Handwriting and Sir Thomas More Two Stanley Monuments Fair Em A Note on The Merry Devil of Edmonton and Mucedorus The Puritan Breton's Will of Wit Our Cousin's Glove
The following sections discuss various Shake-speare attributions that are, I believe, misinterpreted by the Stratfordians because of their adherence to their chosen candidate.
I'll point out some of the similarities between Hand D and Derby here, but this can only serve as an indication. As Titherley (who became convinced that hand D was in fact Derby's) put it:
Conviction, on such an important issue as this, of course demands critical comparison of every variety of every letter contrasted with other contemporary script...
I refer you to Titherley for comparison of such details as size of characters, slant of writing, individual letter variations and so on. Here, I'll just point out some similarities between a few of the letters.
Here is an example of the capital letter Y in the Sir Thomas More manuscript and a capital letter Y from the earl of Derby:
Both Derby and Hand D use a few different types of lower-case y, some of the most characteristic are shown below. First, a leading y as in you, etc:
And here are two of the types of trailing y used:
A form of Derby's b:
I challenge anyone to post any letters from Shakspur's signatures against any Sir Thomas More letters as I have done with Derby's. Or letters from any other candidate, of course.
In the 1590s, Thomas Heywood was writing plays for William Stanley's players (Derby's Men), and the Hand C copyist, though not personally identified, is believed to be the same hand that was a copyist "in the very early nineties for a company that included several members of the Strange's [i.e., William's brother's] Men." 
A new and very interesting approach to Thomas More is presented in a book published in 1987, The Elizabethan Theatre and The Book of Sir Thomas More by Scott McMillin. McMillin does not concentrate on the identity of Hand D, but instead approaches the play from the point of view of theatrical indications inherent in the play, such as the number of players required to stage it and characteristics of the stage required to present it. Using this information he presents a strong case as to who would have been able to perform it and when.
McMillin divides the development of the play into two parts—an initial preparation and a later preparation. Unlike many commentators, he does not think that Hand D was part of a later preparation made to conform to a censor's hand-written comments on the manuscript for several reasons, among which is the simple reason that Hand D's "addition" is exactly the kind of thing the censor has objected to. I will not go into any extensive discussion of McMillin's arguments here but only summarize a conclusion that is of interest to our discussion. In brief, he concludes that the Hand D addition to Sir Thomas More was written in the early 1590s for the play in preparation for staging by Lord Strange's men . This fits well with William Stanley's handwriting samples shown above, taken largely from a letter he wrote in 1595. And, of course, we may assume that William had close contact with his brother's company.
There are literally two handwriting samples reasonably presented as being from the hand of the playwright Shake-speare. Both conform strongly to Derby's handwriting. Neither even approach to Shakspur's or any other candidate's handwriting.
Epitaphs on two monuments created after all the candidates mentioned above, with the exception of William Stanley, were dead, lend support to the Derbyite position. 
That the verses on a monument in Tong Church, Shropshire, to Will Derby's uncle and his uncle's son were written by Shake-speare is even allowed by some orthodox Stratfordians. It is explained by saying that Shakspur must have been commissioned to write it, and to write it long before it was to be used. More likely seems the Derbyite explanation that they were written by Will Derby. The verses were reported by Sir William Dugdale in 1660 :
On the north side of the chancell of Tongue Church, in the county of Salop, stands a very stately tomb, supported with Corinthian columns [...] and this epitaph upon it:
"Thomas Stanley Knight, second son of Edward Earl of Derby, &c. These following verses were made by William Shakspeare the late famous tragedian.
(Written upon the east end of the tomb) ―
Aske who lyes here, but do not weepe,
He is not dead, he doth but sleepe;
This stony register is for his bones,
His fame is more perpetual than these stones,
And his own goodness, with himself being gone,
Shall live, when earthly monument is none.
(Written upon the west side thereof) ―
Not monumental stone preserves our fame,
Nor skye-aspiring pyramids our name;
The memory of him for whom this stands
Shall outlive marble and defacer's hands;
When all to Time's consumption shall be given,
Stanley, for whom this stands shall stand in heaven.
I don't think that the lesser-quality verses on the east side are by Shake-speare, but I do think the verses on the west side are by him. The latter are of a quality of iambic pentameter worthy of his sonnets, and the play on Stanley/stands is decidedly Shake-spearian. The west-side verses also claim close connection with the Stanley family—note the "our" and the "our name" in the following; Shakspur, or any other commisioned writer, would have used "your":
Not monumental stone preserves our fame,
Nor skye-aspiring pyramids our name;
When William Stanley's son Robert died, this epitaph appeared on his grave:
To say a STANLEY lyes here, that a lone
Were Epitaph enough noe brass noe stone
Noe glorious Tombe, noe monumentall Hearse,
Noe guilded Trophy or lamp labourd Verse
Can dignifie his Graue or sett it forth
Like the Immortal fame of his owne Worth
Then reader fixe not here but quitt this Roome
And flye to Abram's bossome theres his Tombe
There rests his Soule & for his other parts
They are imbalm'd & lodg'd in good mens harts
A brauer monument of Stone or Lyme,
Noe Arte can rayse for this shall out last tyme
Compare these, for example, with Sonnet 55:
Not marble, nor the gilded monumentsAnd compare the second and third lines of Robert Stanley's epitaph with this line from A Winter's Tale:
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war's quick fire shall burn:
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death, and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth, your praise shall still find room,
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So till the judgment that your self arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.
Nor brass nor stone nor parchment bears not oneAnd, finally, Shakspur's grave:
Good friend, for Jesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here!
Blest be ye man that spares thes stones
And curst be he that moues my bones.
You get my point.
Beyond the bad poetry though, is the difference of vision.
Fair Em is a play once ascribed to Shake-speare but rarely accepted as such today. I think there is reason to believe it was an early Shake-speare play. One reason the play has been ascribed to Shake-speare is because it was included in the library of Charles I in a volume called "Shakespeare Vol I" . In the following discussion, we find an even earlier indication that it was a Shake-speare play and that William Stanley is best-suited among the authorship candidates to have written it.
We don't know what Fair Em looked like out of the author's hand. What we have is considered to be, first of all, a "reported" copy, in other words, one that was recorded by someone observing the play and writing it down "live". In addition, the reported copy may have been both revised and cut . So what we are left with is poor indeed. If we add to this the possibility that it is a writer's immature work, we should not expect Hamlet.
Here is a brief plot summary of Fair Em, relating it to Shake-spearian plotting, taken from an early editor of the play :
The plot, like the plots of many of Shakespeare's known plays, is a not unskilful combination of two stories. These are conducted independently of each other in alternate scenes, like the serious and comic parts in 1 Hen. IV, till in the last scene they unite. The two plots are similar, and at the same time contrasted. One gives the story of one man contracted to two women, and losing them both; the other tells of one woman contracted to two men, and successfully palming off a substitute on the less favoured lover. This lover is made, in the last scene, the judge of the inconstant man of the former plot, by which means the several issues of their loves stand out in stronger contrast; and it is at last by the decision that celibacy is the fit punishment for the jealousy and fickleness of the inconstant man, that the judge is reconciled to a woman fraudulently imposed upon him. This weaving together of distinct plots into a unity is eminently Shakespearian in its broad principles.We'll look more closely at some particulars of the play shortly, but first a look at the known circumstances of its appearance in history.
Fair Em first appears in an anonymous, undated quarto of the 1590's and then a second quarto, in even worse shape, in 1631. In either case, no author was given. And, as I said before, it was found in the library of Charles I in a volume entitled "Shakespeare, Vol I" (along with several other apocryphal plays, including The Merry Devil of Edmonton, Mucedorus, and The Puritan).
Our search for the author of Fair Em begins with a look at some words of the Elizabethan writer Robert Greene. Most Stratfordians and anti-Stratfordians are aware of the following lines penned by Greene in his Groatsworth of Wit published in 1592:
Base minded men all three of you, if by my miserie you be not warnd: for unto none of you (like mee) sought those burres to cleave: those Puppets (I meane) that spake from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange, that I, to whom they all have beene beholding: is it not like that you, to whome they all have beene beholding, shall (were yee in that case as I am now) bee both at once of them forsaken? Yes trust them not: for there is an up-start Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey. O that I might intreat your rare wits to be imploied in more profitable courses: & let those Apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions. I knowe the best husband of you all will never prove an Usurer, and the kindest of them all will never prove a kind nurse: yet whilest you may, seeke you better Maisters; for it is pittie men of such rare wits, should be subject to the pleasure of such rude groomes.It is clear that Greene is referring to Shake-speare here, not only for the use of "Shake-scene" but for the phrase "Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde", a play on the lines in Shakespeare's 3 Henry VI "O tiger's heart wrapp'd in a woman's hide". Stratfordians argue that Greene is bemoaning the emergence of a superior playwright in the player Shakspur, and anti-Stratfordians, myself included, argue that Greene is warning playwrights that their works are being appropriated by a player.
But this is not the first time that Greene has expressed such outrage. In a dedicatory letter to his Farewell to Folly (registered 1587, printed 1591), we read (spelling modernized):
But by your leave Gentlemen, some over curious will carp and say that if I were not beyond, I would not be so bold to teach my betters their duty, and to show them the Sun that have brighter eyes than myself, well Diogenes told Alexander of his folly and yet he was not a King. Others will flout and overread every line with a frump, and say 'tis scurvie, when they themselves are such scabbed Jades that they are like to die of the fashion, but if they come to write or publish any thing in print, it is either distilled out of ballads or borrowed of Theological poets, which for their calling and gravity, being loath to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand, get some other Batillus to set his name to their verses: Thus is the asse made proud by this under hand brokery. And he that can not write true English without the help of Clerks of parish Churches, will needs make himself the father of interludes. O 'tis a jolly matter when a man has a familiar style and can endite a whole year and never be beholding to art? but to bring scripture to prove any thing he says, and kill it dead with the text in a trifling subject of love, I tell you is no small piece of cunning. As for example two lovers on the stage arguing one another of unkindness, his Mistress runs over him with this canonical sentence, A man's conscience is a thousand witnesses, and her knight again excuses himself with that saying of the Apostle, Love covereth the multitude of sins.
In this remarkable passage, Greene has done much to bolster the anti-Stratfordian position. First of all, he indicates he is going to criticize his "betters". His betters who, when they write something, "being loath to have any profane pamphlets pass under their hand, get some other Batillus to set his name to their verses". In other words, an aristocrat using a front-man to get his verses in print. A front-man, moreover, "that can not write true English without the help of Clerks of parish Churches" who then styles himself "the father of interludes". This is perfectly consistent with the idea that Shakspur was a blustering front-man for an aristocrat.
We saw how a few years later, Greene referred to
an up-start Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.It seems highly likely that Greene is talking about the same person in each case. In the (historically first) case of Farewell to Folly, he addresses himself to his "betters", writers of "profane pamphlets", who use a front man ("Batillus") who takes credit as if he were himself the "father of interludes". In Groatsworth of Wit, he warns three fellow playwrights ("all three of you", generally recognized as Marlowe, Nashe, and Peele) about an actor deriving some benefit from playwrights ("upstart Crow beautified with our feathers").
And the parallels go further.
We just saw how in Groatsworth of Wit Greene obliquely identified a play, Shake-speare's 3 Henry VI with his "Tyger's hart wrapt in a Players hyde". In Farewell to Folly, he also identifies a play, and in this case the play is Fair Em.
Greene refers to Fair Em in his comments about Scripture. Here are the lines referred to by Greene and the lines in Fair Em:
|Greene's Farewell to Folly||Fair Em|
|Love covereth the multitude of sins||Yet love that covers multitude of sins|
|A mans conscience is a thousand witnesses||Thy conscience Manville a hundred witnesses|
The simplest and most consistent explanation of Greene's comments is that he, at least, believed that an actor was a front man for the aristocratic playwright Shake-speare, author of Fair Em and 3 Henry VI. As Farewell to Folly was registered in 1587 and published in 1591, I feel confident in calling Robert Greene the first anti-Stratfordian. (Note that I do not call Greene the first anti-Stratfordian because, as Stratfordian's would have it, Greene was "jealous" of some superior playwright and so "against" him or "anti", but rather that he was "anti-Stratfordian" in the sense that he did not believe that the Stratford man wrote the works. In fact, he knew he didn't.)
This play was written for Lancashire. Not only are the chief scenes at Manchester, with references to Chester and Liverpool, but it has allusions which would be unintelligible in London, or, if understood, flat and uninteresting.Particulars include the mention of a Stanley family friend and neighbor, Sir Edmund Trafford:
Why should not I content me with this state,and
As good Sir Edmund Trofferd did the flaile?
As good Sir Edmund Treford, on the plains:These lines concern the tradition in the Trafford family that an ancestor had disguised himself as a thresher during the Norman invasion, analogous to the way a knight in the play disguises himself as a Miller.
He like a sheepheard, and thou our country Miller.
So we have the Lancashire environment and a frequent guest of the Stanleys at this time, and we have another close connection to William in that the play was performed by his brother's company, Lord Strange's Men. The title page of the second quarto reads:
Hotson  points out the frequent occurrences of plays on the motto and emblem of Lord Strange in both Love's Labour's Lost and Fair Em. In addition to pointing in the Stanley direction, this evidences further connections in this play to recognized work of Shake-speare.
As Lord Strange's Men ceased to exist as such in 1594 with the death of Ferdinando Stanley, the play must be earlier than that. If the play was performed "sundry times" in London yet written for a Lancashire audience (I would imagine for guests at Lathom, Knowsley, and other Stanley family and Lancashire aristocrat's properties), we may assume it is at least somewhat earlier. To be referenced in Greene's Farewell to Folly, it could not be later than the published date of 1591 and perhaps no later than the registered date of 1589. The latest source identified, the ballad The Millers Daughter of Manchester, was registered March 2, 1581, which gives an approximate earliest date. As William began his travels abroad in 1582, I suggest he may have written it in 1581, when he was about twenty years old. That young age, plus the mutilations of the text, seem to me to present a real possibility of explaining the origin and quality of a very early Shakespearian play. I think it likely that it was plays such as Fair Em (and Mucedorus discussed next) that Spenser was referring to in 1591 when he decried the fall in quality of the "comick Stage" and how "Our pleasant Willy" has withdrawn from the scene (see Allusions).
Mucedorus has some lines that seem mature Shake-speare, uttered by the King of Valentia (IV, i), but these are a late addition, and have little bearing on the authorship of the original play.
Perhaps the most surprising fact to appear when we come to investigate Mucedorus is the tremendous popularity of the play. It appeared in no less than 17 editions by 1700, "a record unequaled in the history of pre-Restoration drama" . While modern opinion does not rate the play highly, we should keep in mind that the anonymous author had very successfully met the public's demand.
It is not easy to say when Mucedorus was written. Estimates range from 1584-5 (Acheson) to after 1596 (Kirschbaum) . I suggest the earlier date, using what we know about William Stanley to come to that conclusion. Stanley was overseas in the mid-1580s, returning home in the late 1580s. We saw in our discussion of Love's Labour's Lost that he likely passed though southern France and into Spain during this period, and it is this region (Valencia and Aragon) with which the action of Mucedorus is concerned. It is tempting to think of William Stanley writing this play when he was overseas, perhaps even pleased with it. And then returning to England in the late 1580s to be astounded by what Marlowe had been achieving on the home front. 
If, indeed, it was Elde's intent to encourage the belief that The Puritan was by William Shakespeare, either he knew surprisingly little about Shakespeare or he was remarkably careless in his plan of deceit. The title-page of The Puritan states that it had been "Acted by the Children of Paules." We know, of course, that Shakespeare never wrote for Paul's boys or for any of the children's companies, that from the early 1590s on he wrote for only the one company, that which since 1603 had been known as the King's Men. As Shakespeare had long been an actor as well as a playwright, it is incredible that any contemporary Londoners interested in the drama should not have known the company for which he wrote and acted. Surely no London playgoer would in 1607 have taken for Shakespeare's a play which, though said to have been written by "W.S.", was further declared to have been acted by the Children of Paul's. Elde, it would seem, unless he were remarkably stupid, could hardly have been seeking to mislead the purchaser into thinking he was being offered a play by William Shakespeare."But all of Maxwell's confusions and objections evaporate, when we realize Shake-speare was associated with Paul's Boys—because Will Derby was intimately involved with that company in these very years.
It does not follow, of course, that the play is necessarily Shake-speare's, or that it was written by William Stanley. But it does seem that there may be more reason behind this ascription to "W.S."—mistaken, misleading, or otherwise—than Maxwell realized. Indeed, Elde may have well known that Shake-speare and Paul's Boys were connected.
There is an interesting mention of just this poem in the recent work by Donald Foster, Elegy by W. S. . Foster's work makes his case for the possibility that a seventeenth century elegy that was signed "W.S." was written by Shake-speare. Foster assumes Shake-speare is Shakspur, and it is in his role of orthodox Stratfordian that I think a mention of his work is useful in this particular discussion of how Stratfordianism taints Shake-speare research.
I'll disregard for this discussion the question of the validity of the attribution by Donald Foster of the Funeral Elegy for William Peter to Shake-speare. (What Foster had done, persuasively if not convincingly, is present statistical evidence that supports the idea that Shake-speare wrote the Elegy. He has since said he agrees with those who attribute the elegy to John Ford.)
Regarding the "W.S." poem in Breton's Will of Wit, Foster says:
"the signature is suspect since this eulogy by "W.S." is written in Breton's usual manner. Breton is known to have used pseudonymous initials more often than any other English writer of the age, and he was not above praising himself and his work in print. Unless these commendatory verses are the work of a mimic, it seems likely that they were composed, disengenuously, by Breton himself. [a footnote reference is here]"
So Foster has dismissed the "W.S." dedication as being written by Breton himself in his "usual manner". But the footnote reads:
"It is possible that Breton wished his readers to suppose these verses to have been written by William Shakespeare. If so, it provides one more illustration of how well Shakespeare's contemporaries were able to imitate him."
He would have it both ways: in Breton's style and in Shake-speare's style.
Foster can suggest the imitation of Shake-speare because he dates the poem 1597, which was a later edition. The work was first registered in 1580 and, of course, no one was imitating Shake-speare in 1580.
A tradition of much later date [ah, he finesses it] than the one just cited tells us that Queen Elizabeth was in the theatre one evening [Elizabeth was never in the theatre of course, we must assume the play is at the court] when Shakespeare was personating the part of a king, and, in crossing the stage moved politely to the poet without the honor of being duly recognized. Her majesty, it is said, with a view to ascertaining whether the omission was intentional, or whether he had resolved not to lose for an instant the personification of the character he supported, again passed the stage near him, and dropped her glove, which was immediately taken up by Shakespeare, who added these lines to a speech just then concluded "and so aptly were they delivered that they seemed to belong to it."While Halliwell-Phillips squirms from the implications, at least he has relayed the tradition. Of course it is impossible that Shakspur would have referred to the Queen as "cousin", but it would have been an appropriate familiar term for her second-cousin, William Stanley, to have used. (Indeed, we know that Queen Elizabeth referred to William Stanley's brother Ferdinando as "cousin".)
"And though now bent on this high embassy,
Yet stoop we to take up our cousin's glove."
He then retired from the stage, and presented the glove to the queen, who was said to have been greatly pleased with his conduct and to have complimented him upon it. I cannot say who invented this story, but there is no good authority for it, however possible it may be that it is founded on an earlier and less circumstantial tradition.
We see in the commentary by Halliwell-Phillips that he must have had second thoughts about even including this tradition at all. This well indicates the selective filter at work through centuries of Shake-speare studies, in which evidence is preserved or discarded based on a quite possibly mistaken assumption as to the identity of the author.
Notes on Sir Thomas More
Titherley made an extensive study of not only all the upper-case and lower-case characters of Stanley's and Hand D's handwriting, but also compared such factors as average slant and overall size.
James Greenstreet included two holograph letters of Will Derby's in his "Testimonies Against the Accepted Authorship of Shakespear's Plays", The Genealogist, Second Series Vol. 8, 1892: short business letters dated 31 Oct. 1607 and 16 Dec. 1605. (These are also reproduced in Lefranc's Under the Mask of William Shakespeare.) A. W. Titherley included facsimiles of these two and a third, dated 10 July 1596 in his Shakespeare's Identity. In his analysis of Derby vs. "Hand D" in Sir Thomas More, Titherley also mentions but does not include the following Derby letters:
On a more general note, Titherley ascribed several apocryphal or accepted early plays to Shake-speare with dates as follows:
Notes on Two Stanley Monuments
It is now (once again) clear that the volume labeled "Shakespeare, Vol. I" was in Charles the First's library and contained the following plays:
The PuritanI originally wrote my discussions of Mucedorus, and The Merry Devil of Edmonton because these were described as the two other plays bound with Fair Em in the volume mistakenly attributed to Charles II. The information that the volume had eight plays will lead me to a closer look at the other plays. The volume seems much more interesting in the light of the much earlier date—indeed a date at which William Stanley was still alive—and should result in a general re-evaluation of its importance. It seems to me likely that the attempt was to collect Shake-speare's early work in this first volume, an idea re-inforced by the relatively immature quality of some of it and by the inclusion of LLL, a known early work.
Thomas Lord Cromwell
The Merry Devil of Edmonton
The London Prodigal
Love's Labour's Lost
I Sir John Oldcastle
Ha, he! Mount Chival on the wings of fame!See Shakespeare and the Poets' War, by James P. Bednarz.
A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!
Look thee, I speak play scraps...
In the same play, in which Marston is reacting to his depiction by Jonson in Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, we may see an oblique reference that associates Shake-speare with the earl of Derby. In his own play, Jonson had suggested that criticism by the likes of Marston and Dekker meant nothing to him, but if "good CHRESTUS, EUTHUS, or PHRONIMUS" had critized him, he would take such criticism seriously. In Marston's response to this in What You Will, he declares that while he would not listen to any advice from Jonson, if "discreet Mastigophoros, or the dear spirit acute Canaidus" spoke, that would be a different thing. In this play, as in general at this time, Marston was clearly drawing his greatest inspiration from Shake-speare. As Bednarz puts it:
Marston imitated Shakesperean themes, characterization, plot and diction in every play he wrote for Paul's. [Emphasis by Bednarz, op. cit.]It is likely if not almost certain that Marston would be referring to Shake-speare as one of the voices he would listen to for artistic critique. I suspect it is Canaidus that indicates Shake-speare, as a play on "Il can", the badge of the earl of Derby.
Notes on Breton's Will of Wit
Notes on Our Cousin's Glove