A Funeral Elegy

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Riverside edition

Thomas Thorpe (c. 1572—1620) bookseller

William Strachey (fl. 1588—1620) historian of Virginia

Bevington edition


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A poem of 578 lines privately published in 1612 by Thomas Thorpe as ‘A Funeral Elegy: in memory of the late virtuous Master William Peter of Whipton near Exeter’. The title-page says it is ‘By W. S.’, and the same initials appear at the end of the dedication. William Peter was a Devonshire gentleman of independent means stabbed to death in a dispute over a horse after a hard day's drinking. In 1989Donald Foster conducted a detailed investigation into its authorship in Elegy by W.S.: A Study in Attribution, concluding that its author was either Shakespeare or William Strachey. During 1996 Foster came out firmly in favour of the attribution to Shakespeare, basing his case on further stylistic analysis. His claims have been hotly disputed, and those who believe in the attribution admit that the poem is tedious, but it is printed in the New Riverside, the revised Bevington, and the Norton editions.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.

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