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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: August ::
Re: Generic Expectations (*Tro.*)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0689.  Saturday, 20 August 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Simon Morgan-Russell <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Aug 1994 11:58:59 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Generic Expectations
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Aug 94 18:11:36 EST
        Subj:   Re: Generic Expectations
 
(3)     From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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        Date:   Saturday, August 20, 1994
        Subj:   *Tro.* Placement in F1
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Morgan-Russell <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Aug 1994 11:58:59 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Generic Expectations
 
(In response to Godshalk's comments on the determination of genre from
title-page):
 
I've been reading quite a bit of Restoration drama this summer, and one of the
things that struck me was the difference in title-page representation.  The
designation of genre is often the most prominent piece of text on the page,
often in larger type-face than the title of the play, in fact.  After reading
Godshalk's comment, I guess the question that occurs to me is "Why?  What
happened to change the expectation of genre represented on title-pages?"  (and
I'm thinking in more specific terms than glib platitudes like "The English
Civil War" et al.)  Speculations?
 
Simon Morgan-Russell
Department of English
Bowling Green State University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Aug 94 18:11:36 EST
Subject:        Re: Generic Expectations
 
Thanks to Bill Godshalk for his observations about <Troilus and Cressida>,
identified as a "Historie" on the titlepages of both quartos, and initially
intended to go among the tragedies in the Folio but then moved to a usefully
anomalous spot between the histories and the tragedies; the uncertainty is
usually attributed to problems with copyright, but might just as well have
arisen from doubts about genre.  In any case, the case seems to me to afford
additional evidence for a pervasive if not urgent early modern concern with
genre: the issue is not whether early modern authors and editors were
"supersensitive" to genre (Bill's customary hyperbole, I trust), but whether it
was something that made part of the way they thought about texts as they worked
with them.  Generic labels, at least the big ones, are pretty much always
loose; consider "historical novel," and the range from Thackeray and Tolstoi to
Doctorow and Byatt.  And there are always going to be marginal texts--recall
Chekhov vs. Stanislavsky--contemporaries, friends, professional associates--on
how to look at <The Seagull>.
 
Anyway, calling <Troilus> a history makes sense to me in connection with an
earlier contribution to this discussion (sorry I've forgotten whose) calling
attention to the presence but also the kinds of death as a generic indicator
though not a generic determiner.  In tragedies, death is violent and in some
sense unpredictable--murder (<Titus>, <Hamlet>, <Othello>, <Lear>) or suicide
(<Romeo and Juliet>, <Julius Caesar>, <Antony and Cleopatra>).  In histories,
old men die of natural causes (Gaunt, Henry IV) and people of various ages
after judicial trial or on the battlefield (Joan la Pucelle, Grey, Scroop, Nym;
both Talbots, Lancastrians and Yorkists in vast numbers, Hotspur).  But plays
about historical figures that include murders and suicides as well as natural,
judicial, and battlefield deaths incline toward tragedy--<King John>--and are
often so denominated in quarto titlepages or running titles--<1 Henry VI>,
<Richard II>, <Richard III>.  That doesn't mean that the writers and performers
and printers didn't think about genre, or call on generic expectations as they
wrote and performed and published, only that they didn't have any firmer
definitions than we do.  <Troilus> belongs to a set of stories long denominated
as history (thus Lydgate's Troy book was published in 1513 as <The hystorye,
sege, and destruccyon of Troye>); the deaths in it are battlefield deaths
(however murderous Achilles' killing of Hector may seem to the chivalric
mentality it makes excellent military sense).  Shakespeare's contemporaries
seem to me likely to have been as hard pressed as we are to call it a comedy,
full as it is of elements normally associated with that genre, or a tragedy,
though it has, periodically, those elements, too.  But title page custom said
they had to call it something; and the Folio editors had to put it somewhere.
It doesn't surprise me that they chose the generic label with the widest,
loosest range, and a location in the no-person's land between history and
something else.
 
                                       Musingly,
                                              David Evett
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:           Saturday, August 20, 1994
Subject:        *Tro.* Placement in F1
 
Peter Blayney in his catalog for the 1991 exhibition of First Folios at the
Folger Library -- *The First Folios of Shakespeare -- argues that negotions
with Henry Walley is the reason for the "last-minute reinstatement of
*Troilus and Cressida*:
 
                Whatever the precise details of their new arrangement with
        Walley, within a few days of making the Register entry the publishers
        themselves in a position to include *Troilus* after all.  By then,
        all the rest of the Folio had been printed.  The exact order in
        which the preliminary leaves were set is uncertain, but the sheet
        containing 'A Catalogue of the seuerall Comedies, Histories, and
        Tragedies contianed in the volume' was either the last or last but
        one.  That sheet must have been printed before Henry Walley changed
        his mind, because the Catalogue lists only 35 plays, and does not
        mention *Troilus and Cressida* at all.  (21)
 
This point may, in fact, be the explanation for the placement of *Tro.* in
F1.
 

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