The mansucript of Shakespeare's King Lear has been discovered in the back of a cupboard in an agricultural supply shop in Poughkeepsie NY. Typed on an early Olivetti typewriter, it . . .
Well, perhaps not. But isn’t it astonishing that when so much manuscript music has survived from Elizabethan times, we haven’t got the manuscript of Hamlet? Well, no.Those who go about the streets insisting that Shakespeare’s plays were written by someone else (Queen Elizabeth, anyone?) may argue that the real author destroyed the manuscripts in order to keep his or her secret – but on the other hand, no manuscripts of any play has survived in the autograph of Kyd, Greene, Jonson, Chapman, Dekker, Heywood, Marston, Webster, Beaumont, Fletcher, Ford or of course Shakespeare. Only about half of our hero’s works (not including Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar, or As You Like It) were printed in his lifetime - because the plays were regularly performed, the actors had their parts written out, and once they were learned these were destroyed – or used to wrap up the weekly joint or the daily loaf. Paper was valuable stuff to use for other purposes than writing: there were no newspapers, and wrapping paper did not exist (or only very expensively, and imported from France) – so where did you go for paper napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, kitchen paper, and so on? The manuscript of Hamlet, that’s where. So, not all that surprising after all – and the chances of finding a Shakespeare manuscript in the back of a cupboard in Tulsa or a suburb of Melbourne are to say the least small. Hard luck on treasure hunters.