The dearth of the author: Philip Massinger and the Beaumont and Fletcher folio

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Abstract / Description of output

In 1647, Humphrey Moseley and Humphrey Robinson published a folio collection of unpublished works which they attributed to Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, two writers famous for their collaborations from 1606 to 1613. But in affording Beaumont a place on the title page, the publishers misattributed the volume. Scholars now accept that Beaumont had very little direct input in the collection whereas Philip Massinger, who began collaborating with Fletcher soon after Beaumont’s retirement, had a very significant, unacknowledged role in the collected plays. This essay offers the first extended discussion of why it was that Massinger was written out of this canon-defining volume. I argue first that Massinger was by many accounts a popular and vendible dramatist, whose omission from the folio had little to do with him having a poor reputation. Instead, I suggest that the reputation of the names Beaumont and Fletcher, established in the preceding decades, proved irresistible to the publishers. Furthermore, I argue that Massinger’s reputation as a distinctive solo playwright also counted against him, making it harder to apprehend him as a prolific collaborator. Next, I demonstrate how the 1647 folio participated in a process of canonization which elided Massinger’s significant collaborative contribution and discuss the distorting effect this has had on our understanding of Beaumont, Fletcher, Massinger, and playwrighting practice more broadly. I end by pointing towards some ways of rectifying the historical elision of Massinger’s collaboration with Fletcher.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-94
Number of pages17
JournalThe Review of English Studies (RES)
Volume74
Issue number313
Early online date9 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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