Edward III play claimed for the Bard

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The Independent Online
The scholar Eric Sams claimed yesterday to have proved that the Elizabethan play Edward III - previously ascribed to Anonymous - was written by William Shakespeare.

The play, which dates from the late 16th century, has long been connected with the Bard. Such lines as "lillies that fester smell far worse than weeds" also appear in Shakespeare's sonnets, which has led scholars to claim that he had a hand in writing parts of it.

But Dr Sams, author of The Real Shakespeare, is the first to claim authorship of the entire work for Shakespeare. He said that "academic debate" had previously stopped the play being identified. If the attribution holds, the play would be Shakespeare's 39th. It would provide a new beginning to the cycle of history plays that includes Henry V and ends with Richard III.

Bitter disputes surrounding the work of the world's most famous playwright have rumbled on for centuries. Part of the problem is that so little is known about the man, who appeared to be not very interested in having his work published but to be primarily concerned with their public performance.

It is generally accepted that he wrote 38 plays, including the little- known The Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles. But the problem of attribution is clouded by dozens of theories and counter claims and the emerging "science" of printing which threw up different versions of his plays at different times. Some scholars still debate whether Titus Andronicus, Henry V Part I and Timon of Athens were actually his.

Thirty-six of his plays were printed in the First Folio of 1623, which appeared seven years after his death. But Pericles - printed about 1609 - did not appear in the official canon until 1664 in the Third Folio. It is believed that some of his pages appear in the manuscript of Sir Thomas More, an obscure Elizabethan play. Many scholars agree that his enormous creative power meant he probably wrote other plays and poems, in whole or part, that have long since disappeared.

Edward III is based on the life of the 14th-century English monarch whose armies fought the French at Crecy and who campaigned several times against the Scots, once imprisoning the King of Scotland for ransom. The text of the play is rude about the Scots and Dr Sams suggested that this could be a reason why Shakespeare never identified himself as its author. He had to avoid falling foul of King James I, who came to London from Scotland in 1603.

Dr Sams said he hoped a new edition of the play would be published shortly once detailed textual analysis had been done. "It is better in some scenes than others but that's because Shakespeare was a revising artist and a developing artist."

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