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Home :: Archive :: 1990 :: October ::
Single-Volume Shakespeares (77)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 1, No. 66. Tuesday, 2 Oct 1990.
 
Date: Mon, 1 Oct 90 19:57 EDT
From: "Hardy M. Cook" <
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Subject: Thoughts About One-Volume Editions of the Plays
 
I would like to thank John Dorenkamp for responding to my inquiry
about the merits of individual paperback copies of Shakespeare's plays
versus a one-volume collected edition.  I too believe English majors
ought to own all the plays of Shakespeare; I myself own at least a
dozen *complete* works, including the Riverside (one-volume and
electronic editions), the Oxford, the BBC TV Shakespeare, the
Alexander, the Bevington (Scott Foresman and Bantam editions), and
several from the 19th century.  I would, however, prefer that my
students *want* to have copies of all the plays for themselves rather
than owning them because I compelled them to purchase a one-volume
collection.
 
Steve Wright asks what I meant by "the theoretical and political
implications" of using a one-volume edition.  Ken Steele wonders if I
meant "expense," "the monumentality of a collected volume in terms of
the reformulation of the canon," and the "editorial implications of
one approach or the other."  My answer to Ken is "yes, these and
more."
 
In part, I was fishing to see what others thought.  I begin a project
this summer on the reception of Shakespeare's sonnets.  I first turned
to their transmission, finding that for the 17th century the site of
contestation was the text itself.  As I moved to the 19th century, I
became more and more interested in not simply the reception of the
sonnets but in their appropriation -- the focus I am now
investigating.  This work on appropriation (and my reading of current
theory and criticism) has led me to question many of my earlier
positions.
 
For example, if I now want to approach the plays as dynamic scripts,
does not requiring a one-volume edition tend to enshrine them as
something else.  I am very conscious of the politics of bardolatry --
how the deification of Shakespeare has so often been for motives other
than the appreciation of the plays.
 
In 1864, Clark and Wright published *The Globe Edition: The Works of
William Shakespeare.*  This one-volume, 5" x 7" edition was meant to
be taken to the far reaches of the empire.  It contained no footnotes
but was the first edition to number "the lines of each scene for
convenience of reference."  The Globe of the title was not that
"wooden O" in which the plays were performed -- it was "this solid
globe" itself.  On the titlepage, one finds a globe surrounded by
hands clasping, upon whose arms is written "One touch of nature makes
the whole world kin."  If this were not enough, note the concluding
paragraph of Clark and Wright's Preface:
 
                We trust that the title which has been chosen for
          the present edition will neither be thought presumptuous
          nor be found inappropriate.  It seems indeed safe to
          predict that any volume which presents in a convenient
          form, with clear type and at a moderate cost, the
          complete works of the foremost man in all literature,
          the greatest master of the language most widely spoken
          among men, will make its way to the remotest corners of
          the habitable globe.
 
My concern then involves what are we saying by word and deed to
our students when we require them to purchase one of the (if not
*the*) most expensive textbook/s in the bookstore to study ten to
twelve plays in a semester when all our students want is a book
that is easy to bring to class and that they can read in bed.
 
          Hardy M. Cook
          Bowie State University
 

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