While William Shakespeare is the most notable name for writers from Elizabethan England, he was by far not the only one. A great many dramatists came from this era, most of who were friends and conspirators with Shakespeare. The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Contemporary Dramatists strives to bring recognition to these names, as well as their relationship with Shakespeare. In this paper, a few of these fellow writers will be discussed, as well as their possible influence on Shakespeare and his success.
Kyd was born in 1558, in London. While not much is known of his early life, it is known that he was educated at the Merchant Tailor’s school. He gained knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin, and he used these skills working as a translator and pamphlet production. His most noted work is the play Spanish Tragedy (1589). This set the basis for revenge plays and was performed continuously throughout the Elizabethan period. Spanish Tragedy included ghosts, insanity, murder, and suicide – evidence that revealed its writer’s ‘rampant and lurid genius’. What’s the most interesting is the number of reprints Spanish Tragedy saw, even being updated by Ben Jonson in 1601 through a paid commission. This demonstrates popularity greater than any of Shakespeare’s works. Sadly, Kyd’s tragic writings made an appearance in real life. In 1593, he was arrested and tortured to turn evidence against his friend and roommate, Christopher Marlowe. After Marlowe was murdered, he was released; but never regained his notoriety, later dying in poverty in 1594.
Jonson was not as lucky in his upraising as those before him, beginning before his birth in 1572. His father, a Protestant clergyman, died a month prior, having been a prisoner and deprived of estate by Mary Tudor. His mother married a bricklayer, having been left penniless. Even with an education at Westminster, Jonson was forced to follow his stepfather’s footsteps and became a bricklayer before enlisting as a soldier in the Netherlands. He eventually developed his writing talent while travelling with a company of actors. His similarities with his fellow prominent writers came about with his arrest 22 September 1598 for killing fellow actor Gabriel Spencer in a duel; his punishment – the branding of his thumb. Another arrest in 1604 occurred after his collaboration with Marston and Chapman on Eastward Ho!, which poked fun at the Scots and King James.
His relationship with Shakespeare was a fairly close one. It was thought to have begun when Jonson sent a script to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men during the winter of 1598-9. He also lent Shakespeare books that would expand his knowledge of literature and help with his plays. Jonson was also godfather to Shakespeare’s son.
Fletcher was born the son of Richard Fletcher, the Bishop of London, in 1579, and was educated at Corpus Cristi College in Cambridge, along with his fellow contemporary...