Or that's what some scholars at Oxford University say. They analyzed the play's vocabulary, rhymes, and rhythms and found Middletonian traces:

Writers have their own distinctive literary "fingerprints" - a kind of stylistic DNA - and a highly-detailed analysis of the language in the play shows "markers" strongly linked to Middleton.

The rhyming and rhythms of sections of the play, the phrasing, spelling and even individual words suggest the involvement of Thomas Middleton.

As an example, the word "ruttish" appears in the play, meaning lustful - and its only other usage at that time is in a work by Middleton.

Maybe Middleton helped write the play(s) and maybe he didn't—whoever wrote all those characters had a huge stylistic bandwidth and must've been a hell of a mimic. Either way, I don't have a dog in the hunt over who wrote Hamlet and Lear and the rest. We have the plays, the plays are a cornerstone of human culture (a festival in England is now performing all 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 different languages, including Maori, Shona, and Urdu), and the debate over authorship is a parlor game.

More to the point, the scholars point out that playmaking during Shakespeare's time was far more collaborative and ensemble-driven than we usually think. The romantic, iconic image of one genius madly scribbling alone in his garret might not be quite right.

Instead, it may have looked more like the mess of collaboration—which might account for that huge stylistic bandwidth. As one of the scholars put it: "We need to think of it more as a film studio with teams of writers."

*Speaking of Middleton, anyone remember that production of The Changeling adapted by Bret Fetzer and performed at the Rendezvous a few years ago? Good stuff—and an early design by Matthew Smucker, who has become one of the great go-to designers in town, get called out in the review.