The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel

BOOK: The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel
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The Taming of the Shrew
Edward III
Henry VI, Parts I–III
(with Nashe, et al.)
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Titus Andronicus
(with George Peele)
Richard III
Venus and Adonis
The Rape of Lucrece
The Sonnets
The Comedy of Errors
Labour’s Lost
Love’s Labour’s Won
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Romeo and Juliet
Richard II
King John
The Merchant of Venice
Henry IV, Parts I–II
Much Ado About Nothing
Henry V
As You Like It
Julius Caesar
The Merry Wives of Windsor
Sir Thomas More
(with Munday, et al.)
Twelfth Night
Troilus and Cressida
Measure for Measure
All’s Well That Ends Well
Timon of Athens
(with Thomas Middleton)
King Lear
(with Thomas Middleton)
Antony and Cleopatra
(with George Wilkins)
The Winter’s Tale
The Tempest
(with John Fletcher—lost)
Henry VIII
(with John Fletcher)
The Two Noble Kinsmen
(with John Fletcher)

The Egyptologist
The Song Is You


Copyright © 2011 by Arthur Phillips


All rights reserved.


Published in the United States by Random House, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.


and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.


No reprint, performance, or recital of
The Tragedy of Arthur
is allowed under international copyright laws without express written permission of Arthur Phillips.




Phillips, Arthur.
The tragedy of Arthur: a novel / by Arthur Phillips.
p.   cm.
eISBN: 978-0-679-60506-5
I. Title.
3616.h45t73 2011
813′.6—dc22 2010021192


Jacket design and illustration: Ben Wiseman




Random House is proud to present this first modern edition of
The Tragedy of Arthur
by William Shakespeare.

Until now, Shakespeare’s dramatic canon consisted of thirty-eight or thirty-nine plays, depending on whose scholarship one trusted and whose edition of the
Complete Works
one owned. Thirty-six plays were included in the so-called First Folio of 1623, published seven years after the playwright’s death. Two more—collaborations, likely delayed for copyright reasons—were added to subsequent seventeenth-century collections. A thirty-ninth play,
Edward III
, has over the last two decades garnered increasing academic support as having been written, at least in part, by Shakespeare, but it was published only anonymously in his lifetime and is by no means universally acknowledged as a Shakespeare play. A further two works—
Love’s Labour’s Won
—are referred to in historical documents, but no copies of either have survived. Another dozen or so plays—the so-called Apocrypha—do exist and are debated, but none have acquired anything approaching scholarly consensus as being the work of Shakespeare.

The Tragedy of Arthur
was published as a quarto in 1597. Its cover’s claim that the text is “newly corrected and augmented” implies a previous version now lost, but this 1597 edition was, as far as we now know, the first play to be printed with Shakespeare’s name on the title page, pre-dating
Love’s Labour’s Lost
by one year. Likely banned, or at least judged politically dangerous and therefore excluded from the 1623 folio, the play apparently fell into disfavor, and only one copy of that 1597 quarto has so far been discovered. It was not found until the 1950s, and has been held in a private collection until now.
The Tragedy of Arthur
is, therefore, the first certain addition to Shakespeare’s canon since the seventeenth century.

The story it tells is not the legend of Camelot most readers know. There is no sword in the stone, no Lancelot, no Round Table, no Merlin or magic. Instead, Shakespeare seems to have worked from his usual source for history plays, Raphael Holinshed’s 1587
Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland
. The resulting plot is something more like
King Lear
, a violent argument of succession in Dark Ages Britain. But, like
, it is about so very much more, and the white heat that courses through the whole structure is Shakespeare’s unmistakable imagination and language.

Many people have worked with great dedication to make this book possible. It could not have come to pass without the academic leadership of Professor Roland Verre, who has overseen the research and tests that have confirmed the play’s authenticity and William Shakespeare as its sole or primary author. Professor Verre submitted the text to a battery of computerized stylistic and linguistic examinations, solicited the critical opinions of his peers on three continents, and supervised the forensic study of the 1597 document’s paper and ink. Academic opinion has steadily grown in volume and certainty over the past year, and there is now no notable voice in Shakespearean studies who questions the authenticity of
The Tragedy of Arthur

Our gratitude extends equally to the dozens more professors of English language and literature, theater directors, linguists and critics, historians and Shakespeare experts who formed our ad hoc advisory board, as well as the specialists in ink, paper, and printing led by Dr. Peter Bryce, and a legion of researchers, editorial assistants, and legal experts. The contributions of Professors David Crystal, Tom Clayton, and Ward Elliott (whose Claremont Shakespeare Clinic conducted the stylometry tests) demand particular recognition.

This first edition comes with a unique appreciation by a Random House author, Arthur Phillips. As his family played a central role in bringing the play to light and corroborating its authenticity, he was invited to write a brief introduction to this monumental work, even though he certainly does not claim to be a Shakespeare expert. He also edited and annotated the text of the play. Professor Verre has kindly amended some of Mr. Phillips’s notes.

Despite Phillips’s importance to the work’s discovery, we would
suggest that general readers plunge directly into the play, allowing Shakespeare to speak for himself, at least at first. Then, if some background is helpful, look to this very personal Introduction or to the many other commentaries sure to be available soon.

BOOK: The Tragedy of Arthur: A Novel
9.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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