Why are Shakespeare plays Two Noble Kinsman and Henry VIII not included in many Complete Shakespeare Works?

Why are the last of Shaksspeae plays “The Two Noble Kinsman” and “Henry VIII” not included in many Complete Shakespeare Works?

Sorry about the misspelling.
Why are the two Shakespeare plays “The Two Noble Kinsmen” and “Henry VIII” not included in many Complete Shakespeare Works? Were they only recently added to the corpus of Shakespeare plays? I have several complete works and only recently did I discover that they were missing his last plays.

Is the authorship disputed?

Dunno if these are the only two Shakespeare works, but both are considered to be collaborations with John Fletcher.

So Fletcher replaced Shakespeare as house playwright

I would think many sets of Shakespeare do contain these works too.

Henry VIII is in my 1950s edition; Two Noble Kinsmen is not.

They do now, but I remember them being added. When I was a kid, Pericles wasn’t included, either. But, slowly, certain stylistic tricks have made it clear (to experts) that Shakespeare was involved. Others that are likely to be added are, Edward III (certain scenes are obviously by a much more skillful playwright than the rest, and those scenes seem to be, not only better than the rest, but better in a Shakespearean way), Sir Thomas More (an anonymous manuscript in several hands; one of them, “Hand D”, looks the way we think Shakespeare’s hand looked, and the writing is not only very good, but on a subject that Shakespeare took quite seriously), and Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers, which was definitely written by Lewis Theobald in 1727, but which appears to be based on a lost play by Shakespeare and Fletcher, Cardenio (which in turn was based on about four chapters of Don Quixote).

Thanks John_W.Kennedy. I’ll look out for newer Complete Shakespeare editions.

Awaiting fretful porpentine weighing in…

I suspect many “Complete Works” are based on the first folio (a copy of which I happened to see the other day in the NYPL.).

If you want @Fretful_Porpentine to weigh in, it might help to @ her.

My father’s edition (1940’s) and mind (1980’s) both contain Henry VIII, but not Two Noble Kinsmen.

Somebody called?

As @nofloyd says, both plays were almost certainly written in collaboration with John Fletcher, and TNK took a long time to be definitively accepted as part of the Shakespearean canon. It wasn’t included in the First Folio, the first near-complete published edition of Shakespeare’s plays, which was compiled by fellow-actors who knew him well. Pericles, another play Shakespeare wrote in collaboration (possibly with a disreputable fellow named George Wilkins, we’re not absolutely sure), was also not included in the First Folio and is similarly left out of some older editions of Shakespeare’s works. However, it was published under Shakespeare’s name during his own lifetime, so it found an easier road to acceptance by editors than TNK, where the question wasn’t really considered settled until the advent of modern-day, computer-assisted stylometric analysis.

Henry VIII, however, was printed in the First Folio and has always, as far as I know, been included in the vast majority of editions of the complete works, as some of the other posts in this thread indicate. The OP might have seen an edition where the editor decided to leave it out because of doubts about its authorship, but this would have been more of an eccentric personal decision than a regular practice. (In more recent times, the eccentric personal decisions have tended to run in the opposite direction, toward the inclusion of doubtfully-authored plays like Edward III or Arden of Faversham.)

FWIW, my experience of watching Pericles in the theater is that at the moment when Shakespeare enters the house, you KNOW – the flow of the language and imagery is so different from the stiff bits that have come before. With TNK and Henry VIII it’s less obvious, both because Fletcher was a more skilled playwright than Wilkins-or-whoever, and because the playwrights seem to have collaborated more closely. Still, you can identify the differences in style if you know what to look for. Here’s Act 1, Scene 1 of TNK, which is mostly or entirely by Shakespeare. You’ll notice that after the opening song, most of the lines are enjambed, meaning that they don’t end with a punctuation mark – breaks between sentences and clauses tend to occur mid-line instead. The author also tends to verb nouns (Give us the bones / Of our dead kings, That we may chapel them") and to employ startling, unconventional images (“no longer time / Than a dove’s motion when the head’s plucked off”). Compare Act 2, Scene 5, which is probably Fletcher’s work: there’s some enjambment here, but it occurs less frequently, and the language and imagery are more conventional: a strong man is compared to Hercules, hidden virtue to the sun breaking through clouds.

Sort of tangentially, what’s the verdict on Troilius and Cressida? When I saw it, all of the bits about the Heroes seemed to be Fully Shakespeare, but the bits about the romance felt like a tacked-on placeholder, like Shakespeare was saying “Note to self: Write in a romance sub-plot here”, but that he never got to finish it. Is there any contemporary record, or scholarly consensus, about that play being unfinished?

Likewise, my 1975 Weathervane edition (ISBN 0-517-20976-4) includes Henry VIII but not Two Noble Kinsmen.


Possibly! Some texts of the first quarto of T&C, printed in 1609, begin with an epistle, evidently written by someone other than Shakespeare, that describes it as “a new play, never stalled with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of the vulgar.” If this is accurate, it may not have been staged at all, but, of course, we don’t know why. It’s possible that Shakespeare abandoned a work in progress, or that the Master of Revels refused to license it. It’s also possible that it had been performed in some private setting (noble household, university or law school) but not in public, or that it was performed in public after its publication but not before, or that the author of the epistle was simply making stuff up. And, just to make things more complicated, there’s another version of the same 1609 quarto edition that includes a title page that does say it was staged by the King’s Men at the Globe, as one might expect of a new Shakespeare play, and that version, oddly, seems to have been printed first.

It’s super-weird. As is the whole play.

My (actually grandma’s) 1950s edition also includes a scene from Sir Thomas More.