Shakespeare apocrypha, Shakespeare canon, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Thomas Lord Cromwell, The London Prodigal, A Yorkshire Tragedy, The Passionate Pilgrim, author function


The Shakespeare Apocrypha is a group of anomalous works that exist on the fringe of the conventional Shakespeare canon. Extant apocryphal plays, notably ones that originate from the Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men, complicate and challenge this established canon by seemingly attributing Shakespeare as author to plays that, according to scholars and critics, do not bear his literary mark. The aim of this paper is to examine how the Shakespeare attributions (‘William Shakespeare,’‘W. Shakespeare,’ and ‘W.S.’) on title pages of published apocryphal plays Thomas Lord Cromwell, The London Prodigal, and A Yorkshire Tragedy operate and function to lend authority to inferior texts that, if not for their Shakespeare connection, may have drawn relatively little scholarly attention. Engaging with the Foucauldian idea of the author function also reveals how the Shakespeare name itself has the ability to accentuate texts by bestowing a sense of historical significance and authority. Additionally, this inquiry into what I have conceived as the ‘Shakespearean author function’ is expanded to explore the fluid nature of the canon-apocrypha binary as well as the boundaries and notions around what constitutes authorship.



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