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Roughly in the right place for my reading of Shakespeare is this curiosity, a single scene from a play about Sir Thomas More, written in the early 1590s but first published in 1844 (and apparently first performed in 1964, with Ian McKellen in the title role). The play survives only in manuscript, and six different writers are identifiable, of which this scene is the sole contribution of "Hand D", generally reckoned to be none other than William Shakespeare.

It's rather good. We are in London in 1517; anti-immigrant riots are about to break out; Thomas More, the sheriff of London, succeeds where his aristocratic superiors fail and quells the mob, shaming them into submission to lawful authority; as a reward, he is knighted and appointed to the Privy Council. More has a particularly good set of speeches; you can go to the link I put at the top of the post, but this extract, telling the crowd that by using unlawful force against the immigrants ("strangers") they risk destroying the basis for the stability of their own society, gives the flavour (also that it needed a bit more editing):
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to th' ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got?  I'll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

The play was heavily censored - there had been more anti-immigrant riots in 1593, so it was perhaps too topical - and the production company eventually dropped it. But by a quirk of fate, the manuscript survived. Good.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC)
Go Sir Tom! I'll bet it was censored. I remember doing Henry VIII at college and the Prof' complaining that, as it all still a bit of a recent memory, just about all the interesting and exciting events in Henry's life were off limits and he was stuck with the fall of Cromwell as a theme. Ha!
Oct. 1st, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
The first night brought the house down, mind. Or is that a Jacobean urban myth?
Oct. 2nd, 2008 08:49 am (UTC)
No, entirely true as far as I know!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 09:19 am (UTC)
The only dispute is whether it is Jacobean or late Elizabethan in composition. The Globe did burn down during a performance in 1613, we are pretty sure of that. However it wasn't a first night. The play had only been acted 2 or 3 times before says one account but whether that meant single shows, private shows or what passed for 'runs' then we do not know. :( It seems to have had an unlucky history in its early days though. Tghe wikipedia article is actually pretty good on this one - possibly because it is not widely enough known to attract the wingnuts..
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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