Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 55. Saturday, 16 Feb 1991.
Date: Sat, 16 Feb 91 17:53:12 EST
From: Ken Steele <
Subject: New on the SHAKSPER Fileserver
Following is the revised abstract of a seminar paper for the 1991
Vancouver SAA Conference, now available on the SHAKSPER Fileserver
as LLL-Q1 REVISION SHAKSPER. (Reminder of Fileserver Procedures
Ambiguous Evidence of Revision
in Q1 Love's Labour's Lost
Shakespeare Association of America 1991 Annual Meeting
(Vancouver) Seminar 1: "Shakespeare's Quartos: Text,
Kenneth B. Steele
University of Toronto
Less controversial than intertextual evidence for
Shakespearean revision in the major tragedies is
intratextual evidence in his early plays, particularly
the quartos apparently based on authorial holograph. In
particular, four "foul paper" plays (Titus Andronicus,
Love's Labour's Lost, Romeo & Juliet, and A Midsummer
Night's Dream) contain the majority of "fossilized"
revision: inconsistencies, repetitions, and redundancies.
This intratextual revision is more poetic and less
theatrical than the later, intertextual variety, although
equally hypothetical and ambiguous: consecutive "drafts"
may represent deliberate repetition, compositorial or
editorial error, or alternative options which Shakespeare
left to be decided in rehearsal.
Furthermore, much of the evidence in the "good"
quartos looks dangerously like that in the "bad" ones: an
examination of variant speech prefixes, or "polynomials,"
in Q1 Love's Labour's Lost suggests that Shakespeare,
like a supposed "reporter," could often appear unaware of
character names unless they were prominent in dialogue.
Foul-paper "drafts" and confusions also resemble some
confusions in early "bad" quartos like Q1 2 Henry VI.
The "polynomials" in Q1 Love's Labour's Lost also seem to
suggest some discontinuities in the underlying copy, and
may help identify passages which were written out of
their published sequence, or at some chronological remove
from their contexts, particularly when they occur
simultaneously with consistent changes in the content of
Close readings of the two best-known textual
fossils, "O we haue made a Vow to studie Lordes" (LLL Q1
F2v-3v; 4.3.293-340) and "And what to me my Loue?" (LLL
Q1 K1r-v; 5.2.805-53), reveal deliberate and consistent
revisions in rhetoric, content, and poetic effects.
Shakespeare, it would seem, has deliberately heightened
the poetic artifice and self-consciousness of his lines,
increasing Berowne's centrality to the play and further
developing his character. Yet this solid evidence for
authorial revision appears in a text in which
inconsistency, repetition and redundancy are part of
Shakespeare's comic strategy, and hence in which apparent
"revisions" are rendered unusually ambiguous.
My paper is exploratory rather than conclusive,
offering suggestions, pointing out theoretical
difficulties, and raising questions for which I genuinely
hope others can supply answers. Because the paper arises
from my dissertation research, comments and suggestions
are particularly welcome. Non-participants in the
seminar may contact me at: 222 The Esplanade, Suite 720,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 4M8 (416) 369-1474, or via
electronic mail (Bitnet/Internet/EARN) at
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