A study of the debt to Shakespeare in the Beaumont-and-Fletcher plays



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The word "debt," as used in the title of this dissertation, refers to such matters as similarities of plot, incident, situation, character, or particular lines. The poetry of Beaumont, says R. M. Alden, "shows an unanalyzable but undeniable echo of the style and the cadences" of Shakespeare's verse; but that is a type of indebtedness which I have not investigated. The phrase "the Beaumont-and-Fletcher plays" is intended to include all the dramas that are usually so designated, be they the work of Beaumont, Fletcher, Massinger, Field, Rowley, Middleton, or of someone else. I began this investigation by reading all the Beaumont-and-Fletcher plays, noting for later and more careful examination those which seemed in debt to Shakespeare. Thus I was able to pursue the study with a judgment unbiased by the opinions of others. Next came a study of what others had done in the same field and an adjusting of my work to theirs. By looking into known sources of the plays, I have tried to avoid the mistake of giving Shakespeare credit for having suggested material which in reality had been supplied by another. I shall not be greatly surprised if the discovery of other sources should disturb some of my conclusions. Because of the uncertain value of parallel passages, I have placed little emphasis on them. Alden rightly says "Serious imitations of Shakspere [in Beaumont and Fletcher] are found rather more in the general manner, or the situation of characters, than in particular passages...." Nevertheless, it has seemed wise to include parallels that are close and apparently not accidental. Most of the verbal echoes of Shakespeare that are quoted on these pages are mentioned by Dyce, the editors of the Variorum Edition, or Koeppel. But frequently when comparing a scene in Beaumont and Fletcher with one in Shakespeare, I quote passages from the two scenes merely to reveal similarities in structure, situation, or incident. When my intention is to point out verbal parallels, I always try to make that clear