Beaumont and Fletcher
Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher worked together in English literature; they collaborated on many plays and they were both asked to append introductory poems to Jonson's Volpone.
According to John Aubrey, the notorious seventeenth-century gossip and diarist, the two playwrights “lived together on the Banke side, not far from the Play-house, both batchelors. They lay together … had one wench in the house between them … the same cloathes and cloake, &c., betweene them.”
Of the fifty-four plays with which their names or the names of their other collaborators are associated, Beaumont alone wrote one or two and only nine or ten were Beaumont and Fletcher collaborations.
Scholars have had difficulty determining if either Beaumont or Fletcher had written a particular scene in the plays on which they collaborated, mostly because Beaumont many times revised Fletcher's scenes, and Fletcher edited much of Beaumont's work.
In the three masterpieces of the Beaumont and Fletcher collaboration, The Maides Tragedy, Philaster, and A King and No King, it is thought that Beaumont had the controlling hand, basing the analysis on a more solid structure than Fletcher's other collaborations.
John Fletcher's (1579–1625) father, Richard Fletcher, was a successful clergyman who became the bishop successively of Bristol, Worcester, and London. He gained the dubious fame as a tormenting prosecutor in the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, and as the chaplain sternly officiating at her execution.
When not quite twelve years old, Fletcher was accepted to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and two years later became a Bible clerk. From the time of his father's death (1596) until 1607 nothing is known of him, although the evidence of his later plays indicates that he did not inherit his father's religious bigotry. Fletcher also became Shakepeare's successor as principal playwright for the King's Men.
After 1613, Fletcher collaborated with or had his plays revised by Philip Massinger, who succeeded him in 1625 as chief playwright. Other collaborators included Nathan Field, William Rowley, and William Shakespeare, who worked with Fletcher on Henry VIII, Two Noble Kinsmen and, some argue, the lost Cardenio. Throughout his career he also wrote plays unaided. In 1625, while the plague raged in London, Fletcher made the mistake of staying in London to be measured for a suit of clothes. He died along with some 40,000 others.
Francis Beaumont (1585–1616) was the son of Francis Beaumont, justice of common pleas in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire. Beaumont entered Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1597, but on the sudden death of his father left the university without a degree. In November 1600 he entered London's Inner Temple with the intention of picking up his legal studies, but instead began to frequent the Mermaid Tavern.
In 1602 he published a poem, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, a lush rewriting of a poem by Ovid. By 1607 Beaumont and Fletcher began collaborating on plays for the Children of the Queen's Revels and its successor, and then from 1609 until Beaumont's retirement in 1613, mainly for the King's Men at the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre.
In 1613 Beaumont married an heiress, Ursula Isley of Sundridge in Kent, and retired from the theater. He died in London in 1616, a month before Shakespeare, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. As a playwright, Beaumont remains a shadowy figure.