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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: Chronology
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0161.  Saturday, 4 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Chris Bergstresser <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 Mar 1995 14:13:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0156  Re: Chronology
 
(2)     From:   Dan T. M. How <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Mar 1995 17:04:32 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0156  Re: Chronology
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Bergstresser <
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Date:           Friday, 03 Mar 1995 14:13:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0156  Re: Chronology
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0156  Re: Chronology
 
On Pat Buckridge's rules for refuting chronology:
 
-}1.The earliest quarto you find is not necessarily the earliest published.
 
        Granted.
 
-}2.There is no necessary correlation anyway between dates of publication and
-}dates of composition for any of the plays.
 
        I can think of one: the composition surely must predate the publication.
 
-}3.Dramatic settings do not reflect theatrical environments. (On reading this
-}handy hint my jaw - to borrow a Kathman hyperbole - hit the floor).
 
        Dramatic settings do not *necessarily* reflect theatrical enviroments.
        There are clear instances, however, where the dramatic setting does
        reflect the enviroment: the "discovery space" occasionally alluded to
        is evidence of some scenic convention, even if we today cannot agree on
        what that would be.
 
        I would scoff at any chronology based exclusively on the settings for
        the plays and the places one assumes they would be acted; using them to
        bolster a fairly strong argument is perfectly reasonable.
 
-}4.Dating by style and versification is entirely circular (hence entirely
-}useless), except in those rare instances where external evidence gives an
-}approximate date for a particular recognisable style
 
        Once again, this is a broad oversimplification.  One can easily tell an
        early work from a late work, for the most part, by the forms
        Shakespeare uses.  Granted, trying to base a chronology on stylistic
        changes which occured over the course of a year or two is very
        questionable. As a general guide, however, style can serve rather well.
 
        The ultimate problem is deciding how reliable any of the evidence which
        survives is.  Some is no doubt completely accurate, some is mostly
        accurate but slightly misleading, and some is out-and-out wrong.  The
        whole purpose of the historian is to sift through the evidence and try
        and tell the difference.
 
        A healthy skepticism is required for this.  But at the same time I
        wouldn't discount any of the evidence, either.  Taken as a whole the
        smallest proofs may make a cohesive picture; just don't base your whole
        argument solely around any minor proof.
 
Chris Bergstresser
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan T. M. How <
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Date:           Friday, 3 Mar 1995 17:04:32 -0800
Subject: 6.0156  Re: Chronology
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0156  Re: Chronology
 
In response to Pat Buckridge...
 
I was attempting to simplify a complicated process, but I'll agree that these
methods have their short-comings.  I would like to emphasis that I'm no
authority on the subject, but can you suggest other ways to date material?  Or,
to play devil's advocate, verify that Shakespeare was the sole writer of all
these plays?  The first folio was printed well after Shakespeare's death, and
for many of the plays, it is the sole source.  The first folio derived much
from the quartos.  And subsequent folios were made from preceding ones, which
results in a wonderful series of errors that nobody can pinpoint, and the
reason that there are so many editions today. Mention of play performances in
letters and publications can be used to give a rough idea of when a play was
performed.  Internal references to other sources or events that can be
verified, language references that can be attributed to such an event, and
references to other known published work can also be used as evidence.
 
I'm curious to know what methods you use, since I wasn't taught anything beyond
what I just mentioned.  Personally, I notice a difference in style between, for
example, CoE and Temp.  Hopefully I notice this difference because it exists,
not because I'm an ignorant amateur that likes to talk about things he doesn't
know about.  I would assume that for those that truly have a sense of history,
it would be like watching "Saturday Night Fever" and dating it in the 70's, to
grossly generalize.  I think within the plays, if you assume that they are
pretty close to the original, one can find enough references and evidence to
roughly date it, if one knows what one is doing.
 
-dan
 

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