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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VI. The Drama to 1642, Part Two.

II. Chapman, Marston, Dekker

§ 17. His Collaborators

The habit of collaboration, “the noble practice of the times,” in which Elizabethan playwrights freely indulged, left to criticism numerous problems not yet solved—many, no doubt, never to be solved. Dekker had partners, good and bad, in various theatrical ventures. We know that Middleton had a share in the first part of The Honest Whore, and a share, almost certainly the largest, in The Roaring Girle (1611), whose heroine, Moll Cutpurse, masquerades as a London gallant; we know that Webster took part in the composition of West-Ward Hoe and North-Ward Hoe, comedies of intrigue, and The Famous History of Sir Thomas Wyat (all printed 1607), possibly an unfinished or unskilful attempt to recast an older historical play on the subject of lady Jane Grey in two parts, both mentioned by Henslowe. We find Massinger’s name associated with Dekker’s in connection with The Virgin Martir (printed 1622) and, though the comic scenes and the characters of Dorothea and Angelo have been claimed for Dekker, the conception and framework of the play may, without injustice, be assigned to the younger dramatist. The Pleasant Comodie of Patient Grissill, printed anonymously in 1603; but, in all probability (though Jonson may have had a hand in a revision), rightly assigned, on the evidence of certain entries in Henslowe, to Chettle, Haughton and Dekker, is generally believed to owe its two beautiful lyrics and much of its merit to the most celebrated of its three authors. The Witch of Edmonton (printed 1658), a fine play, raises some very difficult questions. The witch scenes, in which an aching spirit of human sympathy appears, and the tender character of Susan, have been very generally allotted to Dekker, but Mother Sawyer is by some critics thought to have been a creation of Rowley. The first act, the plan and general management of the piece, indisputably belong to Ford. To Ford, also, may, without hesitation, be assigned a large part, probably the last two acts at least, in The Sun’s-Darling: A Moral Masque (1656), which, perhaps, is a hasty revision of Dekker’s Phaeton. Another masque by the same authors, entitled The Fairy Knight (licensed in 1624), has not come down to us, and we know the names of a number of other dramas in which Dekker assisted or was assisted by Jonson (Robert the Second, and Page of Plymouth), by Drayton (The Civil Wars in France) and by Haughton and Day (The Spanish Moor’s Tragedy, identified by some critics with Lusts Dominion, at one time ascribed to Marlowe, but not published till 1657). There are passages in Lusts Dominion which certainly suggest Dekker, and, whether we identify it or not with the last drama, we may grant it as possible that he had a hand in it. The magnificent Entertainment: Given to King James (1603), in which Jonson joined, and to which Middleton contributed a speech, and various civic pageants, are evidence of contemporary appreciation of Dekker’s versatile talent, but possess no serious literary interest.