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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Re: Transmission of the Quartos
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0196.  Sunday, 6 March 1994.
 
From:           James McKenna <MCKENNJI@UCBEH>
Date:           Saturday, 05 Mar 1994 23:32:55 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Urk's fumings
 
Dear Steven Urkowitz,
 
Just a baseless note, but are you trying to claim _all_ the variant texts as
somehow authorial?  I'm game, but it just doesn't seem likely.  Not that I want
to keep the bard's texts unitary and inviolate, but the publishing world of
Renaissance London was a dicey place . . . wasn't it?
 
Or are we talking about all the texts being actual playtexts, that is, texts of
actual performed plays?  Now that sounds sound to me.  If the physical text was
the play, and variation for different audiences and seasons is a reasonable
assumption, then it makes perfect sense that many, many texts could all be, for
example, "Hamlet."  In fact, "Hamlet" as we know it gradually evaporates into a
fog punctuated by memorable lines and passages that do not vary.  What
Shakespeare actually wrote becomes less and less accessible as we factor in
the likelihood that changes were made to texts as necessary, over and over
again.  "Shakespeare" moves from author to locus, about which great stuff
circulates.
 
It seems to me that the problem is not whether plays are actual playtexts, but
who wrote them.  In the art world, no one has a problem accepting that works
from this and later eras often come from "the studio of," not just from a
single artist's brush.  I am notnotnotnotnotnotnot opening the authoriship
question, which is just a shell game, but suggesting a smudgy idea that I'm
sure is well developed elsewhere: maybe we should be thinking about "The Lord
Chamberlain's Men's plays," rather than Shakespeare's.
 
Deferentially,
 
James McKenna
University of Cincinnati
mckennji@ucbeh.bitnet
 

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