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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: March ::
Re: *MND* Video; Renaissance Bookshelf; Transmission
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0260.  Tuesday, 22 March 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Bernice W. Kliman <KLIMANB%
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 1994 10:51 EDT
        Subj:   Video
 
(2)     From:   Phyllis Rackin <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 1994 09:09:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0222  Tempest & Universals; Renaissance Bookshelf
 
(3)     From:   E.P. Werstine <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 94 21:19:19 EDT
        Subj:   Transmission
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bernice W. Kliman <KLIMANB%
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 1994 10:51 EDT
Subject:        Video
 
The Peter Hall *MND* has recently resurfaced after an absence of three years
and that it can be purchased for $25 from Drama Classic Video, P.O. Box 2128,
Manorhaven, NY 11050.  They can be reached at 800-892-0860 or by FAX at 516-
767-7576. This is a small operation and provides attentive, personal service.
(I do not have any connection with them other than as a satisfied customer.)
They tell me that the company that has been distributing *Prospero's Books* has
gone out of business, so the copies now in stock will be the last ones for a
while (until someone buys the rights). CDV has it for $30. They take no credit
cards but accept checks. Prepayment= no shipping or handling charge.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Phyllis Rackin <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 1994 09:09:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0222  Tempest & Universals; Renaissance Bookshelf
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0222  Tempest & Universals; Renaissance Bookshelf
 
To:     Ben Schneider
 
>James McKenna urges Mr Budra to read Seneca's plays and Cicero's works for
>style.  Phyllis Rackin doubts that Shakespeare's audience had any bookshelves
>to speak of.
>
>JM:  I think that Seneca's moral works and Cicero' De Officiis are even more
>important.
>
>PR:  I still need to read Gurr's work on S's audiences, but I think the jury
>is still out on Ann Jennalie Cook's findings, which agree with mine.  What are
>we to make of Ruth Kelso's monumental works, Doctrine for the lady of the
>Renaissance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1956) and The Doctrine of
>the English Gentleman in the Sixteenth Century (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith,
 
I didn't "doubt that Shakespeare's audience had any bookshelves to speak of." I
was citing Gurr's work to make the point that the audiences included a variety
of people, female as well as male, illiterate as well as learned, and to imply
(perhaps too obliquely) that since the plays were commercial products, they
were probably designed to appeal to the heterogeneous audience that Gurr
describes.  The danger for modern scholars, I think, is the temptation to
assume a monolithic audience constructed in our own image (and if we are
scholars, that image is likely to be bookish).
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E.P. Werstine <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 94 21:19:19 EDT
Subject:        Transmission
 
This is a very belated reply to Anthony Hammond's contribution of March 6 with
its attempt to provide some justification for the memorial-reconstruction
narrative as an account of the genesis of the so-called "bad quartos" of
Shakespeare.
 
First, I want to observe that the memorial-reconstruction narrative is both
very precise one and oddly multiple. Yet some of the "evidence" adduced by
Hammond (and by everyone else who supports it) is not precise at all, and other
"evidence" is precisely different from the stories it is supposed to support.
According to the memorial-reconstruction narrative for Q R3, all or a portion
of Shakespeare's company went on tour and found themselves in need of a
promptbook for R3, either because they lost theirs or because they forgot it.
So they all got together, Shakespeare himself perhaps included, and
reconstructed it from memory.  When they got to London, they didn't need it any
more, and so it got into print as Q R3.  The story of the other "bad quartos,"
like Hamlet Q1, is somewhat different; this time one or two actors who
performed the play either in London or in the country or in both places wanted
to put it on in the country themselves in consort with other actors unfamiliar
with it.  The "rogue actors" tried to reconstruct the play from memory; they
actually staged the "bad quarto" version; when they got back to London they
sold it to a printer.  (Let me point out that the memorial-reconstruction
narratives here presented are the most recent ones, but there is a century-long
history of mutation in their details.)
 
What's the "evidence" for such precise narratives? As Hammond writes, "Werstine
is right in saying that there is no historical evidence that actors undertook
such things, but he of course is aware of Heywood's complaints that some of his
plays were published from texts 'coppied onely by the eare', and the celebrated
phrase in the First Folio about 'stolne and surreptitious copies' must mean
SOMETHING."  Actually, I don't think, after "theory," that we must accept that
either Heywood's complaint or the  First Folio slur on early printings must
*mean* anything, in the sense that they must *refer* to some actual practice;
after all, language can be constitutive as well as referential.
 
In any case, both Heywood's and the First Folio's language have been already
interpreted in more than one way, and so their meaning can hardly be considered
to be determinate. Heywood has been thought to object to people taking down his
play as they heard it in the playhouse or to some practice of transcribing or
typesetting a play from dictation; there is no reason to suppose that he is
referring to anything so complicated and precise as the memorial-
reconstruction narrative in either of its forms.  The First Folio, as has
already been pointed out on SHAKSPER, also cannot be coerced into support for
either memorial-reconstruction narrative; since it refers to earlier printings
in exclusively slighting terms, its reference cannot be limited to just some
quartos, the "bad quartos." Indeed some even today think the Folio refers to
the Pavier quartos, which is as reasonable an interpretation as that it refers
to the "bad quartos."
 
So what else supports the memorial-reconstruction theory? Hammond refers to
eighteenth-century practice. We have very precise narratives from this century
that are quite unrelated to the standard memorial-reconstruction narratives.
For example, Tate Wilkinson, manager of the Theatre Royal at York, wanted to
stage Sheridan's The Duenna. He could not because the play was not in print,
and neither the playwright nor the companies authorized to perform it would
give it to him. Here we are dealing with competition between established
companies for the same play, a quite different state of affairs than anything
posited in the memorial-reconstruction narratives. So Wilkinson went to see the
play, then "I locked myself in my room; set down first all the jokes I
remembered, then I laid a book of the songs before me; . . . by the help of a
numerous collection of obsolete Spanish plays, I produced an excellent comic
Opera" judged by modern Sheridan scholars to be an illiterate paraphrase.  This
is NOT the same as the memorial-reconstruction story.  Another manager of a
provincial theatre, one Hughes of Exeter, wanted The School for Scandal for his
company.  He was able to persuade an actor from one of the companies that had
performed the play to help him.  This actor, John Bernard, collected *the
written parts* for eight roles: "With these materials for a groundwork, my
general knowledge of the play collected in rehearsing and performing in it
above forty times, enabled me in a week to construct a comedy in five acts."
The differences between the eighteenth-century stories and the
memorial-reconstruction narratives are too numerous to list.
 
One answer to Hammond's question about why memorial reconstruction has had such
a long run in textual criticism may be because no one has pointed to the huge
gap between the narratives of memorial reconstruction and the evidence upon
which they purport to be based. In spite of my attack on the
memorial-reconstruction narratives, I still believe that memory *may have
played a role* in the construction of the "bad quartos"; but the narratives we
have written to explain that role collapse upon themselves in their writers'
desire to represent themselves as knowing what happened with far more precision
than they have any right to claim.
 
Cheers,
Paul Werstine
 

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