John Fletcher (playwright)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

John Fletcher (1579 – 1625) was a Jacobean playwright. Following William Shakespeare as house playwright for the King's Men, he was among the most prolific and influential dramatists of his day; both during his lifetime and in the early Restoration, his fame rivaled Shakespeare's. Though his reputation has been eclipsed since, Fletcher remains an important transitional figure between the Elizabethan popular tradition and the popular drama of the Restoration.


Fletcher's canon presents unusual difficulties of attribution. He collaborated regularly and widely, most often with Beaumont and Massinger but also with Nathan Field, Shakespeare and others. Some of his early collaborations with Beaumont were later revised by Massinger, adding another layer of complexity to unravel. Fortunately for scholars and students of English literature, Fletcher also had highly distinctive mannerisms in his creative efforts; his texts reveal a range of peculiarities that effectively identify his presence. He frequently uses ye instead of you, at rates sometimes approaching 50%; he frequently employs 'em for them, along with a set of other particular preferences in contractions; he adds a sixth stressed syllable to a standard pentameter verse line—most often sir but also too or still or next; he has various other specific habits and preferences. The detection of this pattern, this personal Fletcherian textual profile, has allowed researchers to penetrate the confusions of the Fletcher canon with good success—and has in turn encouraged the use of similar techniques more broadly in the study of literature. [See: stylometry.]

Careful bibliography has established the authors of each play with some degree of certainty. Determination of the exact shares of each writer (for instance by Cyrus Hoy) in particular plays is ongoing, based on patterns of textual and linguistic preferences, stylistic grounds, and idiosyncrasies of spelling.

The list that follows gives a consensus verdict (at least a tentative one) on the authorship of the plays in Fletcher's canon, with likeliest dates of authorship, dates of first publication, and dates of licensing by the Master of the Revels, where available.<ref>Denzell S. Smith, "Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher," in Logan and Smith, The Later Jacobean and Caroline Dramatists, pp. 52-89.</ref>

Solo Plays


With Francis Beaumont:

With Beaumont and Massinger:

With Massinger:

With Massinger and Field:

With Shakespeare:

With Middleton and Rowley:

With Rowley:

With Field:

With Massinger, Jonson, and Chapman:

With Shirley:


The Nice Valour may be a play by Fletcher revised by Thomas Middleton; The Fair Maid of the Inn is perhaps a play by Massinger, John Ford, and John Webster, either with or without Fletcher's involvement. The Laws of Candy has been variously attributed to Fletcher and to John Ford. The Night-Walker was a Fletcher original, with additions by Shirley for a 1639 production. And some of the attributions given above are disputed by some scholars, as noted in connection with Four Plays in One. Rollo Duke of Normandy, an especially difficult case and a focus of much disagreement among scholars, may have been written around 1617, and later revised by Massinger.<ref>Logan and Smith, pp. 70-2.</ref>

The first Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1647 collected 35 plays, most of which that had not been previously published. The second folio of 1679 added 18 more, for a total of 53. The first folio included The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn (1613), and the second The Knight of the Burning Pestle (1607), widely considered to be Beaumont's solo works.

One play in the canon, Sir John Van Olden Barnavelt, existed in manuscript and was not published till 1883. In 1640 James Shirley's The Coronation was misattributed to Fletcher upon its initial publication, and was included in the second Beaumont and Fletcher folio of 1679.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "John Fletcher (playwright)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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