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Two Noble Kinsmen

Based on Chaucer's Knight's Tale, another revealing prologue lies at the start of this late play whose authorship the records attribute to Will and John Fletcher, the successful long-term partner of Francis Beaumont. There has been a variety of controversy about the play but it is has gradually receded as analysis has isolated the contributions of each writer and validated the contribution made by Will. Many modern complete editions include it, as does the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare.

The 1634 quarto provides the text on which all subsequent editions are based. Inconsistencies in the spelling and stage directions suggest this was compiled from foul papers rather than actor's memories or clean(ish) prompt copies. Jonson's 1614 play Bartholomew Fair contains a quick, acrid snipe at the play's main character, Palamon and there are allusions to the burning down of The Globe in 1613. The play also  contains an obviously 'borrowed' Morris Dance from Beaumont's Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn also from 1613.

However, neither the fact that it involves a co-writer who didn't appear on the theatrical scene until after Oxford was dead nor the difficulty in dislodging its authorship from 1613-1614 are the most interesting contributions the play makes to understanding Oxford’s unsuitability as Shakespeare's alter ego. 

A learned, and a Poet never went
More famous yet twixt Po and silver Trent:
Chaucer (of all admir'd) the Story gives,
There constant to Eternity it lives.
If we let fall the Noblenesse of this,
And the first sound this child heare, be a hisse,
How will it shake the bones of that good man,
And make him cry from under ground, 'O fan
From me the witles chaffe of such a wrighter
That blastes my Bayes, and my fam'd workes makes lighter
Then Robin Hood!' This is the feare we bring;
For to say Truth, it were an endlesse thing,

The Prologue.

The interesting thing about the Two Noble Kinsmen is that in the whole canon of Shakespeare' work, nothing sounds more like the poetic work of the Earl than this Prologue. It may have the same hectoring tone as the famous prologue to Henry VIII but Will didn't write this. Monosyllabic rhyming couplets clanging, unstressed last syllables cannot be Will in 1614.

It's not Fletcher's best work either. It may not be him either. In fact

'How will it shake the bones of that good man,
And make him cry from under ground, 'O fan
From me the witles chaffe of such a wrighter

is closer to Ernie Wise than to either Shakespeare or Fletcher when they are on form. The reason nobody starts here with the comparisons with De Vere's work is that he is long gone—dead a whole decade when this play appeared. The dating complications are beyond the capabilities of Oxfordian rearrangement.

Ironically, however, if you overlook Oxford's inconveniently early death in precisely the way Oxfordians are willing to overlook it for at least 10 other plays, you could start building the case for artistic similarity right here.

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