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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: November ::
Much Ado About . . . (Was Hero's Mother)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 290.  Sunday, 1 November 1992.
 
From: 		Thomas G. Bishop <
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Date: 		Sunday, Nov. 1, 1992, 12:43:57 -0500
Subject:	Re: Much Ado About . . .
	John Drakakis and I seem to be engaged in playing out yet another
version of _Much Ado_'s many games of "now you see it, now you don't."  But
where Mr. Drakakis adopts the position of Claudio that there is no name
without a body attached, I prefer Benedick's that "the body of [our] discourse
is sometime guarded with fragments."
	Let me put it this way: the Quarto of _Much Ado_ did not simply
materialize on the bookseller's stall in 1600. Various cultural agencies
jointly were responsible for getting it there as it is. Some of these are
given names on the title page (but the meaning of a name on a page is what's
at issue here). Many commentators (Stephen Orgel among them) have argued that
"what a text is" is a question much more riven by doubt and the contrary pull
of different impulses than we often want to believe.  Mr. Drakakis assumes
fundamentally that a name on a page translates into a character on a stage
(even if only an imaginary stage), and proceeds accordingly to construct a
detailed and very convincing account of  the centrality of Innogen to the play.
I have no quarrel with this expert delineation of Innogen's importance except
that its first premise is dubious. Not every indicated stage direction in the
early acts of this play as Q gives them can be taken to record a "character on
stage", the leap Mr. Drakakis wishes to make. The text is less stable than
that, its ongoing processes of struggle still visible. Innogen is not an
isolated case, nor is it women only who are so affected: the text is also
unclear over entrances by Don John, Borachio, Leonato, Beatrice and others at
various points.
	A particularly good example of how one _cannot_ simply accept the
names as given is the entrance in both Q and F1 of Don John WITH Don Pedro at
I.i.203. Here Claudio first tells of his "liking" for Hero, yet in I.iii Don
John knows nothing of this and is incredulous when Borachio tells him the
overheard news. Are we to suppose he has forgotten? Was he not listening? Has
his recollection been somehow ideologically "silenced"? To argue that he was
somehow there but unconscious is an absurdity at the level of stage or plot
practice but explicable if we see the text as a series of tentative moves
encountering especial uncertainty over the management of certain characters in
the opening of a play that turns out to be charged (as Mr. Drakakis rightly
says) with concern about who was where, who gets to speak and when. There are
other similar instances, as a fully collated text reveals.
	My point is a simple one: the marginal status of Innogen (and of Don
John) to the dominant ideology of Messina, which the play in part subscribes
to and in part criticizes, can be seen not at the level of the action finished
and presented, but at the level of the action in process and struggle between
competing possibilities moment by moment. "The text" is uncertain what to do
with, where to include, Don John and Innogen. Innogen disappears from the
action as Don John's entrance is clearly rethought two scenes later. Innogen's
absence does indeed signify - _either way_, but in different ways. Mr. Drakais
wishes to interrogate the process of her exclusion by presuming a staging with
her at first seen and then withdrawn. But would he also insist on Don John's
entrance at I.i.203 and thereby deeply confuse any conceivable audience, or are
such considerations to be waived? One can also respond to the difficulty by
seeing Innogen's abrupted textual traces as evidence of a cancelled gambit, a
historically-contingent difficulty in plot-making generated by the very
pressures on the developing action Mr. Drakakis so well describes. Fully to
take the latter option is even necessarily to have taken the former already,
and found it inadequate. What might have seemed the "familiar" view yields a
text more radically unstable, still bearing the traces of its historical moment.
I prefer this latter because I believe it does more justice to the material
historicity of the processes that generated the only record we have.
 
--
Tom Bishop
Dept of English
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH 44106.  (
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