An academic claims to have discovered six previously unrecognised works by William Shakespeare.
Dr John Casson claims to have unearthed Shakespeare’s first published poem, the Phaeton sonnet, his first comedy, Mucedorus, and his first tragedies, Locrine and Arden of Faversham.
He also explores the plays Thomas of Woodstock and A Yorkshire Tragedy, and claims to prove that a ‘lost play’ called Cardenio is a genuine work by Shakespeare and fellow playwright John Fletcher.
Dr Casson spent three years studying writings thought to be connected to Shakespeare and poring over the life and letters of aristocrat Sir Henry Neville, considered by some academics to be the latest candidate for the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.
He has published his findings in a book, titled Enter Pursued by a Bear.
“Some people have said, ‘we don’t know if this is by William Shakespeare’, so I’ve been able to study them and say ‘yes, here’s the evidence for Shakespeare but here’s also the evidence for Neville,’ so I’ve been able to link the two,” Dr Casson said.
“I started off looking at works where we weren’t sure whether they were by Shakespeare or not and I tested them to see if there was any evidence for Henry Neville.
“I’ve found evidence pouring out and I’ve been able to show Shakespeare’s development from his early days.”
Today’s launch was held in Manchester’s John Rylands Library, which houses one of the first folios of Shakespeare’s plays dating back to 1623, and an edition of the Bard’s sonnets from 1609.
Dr Casson, an independent researcher and psychotherapist, said: “The folio on display contains what many think are the complete works of Shakespeare, but I have discovered six new plays that are all by the Bard, but which never made it into this 400-year-old collection.”
He added: “What we thought were the first plays by Shakespeare appeared anonymously in the early 1590s.
“It is inconceivable, however, that his first plays were the massive trilogy of Henry VI. Writers develop over time from simpler beginnings.”
Dr Casson claims to have discovered the pseudonym ‘Phaeton’ in a sonnet, which he believes is the earliest pen name used by Shakespeare.
The book also details the discovery of what the author considers to be the first sketch of the Falstaff character, who appears in Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
According to Dr Casson, Falstaff was created ten years before the Henry IV plays.
The book’s launch comes just a week after a portrait thought to be the only surviving picture made of Shakespeare during his lifetime was unveiled in London.
It is believed that the artwork was painted in 1610, six years before the bard’s death, when he was aged 46.
The portrait is expected to go on show to the public at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon in an exhibition opening on April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday.