The National Portrait Gallery is making a plea for donations in order to acquire a portrait of John Fletcher (1579 - 1625), Shakespeare's latter-period collaborator. Shakespeare and Fletcher collaborated on Two Noble Kinsmen, Henry VIII, and (it is supposed) the lost play Cardenio, though Shakespeare's share in this play is unknown.
Fletcher is best known for his collaborations with Francis Beaumont (1584 - 1616). From the wonderfully garrulous John Aubrey (latter seventeenth century professional guest) we learn that
"There was a wonderful consimility of phansey between him and . Mr. John Fletcher, which caused that dearnesse of frendship between them. I thinke they were both of Queen's College in Cambridge. I have heard Dr. John Earles (since bishop of Sarum), who knew them, say that his maine businesse was to correct the overflowings" of Mr. Fletcher's witt. They lived together on the Banke side, not far from the Play-house, both batchelors ; lay together—from Sir James Hales, etc. ; had one wench in the house between them, which they did so admire; the same cloathes and cloake, &c., betweene them" (Brief Lives, vol. I, p.95-96)
Both Beaumont and Fletcher were influenced by the elder Shakespeare in their formative dramas. They would lead the way into the new genre of tragi-comedy--or maybe it is a case of mutual leading into the fashion. In Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess, the address "To The Reader" gives a definition for tragicomedy that has stood the test of time:
"A tragicomedy is not so called in respect of mirth and killing, but in respect it wants deaths, which is enough to make it no tragedy, yet brings some near it, which is enough to make it no comedy, which must be a representation of familiar people, with such kind of trouble as no life be questioned; so that a god is as lawful in this as in a tragedy, and mean people as in a comedy. "
Fletcher is famous for writing the only sequel to one of Shakespeare's plays prior to the Restoration. His The Woman's Prize, or The Tamer Tamed (circa 1610) is a sequel to The Taming of the Shrew, with an entirely different social attitude towards women. He enjoyed a brief collaboration with Shakespeare mentioned above, and then went on to become the primiere dramatist for the King's Men after Shakespeare's death, collaborating at first with Field (his partnership with Beaumont had broken up around 1613 when Beaumont married) and later with Massinger.
The National Portrait Gallery is keen to acquire the now-available portrait. According to the NPG:
"The painting would be a wonderful addition to the National Portrait Gallery's collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean writers. Although the artist is unidentified, it is a work of good quality, larger and more ostentatious in its presentation than portraits of Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, who came from humbler backgrounds. Fletcher, along with his contemporaries, contributed to a body of literature that was one of Britain's greatest contributions to world culture: out of the literary milieu of this period came the works of Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible. The group of literary portraits from this era, including John Donne, Shakespeare and Jonson, is one of the most compelling in the Gallery's collections. If the portrait of Fletcher can be acquired, it will be hung as part of a special display celebrating the extraordinary achievement of writers of the period (NPG web site).