Elevating Thomas Watson: An Investigation into New Authorship Claims

Darren Freebury-Jones


This article investigates Gary Taylor’s claim that the Elizabethan poet and Neo-Latinist Thomas Watson co-authored the play Arden of Faversham with Shakespeare. An overview of current debates concerning attributions of this play is provided, before a brief survey of studies detailing evidence of Thomas Kyd’s sole authorship. The article then proceeds to examine two forms of evidence for Watson’s participation: biographical and stylistic. Regards the former, none of the evidence Taylor provides – such as literary influences, knowledge of London locations, and the intermingling of comic and tragic elements – renders Watson a more likely candidate than Kyd. In terms of measurable differences in style, Watson’s small corpus of extant English poetry is unlike Arden in terms of metre, rhyme, and linguistic habits. Moreover, the method used by Taylor to establish phraseological affinities between Watson and a sample of text in Arden is shown to be deeply flawed, and the pattern of verbal borrowing between Watson and Arden is akin to other attested Kyd works. The article concludes that Watson’s participation in Arden is unlikely.

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