Sir Thomas More
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University
SIR THOMAS MORE
An 1844 edition was followed by an 1871 declaration that three portions of the play were by Shakespeare and were autograph inclusions. Subsequent studies have pared this down variously, but of the six hands involved in the 16 leaves of Munday’s manuscript — and Munday was a servant and secretary of the Earl of Oxford (Farina 154) — Hand D has proven the most intriguing for those hoping it’s Shakespeare’s help at revising portions of the play that met with professional and political criticism, particularly from Tilney, Master of Revels from 1579 to 1610. Naturally the May Day scene, and in general the disgruntlement of the commons, created concern.
The 147 lines of “Addition II” are indeed the most interesting, since they bear every sign of being first draft — including a “first thought” left uncancelled and very little punctuation. Hand D doesn’t seem to care much for the commons, showing neglect for speech prefixes.
A welcoming of the Cardinal’s men (IV.i) resembles Hamlet’s welcome to the players and puts the Ogburns in mind of Hedingham events (Ogburn and Ogburn 944). They also note “heir” puns characteristic of Shake-speare/Oxford (Ogburn and Ogburn 1100). Even though the historical Surrey was too young to have had a role in the events of the play or to have met or known Erasmus who visited England before he was born and died when Surrey was a boy (Sobran 6), Surrey the character nevertheless comes off especially well: a final irony since he, like More, will be executed by Henry VIII. Surrey was Oxford’s poet uncle, responsible ultimately for the “Shakespearean” sonnet form and for blank verse in English literature.