To describe the style of a writer whose greatest body of work was done in collaboration is, to say the least, difficult. Three centuries of commentators have arrived at widely differing judgments of the contributions of John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont to the plays they are known to have written together. As nothing is known of their characteristic collaborative process, it is presumptuous to look at linguistic cues or at staging patterns as indicators of the dominant hand in certain plays or even in particular scenes. Moreover, because their collaboration produced works remarkably distinct in style from the few solo works by either man, one cannot say which characters or ideas seem typical of Beaumont and which of Fletcher.
What one can do is compare a typical work of the Beaumont-Fletcher collaboration with the single play, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, which is believed to be wholly Beaumont’s, in order to understand his work. In these different contexts, remarkably different pictures of Beaumont the playwright emerge.
The Woman Hater
Though the first version of The Woman Hater is considered to have been Beaumont’s alone, the only extant version of the play is that revised by Fletcher in 1607, the first year of their collaboration, and it well represents the typical features of the Beaumont-Fletcher plays. Acted early in 1606 by the Children of St. Paul’s, The Woman Hater was among...
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