The Certainty of Uncertain Knowledge: The Collaborative Authorship of <em>The Changling</em>


  • Richard Nochimson Yeshiva University



This essay argues against the passive acceptance of received wisdom about collaborative authorship of plays in early modern England, focussing on The Changeling as an example of a play for which the extremely limited availability of external evidence concerning the authorship of the play makes reliance upon so-called 'internal evidence' equally problematic. It notes that, in discussions of this and other plays, there is a tendency to disregard potential complexities such as the possibility of scribal or compositorial intervention or the possible existence of an additional, unnamed collaborator. The essay argues against the persistent, often unstated, assumption that collaboration usually consisted of individual work on separable portions of a play, demonstrating that we have no evidence -- certainly not in Henslowe's Diary, where many scholars assume it exists -- that separate composition of individual acts of a play by different playwrights was the normal method of collaboration by the professional dramatists of the period. With regard to The Changeling, the essay's conclusion is that the ways in which the different parts of the play fit together with each other suggest the possibility that this unified and successful play was created by collaborators who, in one way or another, worked together rather than separately.