Article Title

"Framing" as Collaborative Technique: Two Middleton-Rowley Plays


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The nature of Renaissance dramatic collaboration remains a blind spot in the study of its dramaturgy. Although many explanations have been offered, we have yet to adequately describe a practice which employed nearly every Renaissance playwright, from Shakespeare and Jonson to Beaumont and Fletcher and a host of others, among them William Rowley and Thomas Middleton. Commentators, sifting among the possible divisions of labor in a collaborative work, project four main theories: (1) the dramatists partitioned their work by acts, with either one playwright writing Acts I, II, and III, another Acts IV and V; or with each playwright alternating in composing Acts I through V; (2) one playwright .wrote a play's tragic scenes, his joint author the comic or satiric ones; (3) the dramatists divided shares along plot lines, with one writer responsible for the main plot, his collaborator for the subplot(s); and (4) one playwright added to or emended another's work, that is, certain plays are the products of revision.1 But while each theory (or combination of theories) would seem to describe certain plays, it may be shown to be false in other cases; investigations into dramatic collaboration seem only to prove that we cannot, descriptively or prescriptively, account for this process.2 As a result, the whole issue has become a critical quicksand where few dare to venture, the sheer number of explanations, in effect, explaining away the question.

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