Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 695. Sunday, 31 October 1993.
Date: Saturday, 30 Oct 1993 22:49:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Authorative Texts
Jason Hoblit has, I think, misunderstood my point about texts. I don't think I
used the words "standard" or "authorative." Nor was I arguing that directors
should not cut scripts, or that innovative customing and staging are anathema.
No, I was merely pointing out that an adaptation like Dryden's ALL FOR LOVE
should not be considered Shakespeare's ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. I take it that
Cary Mazer would not agree. Apparently Kemble and Olivier should be seen in
historical context, and Shakespeare should not.
I'm certainly not agruing that Shakespeare can't be appropriated. Terence
Hawkes proves that he (or at least his plays) can. Certain people consciously
appropriate Shakespeare for various reasons. Hawkes and Vickers among others
are very interested in the processes of appropriation.
In "The Materiality of the Shakespearean Text," Margreta de Grazia and Peter
Stallybras (SQ 44 - current issue) exaggerate the problems of recovering
historical texts. They set up an ideal of recoverability (if I may use that
word), and prove that that ideal can not be obtained. Of course we can't
recover the past and live in it. That's why we write history, and argue about
what it must have been like in an early modern printing house.
And as Grace Ioppolo, REVISING SHAKESPEARE, has emphasized along with Steve
Urkowitz and others, Shakespeare was a reviser. Fifty years ago, teachers of
English told their students that Shakespeare never blotted a line, never
revised. Now some scholars claim that we have three distinct texts of HAMLET.
Which one may be called standard or authoritative? Q1 is still hotly contested,
but Q2 and Folio are not.
But weren't Shakespeare's texts copied, and edited, and revised, etc.? Well,
aren't contemporary texts also subject to editing, to readers who demand
changes, to printers who make errors that are not caught? When we read Rick
Powers' latest novel, do we say, "This really isn't his work. It's been edited,
and I'll bet some of his friends read the book in manuscript and suggested
changes, etc."? I don't because I expect editing and revision and a certain
number of proofing errors.
In working with Shakespeare's texts, we do the best we can. Standards change,
and so do editing procedures. Nevertheless, Tom Stoppard is not Will
Shakespeare, but then neither was the 17th Earl of Oxford.
Yours in flux, Bill Godshalk