Plagiarism software pins down new source for Shakespeare’s plays

Scholars say the likelihood of George North’s unpublished manuscript A Brief Discourse of Rebellion sharing words and features with the Bard’s plays by chance is ‘less than one in a billion’

Plagiarism software more commonly used to check student essays for overly assiduous borrowings has uncovered a long-forgotten, handwritten document from 1576 as the possible source for more than 20 monologues and passages from Shakespeare’s plays.

Independent scholar Dennis McCarthy and LaFayette College professor June Schlueter used WCopyfind software to compare passages from Shakespeare’s plays with George North’s 1576 unpublished manuscript, A Brief Discourse of Rebellion, about the dangers of rebelling against a king. They were able to trace more than 20 passages back to the essay, including Gloucester’s opening soliloquy in Richard III, Macbeth’s comparison of dog breeds to different classes of men, the Fool’s Merlin prophecy in King Lear, and the events surrounding Jack Cade’s fatal fight with ...