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The true chronicle historie of the whole life and death of Thomas Lord Cromwell.
1602

STC 21532, title page

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STC 21532, title page
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Title: The true chronicle historie of the whole life and death of Thomas Lord Cromwell. As it hath beene sundrie times publikely acted by the right honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants. Written by W.S.
Date: Imprinted at London : [By R. Read] for William Iones, and are to be solde at his house neere Holburne conduict, at the signe of the Gunne, 1602.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 21532, title page
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Item Title
The true chronicle historie of the whole life and death of Thomas Lord Cromwell. As it hath beene sundrie times publikely acted by the right honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants. Written by W.S.
Item Date
Imprinted at London : [By R. Read] for William Iones, and are to be solde at his house neere Holburne conduict, at the signe of the Gunne, 1602.
Repository
Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call Number
STC 21532, title page

Institution Rights and Document Citation

Terms of use
Images that are under Folger copyright are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This allows you to use our images without additional permission provided that you cite the Folger Shakespeare Library as the source and you license anything you create using the images under the same or equivalent license. For more information, including permissions beyond the scope of this license, see Permissions. The Folger waives permission fees for non-commercial publication by registered non-profits, including university presses, regardless of the license they use. For images copyrighted by an entity other than the Folger, please contact the copyright holder for permission information.

Copy-specific information
Title: The true chronicle historie of the whole life and death of Thomas Lord Cromwell. As it hath beene sundrie times publikely acted by the right honorable the Lord Chamberlaine his seruants. Written by W.S.
Date: Imprinted at London : [By R. Read] for William Iones, and are to be solde at his house neere Holburne conduict, at the signe of the Gunne, 1602.
Repository: Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA
Call number and opening: STC 21532, title page
View online bibliographic record

The 1602 quarto of Thomas, Lord Cromwell bears the attribution “sundrie times pub- / likely Acted by the Right Hono- / rable the Lord Chamberlaine / his Seruants. / Written by W.S.” The combination of initials and playing company is taken by most critics as a reference to Shakespeare, although no contemporary scholarship accepts the attribution. The Folger copy of this rare quarto is missing the final leaf.

Lukas Erne argues that the initials “W.S.” in 1602 may be capitalizing on Shakespeare’s increasing fame following the period in which Francis Meres had celebrated him as among the best for tragedy (Erne 2013, 93). Others have suggested that W.S. may refer to another writer with these initials; several library catalogues mention “Wentworth Smith” and Baldwin Maxwell lists several other writers of the period who may also have gone as “W.S.” (Maxwell 1956). However, as none of the other works of these authors are known to be extant, such guesses are purely speculative.

The play is part of a contemporary fashion for de casibus tragedy dealing with the rise and fall of significant figures in Henry VIII’s court, along with plays such as the collaborative Book of Sir Thomas More and the lost Rise and Fall of Cardinal Wolsey. The play’s episodic nature, highly compressed plot and unsatisfactory textual state has led some critics to suggest that it may be a memorial reconstruction (a version of the text based on actor or spectator memory), or even a compression of a two-part play on the model of Wolsey (Maguire 1996, 334).

Thomas, Lord Cromwell was first explicitly attributed to Shakespeare in the 1630s, in a bound volume of eight plays held in the library of Charles I, inscribed on the binding with “Shakespeare, Vol. 1” (Kirwan 2011). Philip Chetwinde included it along with seven other plays to the second impression of the Third Folio, and it remained in the Shakespeare canon through the Fourth Folio, and further editions of Shakespeare’s collected works including Nicholas Rowe’s in 1709, Alexander Pope’s in 1724, and in competing individual editions of the play by Jacob Tonson and Robert Walker in 1734. Thereafter it was reprinted only in collections of spurious plays, and included in C.F. Tucker Brooke’s The Shakespeare Apocrypha (1908). Beyond agreeing that the play is not by Shakespeare, scholars have shown little interest in determining the play’s authorship (Sharpe 2013, 680-3).
 

Written by Peter Kirwan

Lukas Erne, Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Peter Kirwan, "The First Collected “Shakespeare Apocrypha',” Shakespeare Quarterly 62.4 (2011): 594-601.

Laurie E. Maguire, Shakespearean Suspect Texts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Baldwin Maxwell, Studies in the Shakespeare Apocrypha (New York: Greenwood Press, 1956).

Will Sharpe, Authorship and Attribution" in William Shakespeare and Others: Collaborative Plays, eds Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, with Jan Sewell and Will Sharpe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013): 643-747.

Last updated February 27, 2017