Plagiarism Software Unveils a New Source for 11 of Shakespeare’s Plays

Michael Blanding in the New York Times:

Shakespeare-bookcover-blog427For years scholars have debated what inspired William Shakespeare’s writings. Now, with the help of software typically used by professors to nab cheating students, two writers have discovered an unpublished manuscript they believe the Bard of Avon consulted to write “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” “Richard III,” “Henry V” and seven other plays.

The news has caused Shakespeareans to sit up and take notice.

“If it proves to be what they say it is, it is a once-in-a-generation — or several generations — find,” said Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

The findings were made by Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter, who describe them in a book to be published next week by the academic press D. S. Brewer and the British Library. The authors are not suggesting that Shakespeare plagiarized but rather that he read and was inspired by a manuscript titled “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels,” written in the late 1500s by George North, a minor figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth, who served as an ambassador to Sweden.

“It’s a source that he keeps coming back to,” said Mr. McCarthy, a self-taught Shakespeare scholar, during a recent interview at his home in North Hampton, N.H. “It affects the language, it shapes the scenes and it, to a certain extent, really even influences the philosophy of the plays.”

More here. [Thanks to Laura Claridge.]

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