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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: February ::
Authorial Revision
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 63. Saturday, 23 Feb 1991.
 
(1)   Date:         Sat, 23 Feb 91 12:41:17 EST              (12 lines)
      From:         Ken Steele <
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      Subject:      Discussion of Revision
 
(2)   Date:   Thu, 21 Feb 91 14:38:13 EST                    (24 lines)
      From:   "JANIS _ LULL" <FFJL@ALASKA>
      Subject:  [Why Search for Authorial Revisions?]
 
(3)   Date:         Sat, 23 Feb 91 12:41:17 EST              (69 lines)
      From:         Ken Steele <
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 >
      Subject:      Revision in Collaboration
 
(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:         Sat, 23 Feb 91 12:41:17 EST
From:         Ken Steele <
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Subject:      Discussion of Revision
 
The following discussion is predicated on my conference paper,
recently added to the SHAKSPER Fileserver as LLL-Q1 REVISION SHAKSPER.
Members of SAA Seminar 1, and all members of SHAKSPER, are cordially
invited to join the discussion of this and any other papers in that
seminar.
                                            Ken Steele
                                            University of Toronto
 
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------35----
Date:   Thu, 21 Feb 91 14:38:13 EST
From:   "JANIS _ LULL" <FFJL@ALASKA>
Subject:  [Why Search for Authorial Revisions?]
 
Dear Ken,
 
Come to think of it, I do have a question for you,
and since I probably will have to limit my role in
Vancouver to greetings, SHAKSPER seems like a good
place to ask it.  If, as you say, evidence for revision
in Shakespeare's plays is always ambiguous and
conjectural--and of course you're right there--why
don't you go the extra step and accept Paul Werstine's
argument that we have to start thinking of these as
group productions or at the very least "penetrated"
texts, probably "written" by several people in several
media?  Why keep searching for authorial as opposed to
non-authorial revisions at all?
 
I'm sure you've considered this, and I'm eager to know
what you think.
 
Janis
 
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date:         Sat, 23 Feb 91 12:41:17 EST
From:         Ken Steele <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Subject:      Revision in Collaboration
 
Dear Janis;
 
You'll have to direct me to Paul Werstine's work on "penetrated" texts,
because I'm not familiar with the phrase, but certainly I understand
the concept of a "public" text (McGann) or theatrical texts as the
product of collaboration of playwright, actors, production, and
audience.
 
It's quite true, of course, of Shakespeare, and I find it particularly
difficult to have firm confidence in the authority of multi-text
evidence of revision, as a result.  While it's doubtful that any
of Shakespeare's plays, including the single-text "foul paper" plays,
have come down to us without considerable intervention by other parties
(we can take for granted the intervention of compositors, at the least),
it seems to me inherently more likely that evidence of currente calamo
revision reflects the authorial process of composition.
 
I would like to believe that my investigation of the evidence in the
two key passages of LLL helps justify this hypothesis; the closer we
examine the evidence, the more certain we can be in all this uncertainty.
I think it is much easier to claim authorial sanction for revisions which
appear to have been written during the original composition of a text;
in cases of later revision for revival or particular occasions, the author
is considerably less easily distinguished from any other playwright who
might have been called in to "mend" the text.  To this extent, perhaps, I
would support the modern contention that, once a work is "complete," the
author becomes simply a well-informed critic.  Shakespeare, returning
to his work to revise months or years later, is no longer the author in
process of composition, much as Middleton reworking *Macbeth* is not.
 
I think that the intricacies of the connections between "drafts" in LLL
suggests revision which is genuinely authorial, taking place during the
heat of conception, "The Second Heat on the Muse's Anvil," as Ben Jonson
says.  It might be that both drafts of the dual speeches in LLL were
written by someone else; all my study has done thus far is argue that
they were written by the same author.  The thesis will go on to study
the interconnections between these passages and the poetry of the play
as a whole, which will not prove that the author was Shakespeare, but
will suggest that the same writer wrote the drafts and the play as a
whole.  Even careful analysis of the poetry of LLL in connection to the
rest of the Shakespearean canon would not ultimately prove that any of
it was written by the man named William Shakespeare, if we consider the
Baconian arguments, etc., but it would convince me.
 
Non-authorial revision is also an intriguing process, and I suspect
I would be as fascinated by the connections between Shakespeare's and
Middleton's *Macbeth* as between Shakespeare's first and second drafts
of Berowne's speeches.  I find, for example, fascinating the passages
of currente calamo revision in the "bad" quartos of Hamlet and 2H6 --
whether or not I believe they "sound" Shakespearean.
 
Perhaps, in objective bibliographical terms, it is unwise to pursue
the authorial mind underlying a text, but it seems to me one of the
primary attractions of literary study.  Like James Calderwood, I
sometimes suspect that I am guilty of an "intentional-biographical
fallacy," but "it is pleasant to think of Shakespeare as having at
least temporarily occupied live skin before being permanently bound
in calf" (*Shakespearean Metadrama*, p.6).  I don't believe that this
necessarily leads to bardolatry.
 
Can others offer sounder theoretical perspectives on this issue?
Any other responses?
                                            Ken Steele
                                            University of Toronto
 

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