I’m thinking that no one but me cares about this brouhaha, but as the sole proprietor of this very fine blog, I’m the only one that matters.
When last we checked in, two Oxford professors had written an article published in the Times Literary Supplement proposing that Thomas Middleton had a hand in writing Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well. In response, Brian Vickers and Marcus Dahl produced a scathing rebuttal. (By the way, it is the official position of this blog that, no matter who wrote it, the play kinda sucks. But it doesn’t come within miles of the badness of Middleton’s A Chaste Maid in Cheapside.)
Now the two Oxford professors, Emma Smith and Laurie Maguire, have responded in the TLS. I can’t find the response online, but here is a taste of what they have to say:
Vickers and Dahl are flat-earthers. They cling to an old date for AWEW (1604 rather than 1607) or later); they do not endorse revision in Measure for Measure or Macbeth; their appeal is to “lovers of Shakespeare”. It is these ideological idées fixes that underlie their article. Unlike us, however, they do not make their subjective positions clear. We accept this new scholarship and build on it; these Canutes try to stem the incoming tide.
Ouch! But wait! Online we find a response from Vickers to the response by Smith and Maguire to the response by Vickers and Dahl to the article by Smith and Maguire. Here is their concluding paragraph:
Smith and Maguire, abreast of ‘new scholarship’, claim that we ‘cling to an old date’ for All’s Well. It may well be that Gary Taylor in 2001 was ‘inclined to put it’ in 1607, and that others have been inclined to follow him. But contrary evidence cannot be dismissed. In Taylor’s own Textual Companion (1988) to the Oxford Shakespeare seven pages of tables listing various types of linguistic evidence place All’s Well after Measure for Measure and Othello, and before Timon and King Lear, thus in the period 1604-5. If Taylor now flirts with the idea of placing it after Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Pericles then he will have to disown the data collected in these tables. Writing from a literary critic’s standpoint, Barbara Everett has given some strong reasons for not lumping All’s Well with Shakespeare’s late plays, and these can be supplemented with Marina Tarlinskaya’s prosodic studies, which place All’s Well before King Lear. In the humanities, as in the sciences, the truth or falsity of a proposition can only be established by a consensus among those qualified to judge. Time will tell.
Both sides have a good bit to say about “anal fistulas,” which has its own Wikipedia article, but I’m going to advise you not to go there. The discussion of fistulas (anal or otherwise) in All’s Well That Ends Well is one more reason to avoid the play.
I am incompetent to judge between these adversaries. But I’d be disinclined to mess with Brian Vickers on matters Shakespearean.