Shakespeare and the Play Thomas More
Joseph Pearce has forwarded this extract of an e-mail he has received from Thomas Merriam, the world's authority on the controversy surrounding the authorship of the play, Thomas More. The extract is reproduced with Thomas Merriam's permission.
Conventional scholarship has, as you know, always maintained that the main author of the Original Text was Anthony Munday - because the Original Text is in his handwriting as determined with Munday's autograph manuscript of John a Kent and John a Cumber, discovered in the same folder as Sir Thomas More. Munday, as you also know, was involved in the hounding of St. Edmund Campion and other mainly Jesuit priests after Munday's return from Rome. For him thento write a play which is favourable to a Catholic saint, widely regarded as such in the 16th and 17th centuries long before official canonization, defies 21st century reasoning. Or should I say, should do so.
In January I was alerted to the existence of marginal notes in a 16th century Italian book that once belonged to A.L. Rowse, now kept in the Special Collection of the University of Exeter. The notes, in his handwriting, are by Richard Topcliffe, notorious "free-lance" torturer of Catholics and friend of Queen Elizabeth I. Munday has long been associated with Topcliffe. The notes by Topcliffe are extremely hostile to (among others) Nicholas Harpsfield who is the only source of much of the pro-More material in the Original Text of More. I do not see how Munday could have used sympathetically a source which his colleague roundly condemns as from a "poisonous" author. I have written up this evidence and it has been accepted by N&Q for publication in September.
Now if Munday was not the author, who was? That is the question which conventional scholarship prefers not to address and, I would predict, will not address unless obliged to - but probably not by me. Which known playwright was more pro-Catholic than Shakespeare in the 1590s? In other words, who was more likely to make use of Harpsfield’s hagiographic biography of Thomas More? Shakespeare furthermore contributed to one of the important additions to the Original Text (early 1600s). The stylometric evidence points to Shakespeare, although no "positive" evidence (so-and-so wrote such-and-such) is as strong as negative evidence (so-and-so did not write such-and-such). I hesitate to bring in stylometric evidence, because, until it is understood, it is not good persuasion.