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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XIII. Lesser Elizabethan Dramatists

§ 10. Michael Drayton’s dramatic work

It is to be feared that Michael Drayton’s dramatic work, also, must be conjectured to have lacked the force and personal impress by which plays were kept alive. Let us consider what Henslowe’s records say of him. He, again, has but a single play to his sole credit, and this has perished. He takes part in twenty-three plays, of which but one, the first part of Sir John Oldcastle, is extant. Drayton alone, among Henslowe’s writers, regarded the writing of plays as discreditable; and this fact suggested to Fleay the theory that his plays could be safely appropriated by unprincipled printers, but that, as the printer could not use Drayton’s name, Shakespeare’s name or initials appear on the title-pages of plays really by Drayton. This theory assigns to him Cromwell, The London Prodigall, The Merry Devill of Edmonton, A Yorkshire Tragedy and Sir Thomas More. It is added that a great unevenness of activity is noticeable in the record of Drayton’s work for Henslowe, andthat, therefore, he could very well have written for other companies. The obvious weak point of this theory is that unprincipled printers stole none of the plays which Drayton wrote for Henslowe’s company. If, in these plays, there was work of the rank of A Yorkshire Tragedy or The Merry Devill of Edmonton, it is reasonable to suppose that they would not have been let die. Drayton’s genius, moreover, as we know it apart from his unknown plays, was essentially undramatic, and, in competition with writers like Dekker and Chettle, we should expect it to fail to assert itself. In spite, therefore, of the deference due to Fleay, we must reluctantly include Drayton among the dramatists whose work could not live.