Shakespeare Imitations is a collection of all-but-forgotten Shakespearean plays, composed between 1710 and 1820. These imitations, parodies and forgeries reveal the biases of eighteenth-century Shakespeare in London theatre. But these plays are far from derivative. Indeed, rather than simply rewriting Shakespeare situations, these playwrights often placed Shakespearean characters in Neoclassical frameworks.
Although many of these plays are unfamiliar to many now, within their own day these works enjoyed much critical and commercial success. For example, Nicholas Rowe's The Tragedy of Jane Shore (1714) was the most popular new play of the eighteenth century, and the sixth most performed tragedy, following Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and King Lear. Even William Shirley's forgotten play, Edward the Black Prince (1750), 'was well received with great applause' and had a stage history spanning three decades.
This collection includes the performance text to the 1796 Ireland play, Vortigern. The plays are all reset and, where possible, modernised from original manuscripts, with listed variants, and parallel passages traced to Shakespearean canonical texts. The set includes a new introduction by the editor, and raises important questions about the nature of artistic property and authenticity, a key area of Shakespearean research today.