellent job in the Senecan role of the Nurse (however, this part can also be found in Arthur Brooke’s poem, which served as a source for Shakespeare), in the scene when Juliet entreats her to offer information about Romeo’s marriage proposal.

What about the lovers themselves? Mikey Howe made for an eminently likeable Romeo, who demonstrably grew in confidence as the play progressed, and will hit his stride as the production continues, I’m sure. He really nailed the youthful naivety, amorousness, and despair of the protagonist. As for Juliet, I must concede that, in the vast majority of productions I’ve seen, the actress does a poor job. Juliet, if not played right, can come across as a whiney, obstreperous teenager, thus obliterating any invested emotion on the part of the audience. Helen Randall, however, made for a beautiful Juliet, both inside and out, a captivating bright angel whenever she was on stage, with pitch-perfect delivery of Shakespeare’s pentameter lines, perfect diction, wry humour, and understated despair. She was indubitably the finest Juliet I’ve seen on stage and had wonderful chemistry with her Romeo.


The cast did a great job overall, from the snarling Tybalt (played by Asha Cecil), to the loveable ghostly father, Friar Laurence (played by James Pritchard), and the excellent Jon Barnes as Mercutio. Barnes’s Mercutio was the ideal blend of loveable cad and dangerous ally, and his death was very touching and ushered in the woeful downfall of Juliet and her Romeo. The creative ensemble were also superb, and were integral to the success of the play. The directors evidently allowed the cast to improvise in rehearsal, to experiment, and some moments, such as Romeo’s encounter with the Apothecary, were visually and audibly stunning. Too often reviewers focus solely on the ‘leading’ actors, without acknowledging the hard work of the supporting cast, who provide the very foundations for performance and are crucial to the quality of a play. I must mention Tom Roderick in particular; he listened and responded intently and aptly to every line of the play, and his ability to react, and to invest himself in each unfolding moment, was commendable.


Nature is above art, a doctrine Shakespeare himself imparts in King Lear, and the outdoor surroundings really contributed to this production. The clock would strike on the most portentous moments, such as Mercutio’s demise, and sometimes it was hard to discern between artificial sirens and real police cars zipping through Cardiff. One particular highlight was the moment that Romeo prepared to kill himself. A flock of seagulls screamed in protest, like the figurative raven from the anonymous The Tragedy of Richard III that Shakespeare parodied in Hamlet, singing not, but screeching for revenge. Indeed, the cast’s deep sighs added more clouds to the ominous lazy-pacing clouds that converged on the production.


Lastly, I must praise the fight scenes, which really had the audience on the edge of their seats. Some of the blows were incredibly realistic, as one might expect from a production with the super talented Simon Riordan as Assistant Director. All in all, this was a solid production, with a marvellous cast, perfectly directed (and well edited, might I add! It was a brisk piece of engrossing entertainment), that dispelled any gripes I had about the potentiality of this production being same-old.

Once again, I say bravo Everyman; this company never fails to delivery high-quality productions, and I am particularly excited to review the eyases performing Richard II on Sunday.

Romeo and Juliet runs from 21 July – 30 July at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.

Photography:  Keith Stanbury




Open Air Theatre Festival in Cardiff: Shakespeare, 21-30, July

July 18, 2016



Everyman Theatre is back in Cardiff for the Open Air Festival.

Their Shakespeare productions include:

Richard II, 24th, July, 2016

Everyman Youth Theatre are delighted to return to the Open Air Theatre Festival this summer to perform Shakespeare’s historical play, Richard II. Running time is approximately 90 minutes including an interval.

Romeo and Juliet, 21-30th, July, 2016

Everyman Theatre are delighted to welcome directors Mark Modzelewski and Jack Paterson to our Open Air Theatre Festival and the depiction of Shakespeare’s classic tale of “star-cross’d lovers”, forbidden love and blind passion is a tale of firsts.  Swept away in their first love, teenagers Romeo and Juliet irresistibly drawn to each other, fall in love and marry in secret as their families’ long standing feud comes to a head.  When you are passionately in love, nothing else matters – not even life itself.  Defying the hatred and violence surrounding them, they dare to believe they can, and must, be together.

In modern Verona, violence erupts between the Montagues and Capulets with tragic consequences.  With the death of their children, the citizens come together and through song, movements and story examine how they came to such tragedy.

Find out more.






Taking Flight with Romeo and Juliet in Cardiff: A Review

June 18, 2016

Review by Emily Garside @EmiGarside

Taking Flight Theatre are back for their annual outdoor Shakespeare, this year with Romeo and Juliet. Taking Flight are an inclusive theatre company, meaning all their productions are accessible for audiences and performers alike. Unlike other theatre companies who treat accessibility as an add-on for Taking Flight accessibility is a part of the performance.

This means for Romeo and Juliet, there is live audio description as well as BSL interpretation and dialogue. Juliet and her Nurse converse in BSL and Romeo must attempt to learn some to communicate with his love. Meanwhile inventive and witty audio description serves to enable accessibility and move the narrative along.

Set in 1963 against a boarding school backdrop, a combination of swinging 60s design and music gives the show an energetic lift, and the promenade performance allows the performers to really engage with the audience and make the story their own.

This is an energetic and youthful interpretation of Romeo and Juliet and one that would serve as an excellent introduction to the text or indeed Shakespeare as a whole to audiences young and old. Set against a backdrop of Wales’ most beautiful venues on its outdoor tour Taking Flight have devised another inventive and engaging take on Shakespeare that all audiences can be included in.

Taking Flight @takingflightco

Touring Wales June 16-August 1st

Thu 16 – Sun 19 June Thompson’s Park, Cardiff

Tue 21 June Caerphilly Castle

Thu 23 – Sat 25 June Denbigh Castle

Sun 26 June Loggerheads Country Park

Wed 29 June Tintern Abbey

Thu 30 June Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr

Wed 6 July Tretower Court

Thu 7, Fri 8 & Sun 10 July Blaise Castle Estate, Bristol   Tickets for this venue can be purchased here: www.bristolshakespearefestival.org.uk

Fri 15 – Sat 16 July Valle Crucis Abbey, Llangollen

Sun 17 July Rhuddlan Castle

Tue 19 July Cilgerran Castle

Wed 20 – Sat 23 July Stackpole, Nr Pembroke

Sun 24 July Hilton Court, H’west

Tue 26 July Clyne Gardens, Swansea

Thu 28 July Elan Valley

Fri 29 July Kidwelly Castle

Mon 1 Aug Beechenhurst Lodge, Forest of Dean


Find out more.




All’s Well That Ends Well @ShakespeareatTF – A Review

May 1, 2016

All's Well Tobacco Factory

A review by Thomas Tyrrell (Cardiff University)

During a lecture on the medieval sources of Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, Professor Elizabeth Archibald digressed so far as to recommend the current production at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. I was suddenly reminded that it was eight years since I saw my first ever Hamlet there; seven since I last went, to watch Anthony and Cleopatra. High time I went again.

The clue’s in the name – the Tobacco Factory is not a purpose built theatre. Forget the stalls and the boxes, the Gods and the proscenium arch. Everything here is staged in the round, with a few bare props, no scenery – and no, the cast will not be familiar to you from the latest Hollywood blockbuster. It’s an intimate space, where every seat gives you a chance to appreciate the play from a literally unique angle.

At the interval I cast an eye over the audience survey. The three key points the theatre was interested in were, in order:

  • Did you understand the plot?
  • Did you understand the language?
  • Did you think the play was well-performed?

I was concerned that the quality of the acting came so far down the list, especially while talking to the woman on the neighbouring seat as we waited for the lights to dim. She was not a Shakespeare loyalist, though she’d come with a woman who was, and she was finding the play a struggle. For her, so much of the drama of the play was lost in the language – beautiful poetic language, she was willing to admit – but which through its very invention and complexity obscured the character’s emotions and motivations. It wasn’t relatable for her.

I had some sympathy. The theatre was obviously concerned that the plot and dialogue of the play, one of Shakespeare’s least known, should be clear and understandable, but in the process I thought they’d sacrificed some of the drama. Helena, heroine of this play, is one of Shakespeare’s most resourceful, witty and determined female characters. Like Rosalind in As You Like It, you should fall in love with her at once. Eleanor Yates as Helena tends to put the language before the emotion, though, and declaims rather than declares her love for Bertram, Count of Rossillion (Craig Fuller). You don’t feel the ache, the yearning, the uncertainty of the infatuation of the physician’s daughter with the man from the higher social sphere. You don’t feel Helena’s nervousness as the wily but well-meaning Countess of Rossillion teases her secret out of her. It’s a superb performance by Julia Hills in a wonderful choreographed scene where two women in full Victorian mourning dress circle one another like dreadnoughts at sea, but still – you just don’t feel it on Helena’s part. You don’t sense her triumph as she heals the King of France of his troublesome fistula, and (in a witty reversal of the usual fairytale) demands Bertram’s hand as her reward, nor her growing anxiety as it emerges that something is seriously awry in their marriage. Only when she finds by Bertram’s cruel letter that he refuses to consummate the marriage and would rather spend the rest of his life waging wars in Italy than share her bed do we see her composure break and her tears pour out.

One the other hand, this emotional void gives unusual room for the other parts in the play to shine. Paul Currier’s Parolles entered with the casual drawl, false swagger and waxed moustachios of George MacDonald Frazer’s Flashman, wearing an unbelievable jacket apparently stolen from a playing card, and amused throughout. The charm and common sense of Diana (Isabella Marshall) as she fooled Bertram into a reconciliation with his wife in part made up for the lack of affect in Helena’s performance. Craig Fuller put great effort into the thankless, sulky and brooding role of Bertram and succeeded in giving me a sense of how nightmarish the play’s final scene is for his character, when all his hypocrisy, deceit and selfishness is dredged up in full view of his mother, his King and his prospective father-in-law.

Helena enters to save him, revealing the bed trick that has been played upon him – instead of villainously seducing the innocent Diana, he has lawfully consummated his marriage with her and fathered a child. The couple reunite, but the play as Shakespeare wrote it leaves us with the nagging feeling that Bertram hardly deserves this mercy. The great emotional moment (‘my eyes smell onions,’ sniffles a courtier) is the reunion of Helena and the Countess, and this seems appropriate for the conclusion of a play in which the women characters are unusually numerous and active in guiding their foolish menfolk in the direction of a happy ending.

This performance has a surprise hero however, for the Countess’s clown Lavatch, vessel of much crude humour, has been reinvented as a prissy dancing master. Marc Geoffrey plays him as a cross between C-3PO and Ophelia and it’s either a tribute to the smoothness with which the new material has been grafted into the play or my dodgy memory of the text as a whole that I could hardly spot the joins. When he recovers from the madness that dogs him in the second half to lead the characters in a closing dance (a Renaissance tradition revived at Shakespeare’s Globe and now, it is heartening to see, spreading to other performances), I found myself deeply and unexpectedly moved. After seeing a fractious character like Bertram slighting his partner and trampling on everyone’s good nature, it added a new conviction to Bertram and Helena’s reunion to see them move, for once, in time and measure: and I was reminded, in the word’s of Shakespeare’s contemporary Sir John Davies, that ‘Dauncing is love’s proper exercise.’ In the hurry for the exit, I missed the chance to find out how my neighbour enjoyed the second half, but I hope she too found something moving in it.




Cardiff Shakespeare Timelapses

April 23, 2016

A team of people from Cardiff University have put together a beautiful and poignant video to celebrate the 400th Shakespeare anniversary.

Sonnet 19 is read by Professor Damian Walford-Davies, Head of the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Music composed by Oliver Harris, 3rd year BMus student. Aerial timelapses from the School of Psychology Tower – thanks to Steve Michael.




Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one more heinous crime:
O, carve not with the hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.






Shakespeare On Planes

April 9, 2016


A colleague of mine, under the pseudonym ‘Jack Cade’, has written a significant (tongue-in-cheek) piece on the growing field of Shakespearean Aeronautics, below:


Shakespeare On Planes


It is a fact not always universally acknowledged that the Bard of Avon as well as being an incisive commentator on human nature also demonstrates a prescient and detailed knowledge of modern aviation. From the historical standpoint which utilises Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the dialogical imagination, in which the temporal relationship between intentionality is dispersed synchronically, the Shakespearean influence on such planes as the Hawker Tempest is obvious. However what is less well known is the detailed knowledge demonstrated within his plays of aeronautical engineering and prototypical aviation genetics.

As Shakespeare himself tells us in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ‘My soul is in the sky’. (Act V. Scene I). Let us take the often cited example of the so called ‘cockpit’ in which pilots sit. The term is first used in Shakespeare’s famous Henry V to describe the legendary ‘wooden O’ in which the ‘vasty fields of France’ might fit. Shakespeare’s clear conception here is the maximisation of space utility in which the ‘casque’ or ‘pilot’ can readily cram not only his body, but his entire navigational apparatus (no doubt Shakespeare knew something of early SatNav technology, but that is for another article).  Of course, the word ‘cockpit’ was later stolen my mariners to describe the small cramped spaces below decks of 17th century British naval vessels. Whilst sitting in the cockpit, the Shakespearean expert may well pay attention to the so-called ‘canopy’ above his head, described in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida as referring to that space in which the ‘kites and crows’ might dwell – synonyms of course for enemy pilots. In fact, this knowledge of aviation code-words is itself encoded most famously in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Let us look at an example of the operational commands to pilots including weather analysis contained in the codified first letter of each line of a short passage highlighted below:

TA -Traffic Advisory; MI – ‘Shallow’ (weather warning) or DP (‘Deep’); I (‘I should inform you further’);  ALT – approach and landing test; TIS – (‘It is’) NBW (‘north by west’) FM ‘From’ (‘followed by time weather change is to begin’); BAC (‘Bleed Air Control’ or possibly ‘BACON’ – Shakespeare’s own codename for his other work as a scientist); T ‘time’ (‘the very minute’); O (OBEY).

T Then Prospero, Mafter of a full poore cell,

A And thy no greater Father.

MIra. More to know

D Did neuer medle with my thoughts.

Pros. ‘Tis time

I I fshould informe thee farther: Lend thy hand

A And plucke my Magick garment from me: So,

L Lye there my Art: wipe thou thine eyes, haue comfort,

T The direfull fpectacle of the wracke which touch’d

T The very vertue of compaffion in thee:

I I haue with fuch prouifion in mine ART

S So fafely ordered, that there is no foule

N No not fo much perdition as an hayre

B Betid to any creature in the veffell

W Which thou heardft cry, which thou faw’st finke: Sit

F For thou muft now know farther. downe,

Mira. You haue often

B Begun to tell me what I am, but ftopt

A And left me to a booteleffe inquisition,

C Concluding, ftay, not yet. Prof. The howr’s now come

T The very minute byds thee ope thine eare,

O Obey, and be attentiue.

The text of The Tempest was of course performed onstage in November 1611 with actors being prompted to pronounce the syllables of each codified line to the highly trained Elizabethan pilots in the audience. The matter of the play itself also concerned the flight paths and world-wide information gathering of ‘Ariel’ (Prospero’s Messenger) and no doubt contained additional flight information for the formal training of the burgeoning Shakespearean air force.  Given that such training must have been top secret it is no surprise that the knowledge contained within the Shakespearean texts was codified. The character of Ariel (the name itself of course a precursor of the modern variant ‘aerial’) was a clever metaphorical field manual to modern aerial warfare considerations, long before the use of barrage balloons and suchlike of the Napoleonic era.

Ariel is literally an ‘air demon’, a sprite used as messenger and instigator of his master Prospero’s ‘magic’ (or strategic realisation). Ariel justly states his use of cloud cover in order to facilitate his strategic advantage: ‘I come…to ride /On the curl’d clouds/ to thy strong bidding task Ariel and all his quality.’ The strong hint at the additional members of the secret air force in that phrase ‘all his quality’ is indeed surprising.

Another revelation is the sheer technology available to Shakespeare’s aviationary crew – indeed that Ariel arrives amid ‘thunder and lightning’ is hardly a surprise when the speed at which he travels is clearly above Mach 3. We read within the play that Ariel could put a girdle ’round the Earth in forty minutes’. As Ariel himself points out, such speed can sometimes have disastrous consequences for early aviators when the no doubt wooden structures (early precursors to the ‘Mosquito’) caught fire: ‘Now in the waist, the deck, in [the] cabin, I flamed amazement: sometime I’d divide and burn in many places.’ As always, Shakespeare shows a humane understanding of the horrific consequences of failures in design of the early aviation technology. While the ever present attractions of aviation remain, as Ariel himself states he feels “free as mountain winds” when aflight, Shakespeare is careful to provide caution however – as Ariel observes: “the wind bloweth where it listeth.”

Given the incredible power of aviation technology in Elizabethan England, Shakespeare needed to keep things secret and he knew the importance and value of intelligence. As he states in A Midsummer Night’s Dream no doubt referring to a new prototype ‘Hermia’:  “I will go tell him of Hermia’s flight: /Then to the wood will he to-morrow night/ Pursue her; and for this intelligence/If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.’ Shakespeare knew too the uncompromising struggles of modern military air warfare, as he states in the Third part of Henry VI, a pilot who crashes can no longer count on careful treatment from his foe: ‘Bootless are plaints and cureless are my wounds, no way to fly, nor strength to hold out flight,/ the foe is merciless, and will not pity’ (2.6).

Given the amount of innovative work in the field of aviation Shakespeare contributed, he would no doubt be shocked to know that in a modern context, his flight information guide ‘Arial’ has been reduced to a mere ‘type’ for word processing purposes.




‘Verbal Affinities between Marston and Lust’s Dominion’ By Darren Freebury-Jones

April 9, 2016

The following paper was read by DARREN FREEBURY-JONES at ‘Authorship and Attribution in Early Modern Drama: John Marston and Others’, January 23rd 2016 at Birkbeck, University of London.

© Darren Freebury-Jones 2016

FOR ENQUIRIES PLEASE EMAIL: Darren_f.j@hotmail.co.uk



As many of you, no doubt, will not know who I am, I shall introduce myself and my specific research interests. My name is Darren Freebury-Jones and I conducted my PhD research at Cardiff University. My thesis investigated the arguments and counterarguments for and against an expanded Thomas Kyd canon, and also examined Shakespeare’s early plays, as well as the works of Thomas Nashe. I am currently working with fellow attribution scholars Marcus Dahl and Lene Petersen on a monograph-style book, which, rather like this workshop, explores different methods for identifying early modern dramatists’ hands in extant texts, and I will also be serving as editor and authorship consultant for a new edition of Kyd’s plays. I must say that I consider it a real privilege to be here, and I am incredibly grateful to Martin Butler and Matthew Steggle for inviting me. I was very excited when I saw the list of contributors, and I have long admired the pioneering work conducted in the field of authorship studies by the speakers here.

I must concede that I do not profess to be a Marston expert. Put simply, before I was invited to this event, I had never read any of his plays. I am pleased to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed all the works of his I have been able to lay hold of, and I cannot agree with Ben Jonson’s evaluative statement that Marston’s plays were ‘barren trash’. I am certain that this academic collection will be truly special.

I was originally going to give a paper on The Family of Love, before I was requested to turn my attentions towards perhaps the most complicated authorial case discussed today, Lust’s Dominion. Incidentally, I ran a couple of tests on The Family of Love, which yielded some thought-provoking results, and I would happily send my data to anyone who is interested, after this workshop. I found overwhelming verbal evidence for Lording Barry’s hand, but a number of matches with The Dutch Courtesan also.

I shall present my preliminary evidence regards the possibility of Marston’s hand in Lust’s Dominion, in the hope that I can be of some use. I’ve made some interesting discoveries over the last month or so that, I believe, with a little more time, could provide solid grounds for an attribution, or, indeed, deattribution. First, I should like to give a very brief survey of previous ascriptions of this text to Marston.

Lust’s Dominion is a revenge tragedy, printed in 1657. Gustav Cross made a case for Marston’s having been involved in the authorship of the play in 1958. He argued that the play exhibited Marston’s idiosyncratic vocabulary and could be identified with The Spanish Moor’s Tragedy, for which Philip Henslowe paid Thomas Dekker, John Day, and William Haughton in 1600, and that it was also the unnamed tragedy for which Henslowe paid Marston in September 1599.  In 1980, Cyrus Hoy agreed that Lust’s Dominion and The Spanish Moor’s Tragedy were the same play, but that Marston began a revision of an older play for Henslowe in 1599, which was continued by Dekker, Haughton, and Day the following year. In 2001, Charles Cathcart argued that the play originated with Marston, was revised by Dekker, Haughton, and Day, and perhaps went through a subsequent limited revision, most likely in 1606. I refer audience members to Cathcart’s work on the play for a considerably more detailed survey of the external evidence for Marston’s hand.

Before conducting any tests on Lust’s Dominion, I contacted Martin Wiggins, for he is very much an expert in canon and chronology. This is what he had to say:

The people who were paid for The Spanish Moor’s Tragedy (i.e. Lust’s Dominion) were Dekker, Haughton, and Day; nobody has ever attempted to differentiate their shares. The payment, made on 13 February 1600, was a part-fee of £3, paid on completion of the work but with more to come (from some Admiral’s Men pot of money not controlled by Henslowe). The hypothesis that Marston had anything at all to do with it depends solely on the fact that Henslowe paid him an initiating ‘in earnest’ £2 on 28 September. This was (a) nearly six months earlier, and (b) wouldn’t leave much more if anything to be paid on top of the 13 February remittance as the standard total fee paid for most plays was between £5 and £6. For a £2 in earnest you would expect Marston to be quite well advanced in the play, so there would be abundant internal evidence of his hand in the finished play, even if he then left the project to be finished off by the other three. I doubt you’re going to find it, and I interpret the 28 September payment as a fee for a play of which no other trace survives.

The lost play Wiggins mentions could be The King of Scots, which E. K. Chambers proposed was a collaboration between Marston, Dekker, Chettle, and Jonson, although it is worth noting that, just as in Lust’s Dominion, Henslowe did not actually link Marston’s name with the authorship of that play. Wiggins nevertheless doubts that Marston had anything to do with Lust’s Dominion but, notably, he suggests that if it is the same play that Marston was paid an initiating fee for, there would be considerable internal evidence for his hand. I’m inclined to agree, and so I conducted entirely objective tests on this text with the purpose of either eliminating or legitimising Lust’s Dominion.

During my Kyd researches, I analysed verse style, prosody, intensifiers, colloquialisms, prefixes, suffixes, function words, rhyme forms, linguistic idiosyncrasies, compound forms, plot, characterization, and overall dramaturgy. Of course, being new to Marston, and he new to me, and given the limited timescale I had to examine this play, I was unable to immerse myself in his dramaturgy and combine all of these approaches for Lust’s Dominion. The method I have been asked to talk about today is collocation matching. This methodology has been utilised, in conjunction with other authorship tests, for a number of play editions. Brian Vickers and Marcus Dahl have used plagiarism software during their work on the John Ford corpus, with highly reliable results; Richard Proudfoot for Edward III and Fair Em, which he has been editing; and I understand Martin Wiggins has recently combined collocation evidence with analysis of function words to ascribe a play to Dekker.

Ian Lancashire notes that collocations ‘are the linguistic units we work with most: they fit into working memory and resemble what we store associatively’. We all have certain phrases we repeat, chunks of words that recur in our everyday conversations, such as, to give a common example, the interrogative ‘How are you’, or, to give a rare example here in the UK: ‘Nice weather we’re having’. In our writings, these combinations often take the form of contiguous word sequences, called N-grams. Two contiguous words are known as bigrams; three consecutive words are known as trigrams, or triples; four, known as tetragrams etc. Longer word strings, such as tetragrams and pentagrams (five-word sequences), are statistically rarer in early modern drama and can be a good indicator of either common authorship or plagiarism.

There can be little doubt that dramatists such as Marston, Dekker, Day, and Haughton, also consciously and unconsciously repeated combinations of words and ideas. In fact, the constraints of writing in ten-syllable pentameter lines for plays, with character dialogue written in blank verse and prose, and the haste with which dramatists had to provide playing companies with material, means that these writers were particularly prone to self-repetition.

We can therefore get an idea of whether Marston had a hand in Lust’s Dominion by identifying, as Lancashire puts it, ‘idiolect markers’, which are ‘combinatorial, embedded in an author’s long-term memory, and repeated. We recognise them by unconscious pattern matching similar to what enables us to quickly make out a face in a crowd’. Vickers elaborates that:

Where earlier linguistic theories held that users of natural language selected single words to be placed within a syntactical and semantic structure, it now became clear that we also use groups of words, partly as a labour-saving device, partly as a function of memory. Such verbal economy is particularly prevalent in the drama written for the public theatres, where constraints of time demand speedy composition, characters fall into a set of roles with attendant speech patterns, and the verse line easily admits ready-made phrases. It is hardly surprising that many dramatists frequently repeat themselves.

In order to highlight consecutive clusters of words shared between electronic documents, I employed anti-plagiarism software called WCopyfind, which was developed by Lou Bloomfield, Professor of Physics at the University of Virginia, in order to identify students who were guilty of borrowing feathers. I am not alone in using WCopyfind, which has been my favourite software for the last four years spent examining Kyd’s plays. In fact, I am in very good company: Vickers uses it frequently, and MacDonald P. Jackson has used it in order to search for three and four-word units shared between Double Falsehood and its authorship candidates. I have always found that a minimum of three words is the optimum amount for identifying authors’ hands. No doubt a search that admitted bigrams would reveal a substantial number of matches, whereas a search limited to large phrasal structures might filter out statistically significant findings. I thus set the software to highlight every consecutive three-word phrase shared between old spelling versions of plays drawn from ProQuest, and then checked the matches, which were highlighted within a fraction of a second, using the database Literature OnLine.  I double-checked results using the database Early English Books Online for variant spellings. The plagiarism software automatically highlights all verbal repetitions, whether commonplace in drama or distinctive. I followed MacDonald P. Jackson in that my criteria for establishing whether a matching utterance was rare or not was that it occurred not more than five times in plays performed in London, during the period that the four primary candidates for authorship were writing contemporaneously for the theatres, namely, in this instance, 1590 to 1610. Marston, of course, had ceased writing plays and was ordained deacon by the end of September 1609. This is what Jackson would refer to as ‘an appropriate timeframe’. What I like about Jackson’s criteria is that it allows one to compare matching phrases that, say, appear in both Marston and Dekker, but one can ascertain which writer gives the more approximate example, through an examination of prosodic characteristics, grammatical usage, or whether the phrase also provides a thought-parallel. Even if a word sequence is not unique to a writer, it can still demonstrate an author’s individuality when analysed closely. I thus adhere to David Lake’s categorisations of ‘grammatical or semantic’ patterns, and, as Muriel St Clare Byrne put it in 1932, ‘parallelism of thought coupled with some verbal parallelism’.

To begin with, I ran the plagiarism software on undoubted Marston plays to get an idea of his habits of self-repetition within that ‘largely self-contained phenomenon’ that is early modern drama. There are a number of highly individual word combinations shared between Antonio’s Revenge and The Dutch Courtesan, which I’ve replicated in the handout. The first rare match

Best art Presents, not what it can, but should (Dutch)


Tis praise to doe, not what we can, but should (Antonio’s)

shows us that Marston, like his contemporaries, often repeated phrases in the same position in the verse line, such as the formulaic line-ending ‘can but should’. Moreover, the phrase ‘not what’ in this discontinuous six-word sequence serves the same semantic and syntactical purpose. Matches of this kind are thus useful indicators of common authorship. The match marked number 6,

I must be enforced to forget all men (Dutch)


I must be forced to conclude the tyring man (Antonio’s)

is also useful as an authorship marker, with the pentagram ‘I must be forced to’ utilised by Marston in both passages as a formulaic line-opening, while ‘men’ and ‘man’ co-occur at the end of the respective verse lines. The slight variations in this match, such as ‘forced’ and ‘enforced’, ‘men’ and ‘man’, indicate that these lines stem from a single author’s mental repertoire of verbal combinations. Number 5 suggests Marston’s complex networks of association, as he links the three-word unit ‘and no question’ with the notion that men, or husbands, perfect women, or their wives.

If we compare Antonio’s Revenge to a play closer in genre, The Malcontent, we find that many of the matches are fairly unobtrusive, such as example 1, the line-opening ‘O heauen O’, or example 3, which provides strong evidence for a single author’s verse cadences. Less noticeable phrases are not as likely to be copied, imitated, or parodied by another author, and therefore provide strong evidence for common authorship. In my experience, same author play pairs share a substantial number of unobtrusive matches, along with longer word strings, such as examples 4 and 5. These texts by Marston, as we can see, share some striking word sequences, but also a number of seemingly trivial phrases picked up by the plagiarism software. A reader would be unlikely to notice the latter, and I dare say Marston was not conscious that many of these phrases constituted his idiosyncratic lexicon.

Now, let us turn to verbal matches between undoubted Marston texts and Lust’s Dominion. If we examine parallels with Dutch Courtesan, we find that they are hardly striking, influential phrases likely to have been appropriated or parodied. As David Lake noted in his examination of verbal parallels differentiating the hands of Dekker and Thomas Middleton, ‘the collocations themselves are so unremarkable that imitation is very unlikely’. Interestingly, the match marked number 1 shares similar prosodic characteristics, with the triple ‘eldest child of’ serving the exact same purpose in the verse line, preceded by the initial iambic foot. Example 2, the four-word unit ‘I’ll play the devil’, also suggests a single author’s pattern matching, for this sequence is followed by a conjunction in both instances. The most interesting match between these plays, in my opinion, is number 4, with its slight variation in syntax, indicative of a single author’s word associations. But it is the verbal affinities with Antonio and Mellida and Antonio’s Revenge that provide truly compelling evidence for Marston’s hand.

In authorship studies, it is a basic principle that, for most reliable results, a practitioner should compare like to like. Indeed, the matches between Lust’s Dominion and Marston’s tragedy Antonio’s Revenge reveal no discernible differences, in terms of quality, with many of the matches I have discovered between Antonio’s Revenge and the undoubted Marston texts. The first example, the recurring tetragram ‘Why do you frown’, varies slightly in terms of pronoun choice, but serves the same function at the beginning of the verse line. The second example, the match

‘Tis done, and who gainsaies it is a Traitor (Lust’s)


Tis done, and now my sowle shal sleep in rest (Antonio’s)

also suggests Marston’s verse habits. On the surface, the repetition of the triple ‘Tis done and’ seems trivial, but examining the phrase in context gives us a possible insight into Marston’s associative memory. This phrase occurs during the King’s speech in Lust’s Dominion. The King is responding to Philip’s interrogative ‘Dare sons presume to break their fathers will?’. If we analyse the matching sequence in Antonio’s Revenge, we discover a further verbal link in Andrugio’s subsequent line ‘Sons that reuenge their fathers blood, are blest’. The association of this unremarkable three-word unit with the topic of sons at the behest of their fathers would seem to derive from a single author’s verbal memory. There are also indications of Marston’s recurring thought patterns in example 5. In Lust’s Dominion, Maria speaks of a ‘powerful drug’, which is instilled ‘through all’ the King’s ‘spirits’. Similarly, Antonio speaks of ‘hell-straid iuyce’ which is ‘powred’ through ‘vaines’. Antonio’s moralising speech also shares the tetragram ‘More than a devil’ with Lust’s Dominion, as we can see in example 11. Looking at all of the verbal data I have collected, the exchanges between Philip, the Cardinal, and the Queen Mother near the conclusion of Lust’s Dominion have a particularly high concentration of Marstonian phrases, while match number 6,

And since I liv’d for her, for her I’l die (Lust’s)


And since I cannot liue with him, I dye (Antonio’s)

is also noteworthy. The triple ‘And since I’ embraces ‘live’ and ‘I die’, placed in almost identical positions in the pentameter line, which once again suggests a single author’s habits of incorporating idiosyncratic phrases into his verse structure. We might note that both lines contain pronouns and give us an unmistakeable thought parallel. In Lust’s Dominion, the King delivers this line following the news that Maria is dead, while Mellida’s line is in response to the fallacious report that Antonio has drowned. Additionally, I have discovered another thought-parallel, coupled with verbal parallelism, between these lines and Antonio’s Revenge, through traditional reading-based methods (it was not picked up by the plagiarism software). At the conclusion of the tragedy, the revenger vows to remain faithful to his dead lover: ‘She lives in me, with her my love is dead’.

Number 8 is perhaps significant in that the line

One stratagem that in despite of fate (Lust’s)

gives us a double match with both Antonio and Mellida’s

Weele sing yet, faith, euen despite of fate (Mellida)

and Antonio’s Revenge:

Let’s all turne sighers. Come, despight of fate. (Antonio’s)

Such recurring phrases could provide evidence for Marston’s verbal habits. We might also note that, in example 10, the triple ‘before thou dost’ serves a similar contextual purpose. Isabel speaks of killing herself, while Balurdo also associates this phrase, which is hardly reliant on that context, with death.

I propose that there are two possibilities as to why Lust’s Dominion shares so many distinct clusters of words and ideas with Antonio’s Revenge. Either Marston was drawing from his mental repertoire, to serve the same generic purpose, or the dramatists responsible for Lust’s Dominion were deeply familiar with the verbal texture of that play, and were either consciously or unconsciously replicating the phraseology of Marston’s text. Wiggins dates the two Antonio plays 1599, and it is conceivable that Marston was working on them around the same time as he was working on the text we now know as Lust’s Dominion. As Charles Crawford put it in 1906, ‘works of the same date by the same writer invariably repeat each other more often than others that are separated by longer intervals of time’. If either Dekker, Day, or Haughton were recycling verbal details from Marston’s play in 1600, it seems they must have had access to a manuscript, for many of these N-grams reproduce verse structure. They do not strike me as the products of aural memory, due to the dramatists having seen these plays during performance. Given that my research on Lust’s Dominion is somewhat in its salad days, I shall resist asserting, apodictically, whether these N-grams are the result of reading knowledge or common authorship.

Nonetheless, I should also like to consider the matches between Lust’s Dominion and The Malcontent. We find that example 4 is indicative of Marston’s specific idiolect, for the trigram co-occurs with another Marston text. Conversely, the match marked number 8 is, I think, closer to Dekker in terms of thought, while the last example, the triple ‘In true contrition’ is highly distinctive, and is utilised as a formulaic line-opening in both examples.

The Malcontent was probably written a couple of years after Lust’s Dominion. The verbal affinities between these texts therefore cannot be explained by the theory that Dekker, Haughton, or Day were appropriating phrases from Marston; this time, we would have to hypothesise that Marston was imitating Lust’s Dominion. As Cathcart puts it: ‘we would have to posit a Lust’s Dominion which was thoroughly and repeatedly influenced by Marston’s verse satires and which Marston himself then proceeded to plunder’.

I have already begun testing Marston’s plays against those of Dekker, Haughton, and Day. It may seem paradoxical, but identifying an author’s patterns of influence can also be useful for either attributing or deattributing a text to an authorship candidate. For example, Kyd often replicated language from John Lyly’s plays, sometimes irrespective of scenic context or genre. That is not to say that Lyly contributed to Kyd’s plays, but analyses of appropriated phrases, and the nature of such borrowings, can yield useful authorship indicators.

When I tested the Marston texts that had dense verbal relations with Lust’s Dominion against Haughton’s Englishmen for my Money, I discovered that the two dramatists merely shared some common phrases within the theatrical vernacular of their time. I therefore doubt that Haughton was borrowing distinct phrases from Marston, or vice-versa, in Lust’s Dominion. John Day’s The Isle of Gulls also shared few rare phrases with the Marston texts, although I did discover a handful of matches with The Malcontent; however, they seldom exhibited similarities in terms of thought processes or verse structure. Perhaps Day had seen The Malcontent during performance (Wiggins dates that play 1603 and Day’s play 1606), but this would not explain the matches between Lust’s Dominion and Marston’s tragedy, given that The Malcontent had yet to be written when Day collaborated with Dekker and Haughton. Dekker, as we can see in the handout, seems to share a number of phrases with Marston but, for the most part, close consideration of context enables us to distinguish between the writers.

When I compared a selection of Dekker texts against Antonio’s Revenge, The Malcontent, and What You Will, I discovered a couple of matches that suggest Marston and Dekker, who were grouped together in Jonson’s The Poetaster, influenced each other. Nonetheless, I have yet to find parallels in Dekker’s plays of the same nature or quantity as those with Marston’s tragedies in Lust’s Dominion. But, if requested by the editors, I would be happy to continue investigating the verbal relations between these playwrights, perhaps complemented by stylistic studies and examinations of characterization and overall dramaturgy, in order to reach a conclusion.

Another play probably written by Marston within a year or so of Lust’s Dominion, but generically different, is the romantic comedy What You Will. We might note that in example 5, the triplet of words ‘must be when’ embraces the pronoun ‘you’, while the fact that the phrase ‘be proud and’, in example 10, is repeated twice in Lust’s Dominion, could help us to zone in on Marston’s possible contributions to the play. I shall speak further on internal repetition shortly. Example 12 is significant, I think, for the tetragram ‘the circle of thy’ is employed as part of a rhyming couplet in both passages, and the context of magic, or ‘damned charms’, is strikingly similar. One cannot yet be certain whether common authorship provides the answer for this parallel, which almost certainly exceeds the bounds of coincidence, but it is fair to say that something is going on here.

There are also some interesting matches between Lust’s Dominion and The Fawn, particularly number 3, which gives us a parallel of both language and thought. The Queen Mother, speaking of her son, says that he ‘woo’s greatnesse, He takes up Spanish hearts on trust, to pay them’ while, in The Fawn, Hercules speaks of spendthrifts who have ‘treasonably purchased Ladies affections, without being of ability to pay them for it with money’. I must stress that these matches are the results of my preliminary searches; a work in progress, if you will. I have thus far only been able to test Lust’s Dominion against a selection of plays by our four authorship candidates, and no doubt one’s hypothesis regards the possible divisions of shares, which do not appear to be neat, and the extent of Marston’s contributions, if indeed he did contribute, could alter once all the data is collected.

It is worth mentioning, however, that the affinities I have discovered with Haughton, who seems to be, fortunately for our purpose, quite self-repetitious, suggest that he played a dominant role in the verbal fabric of Act Two. The matches with Dekker I have found so far are interesting (particularly those in the play’s opening act, which provides some of the strongest evidence for Dekker’s hand) in that they suggest he attended to another writer’s draft; they are very different to the matches with Marston and Haughton, in terms of distribution. They frequently occur at moments when characters either enter or exit. Dekker’s phraseology is often found in the first or last speeches delivered by a character on stage, and sometimes paves the way for the entrance of another character. I am particularly suspicious of the play’s opening scenes, which feature a number of hypermetric lines that could indicate another dramatist touching the dialogue up in places (although the text as a whole is generally messy, with prose seemingly printed as verse and vice-versa). That said, Dekker was sometimes prone to writing in a loose, broken verse style, with some of his lines extending to twelve and even fourteen syllables. My verbal evidence also suggests that Dekker was responsible for the dialogue between Philip and the soldiers in Act Four Scene Five. Matches between Lust’s Dominion and Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday and Satiromastix can be found on the last two pages of the handout.

Overall, the matches I have thus far discovered with Haughton, Dekker, and Day (I have refrained from including all of them in the handout, for the sake of the world’s forests) are hardly different in terms of quantity or quality with those I have adduced from Marston. I will have a better understanding of the distribution of parallels once I have tested this play against all of the works of these candidates. I am currently developing a method of checking internal repetitions, which I detail in a forthcoming article on Shakespeare’s early plays. I divide the text into segments and utilise plagiarism software to highlight repeated N-grams. In my experience, authors in both collaborative and sole-authored texts repeat phrasal units at the forefront of their verbal memories, and I have discovered little evidence that dramatists shared extended verbal details in collaborate works, despite similar scenic contexts, or the fact that they were writing for the same characters, in the same settings. This is hardly surprising, given the time constraints and pressures these writers were under to deliver material. They are unlikely to have had the time to scrutinise each other’s portions in an effort to homogenise their shares. Moreover, when I have discovered shared phrases between co-authors, they are often used in very different contexts and indicate separate authorial cognitive processes, as opposed to formations persisting in a single brain. They also often demonstrate different verse habits. Once all the data regards Marston, Dekker, Day, and Haughton is collected, this method could be of use in distinguishing between the hands involved in Lust’s Dominion, although, as I have noted, the divisions of authorship do not appear to be neat.

That N-gram repetition in early modern plays can help to determine authorship has been demonstrated by Martin Mueller, co-author of The Chicago Homer, which allows direct study of the thousands of N-grams repeated in the corpus of early Greek epic (the famous ‘Homeric Formulae’). Mueller has created a database called Shakespeare His Contemporaries, consisting of over 500 early modern plays dated between 1552 and 1662. These plays are tagged so as to identify all verbal repetitions, ranging from two-word sequences to much longer strings of words. What is most refreshing about Mueller’s database is that we are afforded a corpus that has been created to facilitate the study of N-grams. It produces objective, automated results, which create, as Mueller puts it, ‘a framework of expectations’ within which their evidentiary value can be evaluated. This digital corpus, ‘enriched with linguistic metadata, makes it easy to look at microscopic details of verbal texture across millions of words. The corpus becomes a network of intertextual relations in which changes or differences in the distribution of words or repeated phrases let you contextualize particular textual objects by author, topic, style, genre, or period’. Mueller has set about answering the question ‘If you are interested in the intertextual relationship between one play and another, how many shared n-grams do you need to make a plausible case that something is going on?’ He notes that in his corpus, ‘plays by the same author are likely to share more dislegomena. If we look more closely at shared dislegomena’ (that is a sequence of words with a collocation frequency of 2) ‘by same-author play pairs, we discover that on average plays by the same author share five dislegomena, and the median is four. Roughly speaking, plays by the same author are likely to share twice as many dislegomena as plays by different authors’. Mueller also notes that, in his corpus, longer word sequences are statistically rarer than triples, and that ‘it is quite rare for two plays–texts that are typically between 15,000 and 25,000 words long–to share more than one or two’ unique N-grams of four or more words. I have profited much from Shakespeare His Contemporaries, and Mueller was kind enough to share his data on Lust’s Dominion.

Mueller sent me a document listing all play pairs involving Lust’s Dominion, ranked in order of plays with the densest verbal relations to the tragedy. I have limited my searches for this paper to the period 1590 to 1610, in order to analyse verbal repetitions in comparison to the four primary authorship candidates. Mueller’s database, however, allows one to examine the tragedy against over 500 plays written over a hundred year period, with 543 pairwise combinations involving Lust’s Dominion. Mueller explained how he ranked these plays. He

assigned each n-gram the initial value of the number of its characters, and then divided that value by the number of plays in which it occurs. So an octagram restricted to two plays has a value of 4, while an octagram that occurs in eight plays has a value of 1. For each play pair combination I added the values for each n-gram and then computed the rate per 10,000 words in the combined word count of the two texts. This is a very primitive procedure, but it works in the sense that the results are certainly not arbitrary. The ranking you get from this expanded list of n-grams isn’t very different from the ranking that you get from using n-grams that only occur in two plays. I’ve become interested in the general behaviour of n-grams. If an n-gram occurs in eight texts, is its distribution random, or is it more likely to cluster in a genre or an author? What do such n-grams tell us about author habits?  Quite a bit, I think.

In the list that Mueller sent to me, the top value for Marston is in the 80th percentile, and his other plays are below that. Marston ‘isn’t even playing at the top of the second division’ for play pairs suggesting characteristic patterns of authorial usage. One would therefore be tempted to rule Marston out, but we must remember that Lust’s Dominion is a very complex authorial case, and that nobody is arguing for Marston’s sole authorship. The top play associated with Marston in this list is Histriomastix, followed by The Malcontent, The Insatiate Countess, Antonio’s Revenge, and a further six Marston texts. Marston might not be playing in the first division, but the plays I have just listed all appear higher in the rankings than Haughton’s ‘comedy of tricks’ Englishmen for My Money, and we can be confident that Haughton had a hand in Lust’s Dominion. John Day also figures prominently in this list (five of his plays are included), with the top ranked play being The Isle of Gulls, but this play is still ranked below the four Marston texts I’ve just named. Dekker outranks all of these authors, with twenty of his plays, albeit many collaborative, making the list, and his Patient Grissel playing near the top. It is notable that Haughton is also supposed to have been involved in the composition of this play. Twelve of Dekker’s plays are ranked higher than the top Marston text. We can thus see that Dekker appears to have the densest verbal relations with Lust’s Dominion out of the four authorship candidates, but Marston is in fact ranked higher than Day and Haughton. In short, according to these rankings, Marston is just as likely an authorship candidate as Day and Haughton, who have been linked with the play according to strong external evidence and, as my research suggests, internal evidence.

I am confident that, if I were given the opportunity to expand my research, perhaps combining this method with other methods I have used previously, or in coordination with some of the approaches discussed today, I could provide strong evidence for the divisions of labour in Lust’s Dominion, and ascertain whether the play should be ascribed in part to Marston. Unlike my work on Kyd, I have not yet been able to identify many of Marston’s authorial traits, although, to instance just a couple of examples, I should be happy to analyse the use of Latinate terminations in Lust’s Dominion, in relation to Marston’s ‘affected diction’, as well as such Marstonian habits, identified by G. K. Hunter, as ‘sudden breaks in speech’ and ‘exclamatory noises’. Further investigations of this kind, combined with a completed analysis of N-gram repetitions, may be of use for future inquiries.

Verbal matches with Marston abound throughout the play, although my findings are in agreement with Professor Hoy, who proposed that he ‘seems mainly to have concerned himself with the […] end of the play’. The strongest evidence for Marston’s hand can be found in Act Four Scene Three, the combat between Philip and the Spanish Moor, and Act Five Scene Six, the last scene of the play. These phrases are woven into the verbal fabric of the tragedy and do not seem to indicate later material added by Marston. I suggest that if indeed the play originated with Marston, he was responsible for some fundamental plot points; I can detect few verbal matches in passages that we might consider superfluous, or ‘padding’. Something is certainly going on here; there is plenty of evidence for verbal relations with Marston plays that preceded and followed Lust’s Dominion.

As Crawford put it:

A man’s vocabulary is the surest test by which he can be judged, for no author can jump out of his own language into that of another without betraying himself. His other work will condemn him, and vindicate the wronged party at the same time. It only means the exercise of much patience and minute inquiry to know “which is which.”

Minute inquiry would indeed be the next appropriate step. For now, I hope that my findings will be of some use, for this play and other attributional puzzles.





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