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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Versions of Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 701.  Monday, 1 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   David Schalkwyk <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Nov 93 14:04:34 SAST-2
        Subj:   Versions
 
(2)     From:   Piers Lewis <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Nov 1993 09:36:14 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Versions of Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Schalkwyk <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Nov 93 14:04:34 SAST-2
Subject:        Versions
 
I'd like to ask what is at stake in the debate about whether or not
each instance of a Shakespeare text is a "new independent 'version'"
or not?  In one sense the latter claim is unimpeachable, in another
it runs counter not merely to common sense, but to our ability to
refer across time to the same play, say _Macbeth_.  For we could ask
the same thing about the scores of symphonies, coins and even words.
Is Beethoven's Ninth by Harnoncourt the same sympony as Beethoven's
Ninth by Klemperer?  Are the words I am using now the same as the
ones used so far on this list or those I used yesterday?  Or are
they in each case "new independent versions"?  Some considerations
incline us to answer in one way, others in the opposite.  One thing
is certain: what philosophers call the type/token distinction enables
us to see how and why we can refer to Beethoven's music or
Shakespeare's plays as the same piece across the differences
*necessitated* by repetition across time (what Derrida calls
iterability), and also why we *must* continue to regard each new
instance as a token of the same type in order to maintain consistency
of reference.  In other words, in order to speak about _Macbeth_ in
the first place (even if to raise the possibility that each
instantiation is new and different), we have to assume that we're
referring to the same thing.  Otherwise no-one would be able to
discuss, advertise and ask for and about videos of the plays, stage
performances, textual editions and so on.  This list would not exist,
and we couldn't teach _Macbeth_.
 
    On the other hand, when we start talking about the problems of an
authoritative text, performance, or interpretation, thereby
examining distinctions between tokens (or even begin to question
the "originality" of the type itself) then difference trumps
similarity and we're drawn in the opposite direction.  What I think
we should do is clarify *why* we should want to incline one way
rather than the other.  In other words, we need to move beyond
affirmation or denial or even positions like "I think we're actually
in agreement", and spell out what is at stake in the debate -- why it
matters to talk in one way rather than the other, always remembering
that the bugbear of reference (which will not go away despite
Saussure) has already stacked the cards in favour of sameness.
 
David Schalkwyk
English Department
University of Cape Town
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Piers Lewis <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Nov 1993 09:36:14 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Versions of Shakespeare
 
Is one version of a play as good as another?  Or are some better than
others?  If so, what criteria do we or should we rely on in making such
judgments?  Or has that question already been answered?
 
Piers Lewis
 

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