Shakespeare’s Manuscripts

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014

There aren’t any

Once upon a time, of course, there must have been quite a few. The man pretty much had to put pen to paper at some point. What happened to them?

We don’t know.

Some — or many — may have gone up in flames when the Globe burned down in 1613. Others were very likely regarded as waste paper, which was commonly used to wrap things in shops (perhaps someone’s fish & chips came wrapped in Hamlet), to light fires or coax banked-down fires into new life, and to stock privies with toilet paper.

There is one manuscript that might contain passages by Shakespeare: the foul papers (or working draft) of the Elizabethan play Sir Thomas More, in the British Library (MS Harley 7368). A growing number of scholars accept a few of the additions to the play as authentically Shakespearean; there has been much speculation that Shakespeare himself may have written them into the manuscript (which was mostly written by other people).

Sir Thomas More, Hand D (possibly Shakespeare)
The British Library, MS Harley 7368

With the disappearance of Shakespeare’s manuscripts, entire plays have gone missing as well…

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