The Real Shakespeare II

The Real Shakespeare II. Retrieving the Later Years, 1594-1616

[Centro Studi Eric Sams, 2008, rev. 2009; e-book, pp. 596]


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Introduction by Richard Sams

This e-book is the unfinished sequel to The Real Shakespeare: Retrieving the Early Years, 1564-1594, first published by Yale University Press in 1995. My father's work on this second volume was slowed by ill health and halted altogether in the summer of 2003, when a stroke prevented him from continuing. The papers and books he left behind when he died in 2004 were donated to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where they form the Eric Sams Collection. Apart from these papers, he also left 20 word-processor disks containing draft chapters and notes for the planned second volume, to be titled The Real Shakespeare II: Retrieving the Later Years, 1594-1616.

I showed these materials to a fellow Shakespeare scholar and close colleague of my father's, who thought that they might best be published as separate essays. Although this seemed appropriate, I felt hesitant about publishing writings that were unfinished and could no longer be edited or updated by the author himself.

The initial inspiration for publication of the incomplete material in book form came from an unexpected quarter. In the summer of 2006, I received an e-mail from a Shakespeare enthusiast named Michael Powell, who wanted to know what had become of the sequel promised in the foreword of The Real Shakespeare. He wrote: 'I chanced upon this wonderful book one day in the University Library in York and found it so compelling. It was the first time I had read such sensible Shakespeare research. I empathized immediately with your father...and when I read in The Guardian of his death I felt I had lost a friend.' Moved by this tribute, I sent Michael a copy of the CD-ROM I had made from the word-processor disks. He concluded that these materials had the makings of a book and even went to the trouble of compiling a preliminary draft. In particular, he pointed out that the Documents section, which continues and completes the historical fact-list in the first volume, would be a very valuable resource for Shakespeare scholars and enthusiasts.

Encouraged by this, I set about organizing the material for submission to Yale University Press. This task was complicated by the fact that the author had rewritten much of the material, sometimes more than once. About half the chapters existed in two or even three different versions, and certain sections had apparently been discarded or added as the work progressed. In this difficult task I was greatly assisted by Andrew Lamb, an experienced editor and close friend of my father's for 30 years. We followed the principle of using the latest version of each chapter (determined by dates of books cited, etc.) and adhered as far as possible to the order used in the later drafts. Although some of the chapters were clearly unfinished, we retained them all to preserve the book's original structure. The completed draft was submitted to Yale University Press in the summer of 2007.

In the meantime Erik Battaglia, an Italian musicologist and professor of German Lied, had in 2006 founded his remarkable website, Centro Studi Eric Sams. Erik first got to know my father when, at the age of fourteen, he sent him an essay he had written on the songs of Hugo Wolf. My father became Erik's mentor and friend, and they remained in close correspondence. Erik initially posted on his website the author's voluminous writings on music, but last year he also started adding material related to Shakespeare, and it now contains 100 essays, reviews and letters, including 25 hitherto unpublished items. While helping to prepare these for presentation on the website, I came to feel that it would be the ideal home for The Real Shakespeare II in its current form. When I proposed this to Robert Baldock of Yale University Press earlier this year, he responded enthusiastically. He agreed that online publication would be 'a rather wonderful solution to the issue of how to represent your father's text without interference (as he would have wanted), while not leaving it vulnerable to gratuitous critical attack'. In this rather unusual case, online publication has clear advantages, making it possible to present all the material, including chapters or sections from earlier drafts. Active links are provided between the text and the Documents and within this section to facilitate cross-referencing. Links are also provided to the earlier drafts, posted separately on the website, and to unpublished essays on related themes. (These references and my editorial comments are written in italics, to distinguish them from the author's own footnotes.) The two original appendixes have been supplemented by two more containing additional sections and chapters from the first draft. With the generous permission of the publisher, the Documents in The Real Shakespeare have been incorporated into this section to form a 'book-within-a-book' of detailed documentary data covering the period from 1500 to 1710. Finally, the bibliography, containing almost 1,000 items, is itself testimony to the extraordinary breadth and depth of the author's research over more than two decades.

This collaborative project has made me aware once more of the great affection my father inspired not only in his friends and colleagues, but even those who had never met him. On his behalf, I would like to thank Michael Powell for setting things in motion, Andrew Lamb for help with chapter selection and proofreading, Robert Baldock for allowing us to use material from The Real Shakespeare, and Erik Battaglia for giving this unfinished sequel a home and designing the e-book.

Richard Sams, May 2008