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The Only Manuscript Pages Thought to be in the Hand of William Shakespeare

Circa 1591 to 1596
Sir Thomas More Hand D

acsimile of a page of writing by "Hand D" from the Elizabethan play Sir Thomas More, believed by some scholars to be William Shakespeare's handwriting. British Library Harley MS 7368.


Three pages in the manuscript of an unpublished play Sir Thomas More, probably written between 1591 and 1596, represent the only manuscript pages thought to have been written by William Shakespeare. These three pages, written in what is known as Hand D, plus six surviving signatures written by Shakepeare on four legal documents, including his Last Will and Testament containing three signatures, respresent the entire surviving body of manuscripts that Shakespeare is thought to have written in his own hand. Notably all six extant signatures attributed to Shakespeare spell his name differently.

Tbe three pages in the play Sir Thomas More are in the single manuscript of a collaborative Elizabethan play by Anthony Munday and others depicting the life and death of Sir Thomas More. The manuscript, preserved in the British Library as Harley MS 7368, contains many layers of collaborative writing by six different hands, of which five have been identified.  Hand D has been attributed to Shakespeare since 1871, supported by a minute paleographical study of the handwriting by Sir Edward Maunde Thompson in 1916, and the publication in 1923 of Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More by five noted scholars to analyzed the play from multiple perspectives, all of which leading to the conclusion that Hand D was the handwriting of Shakespeare.

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