A term coined by E. K. Chambers, in his day the leading authority on the history of English theatre, in his British Academy lecture The Disintegration of Shakespeare (1924), characterizing the efforts of earlier scholars (principally F. G. Fleay and J. M. Robertson) to attribute some of the plays of Shakespeare wholly or partly to other Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights such as Christopher Marlowe, George Chapman, and Ben Jonson. The disintegrators, as Chambers called them, had based their reattributions upon supposedly scientific analyses of the plays' versification, and upon unsupported assumptions that Shakespeare had revised plays written by others. Chambers's arguments against the disintegration of the Shakespeare canon were generally accepted, although scholars do now broadly agree that a few of the plays did involve partial collaboration with John Fletcher and Thomas Middleton. Disintegration is a phenomenon entirely distinct from the anti-Stratfordian conspiracy theories, which usually deny Shakespeare the authorship of any of the works published in his name.
Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.