Shakespeare is thought to have collaborated with at least nine other poets on his own plays, and with other poets on their plays.
Besides Fletcher, Massinger, Wilkins, Day and Heywood, other collaborators in the Shakespeare plays have been identified as or conjectured as being Christopher Marlowe, George Peele, Thomas Middleton and Robert Greene.
It is noteworthy that all the collaborators with Shakespeare were university men (with the possible exception of George Wilkins, about whom little is known).
In addition, there are strong influences showing in the Shakespeare plays from many other poets.
Contemporary influences come from dramatists such as Kyd, Marlowe and Daniel (history and tragedy), and Lyly, Greene and Peele (comedy), and from epic poets such as Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney.
In his early plays Shakespeare was particularly influenced by the University Wits (Lyly, Lodge, Peele, Greene, Kyd, Watson and Nashe), and most of the half-dozen or so plays that he had produced by 1594 resemble the work of these predecessors of his.
It also seems to have worked the other way as well. For instance, Shakespeare is perceived to have collaborated with others on the anonymous history plays Edward III and Sir Thomas More, and he may have been involved with Robert Greene in writing Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. Sir Thomas More is attributed nowadays to Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, with alterations by Chettle, Dekker, Heywood and Shakespeare.
Peter Dawkins, July 2005
(See the author’s book, The Shakespeare Enigma)
1. Prof. Brian Vickers, in his book Shakespeare, Co-Author (Oxford University Press, 2002), shows how numerous tests, made by many generations of scholars, seem to demonstrate fairly conclusively that other playwrights contributed substantially to at least five Shakespeare plays: for instance, George Peele wrote almost a third of Titus Andronicus, Thomas Middleton about two-fifths of Timon of Athens, George Wilkins two of the five acts of Pericles, and John Fletcher more than half of Henry VIII and three-fifths of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
The Francis Bacon Research Trust