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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Re: Textual Transmission
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0240.  Thursday, 17 March 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Thomas L. Berger <TBER@SLUMUS>
        Date:   Wednesday, 16 Mar 94 09:57:47 EST
        Subj:   Textual Transmission
 
(2)     From:   David Schalkwyk <
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 >
        Date:   Thursday, 17 Mar 94 12:58:18 SAST-2
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0232  Re: Transmission of the Quartos
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas L. Berger <TBER@SLUMUS>
Date:           Wednesday, 16 Mar 94 09:57:47 EST
Subject:        Textual Transmission
 
I may have come in late on this.  I trust at the beginning someone asked all of
us to read, or at least to glance at, Philip Gaskell's FROM WRITER TO READER:
STUDIES IN EDITORIAL METHOD (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978).  Some lovely stuff on
Stoppard.
 
Regards, Tom Berger
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Schalkwyk <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 17 Mar 94 12:58:18 SAST-2
Subject: 5.0232  Re: Transmission of the Quartos
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0232  Re: Transmission of the Quartos
 
Rick Jones's mention of the revisions of modern plays puts me in mind of the
status of the printed text in modern South African drama. Much so-called
"black" theatre operates with no text at all: simply reasonably agreed limits
of subject-matter and plot.  The opening scene of Athol Fugard, Wintston
Ntshona and John Kani's _Sizwe Bansi is Dead_ is elaborated from the whatever
is in the newspaper on the day of the performance.  There are no formal limits
on the actor on what to say, how to say it, or for how long to say it.  So,
what takes up about fifteen lines in the OUP edition (of necessity, using an
arbitrary newspaper) is no more than an indication of what the actor is
supposed to do.  I've seen those "fifteen lines" take up forty minutes of
playing time, before the "play proper" begins.  But then, there is no "play
proper" of _Sizwe Bansi_.  The Oxford text is a transcript of a particular
performance at the Royal Court Theatre in London.  Irony of ironies!  Because
that performance would have differed radically from a performance in the Space
Theatre in Cape Town (where the play was first performed), or a township venue
in Port Elizabeth, even with regard to the sections after the "newspaper
improvisation" at the beginning.  These venues and audiences would have
engendered differences in the relationship between English/Afrikaans and the
black vernaculars (the play is, like all others in the genre, multi-lingual),
but also in the presentation of character and event, jokes shared with the
audience, gestures of political solidarity and satire and so on.  At the same
time, because the printed text came after the play, each night's performance
would have been different.  Now that the Oxford text is available, of course, a
performance of the play is much more stable from one moment to the next,
although the factors mentioned still play some role in changing performing
practice--especially the political, racial and linguistic composition of the
audience.  What I'm saying goes for all South African plays of this genre: Mtwa
and Ngema's _Woza Albert_ (Methuen), perhaps also familiar to play-goers in
London and New York, was constructed in exactly the same way, with the printed
text merely being one arbitrary record of a myriad of performances and
performance conditions.  When my students complain about studying the Middle
Ages and the Renaissance I often suggest that in some ways they are closer to
them than Europeans or North Americans are.
 
David Schalkwyk
English Department
University of Cape Town
Private Bag
Rondebosch 7700
South Africa
 

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