Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: April ::
Re: Texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0281.  Monday, 15 April 1996.

(1)     From:   Thomas E. Ruddick <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 12 Apr 96 10:53:57 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0276  Qs: Texts of *Oth.* & Intro Drama

(2)     From:   Roger Gross <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 12 Apr 1996 16:24:41 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0276 Qs: Texts of *Oth.* & Intro Drama

(3)     From:   Kate Moncrief <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 12 Apr 1996 19:32:58 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Intro Drama

(4)     From:   Surajit Bose <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 13 Apr 1996 20:21:03 -0500
        Subj:   Q: College texts of Shakespeare and students' reading abilities.


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas E. Ruddick <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 12 Apr 96 10:53:57 EST
Subject: 7.0276  Qs: Texts of *Oth.* & Intro Drama
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0276  Qs: Texts of *Oth.* & Intro Drama

In response to Todd Lidh's query about texts for intro. to drama:

Jacobus, Lee A.  _The Bedford Introduction to Drama_.  2e.  NY: Bedford/St.
        Martin's, 1993.

I think this volume has everything you describe.  All periods of theatre are
covered with introductory chapters, several plays (in some cases, such as Roman
theatre, excerpts) generally with performance notes, and commentary by
noteworthy critics.  The Shakespeare section is about 80 pages, and includes
Hamlet, Midsummer, and Tempest.  Other strengths of the test include an attempt
to include female dramatists, and inclusion of some very recent plays like
_Dancing as Lughnasa_.

Weaknesses of this text might include the omission of any non-western theatre,
few photographs (all b&w, color only on cover), and cost to students (it's
almost 1500 pages).

TR
Thomas E. Ruddick
Edison Community College (OH)

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roger Gross <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 12 Apr 1996 16:24:41 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 7.0276 Qs: Texts of *Oth.* & Intro Drama
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0276 Qs: Texts of *Oth.* & Intro Drama

Re. intro anthologies heavy on Shakespeare:

look at the new McGraw-Hill Book of Drama.  It has as great selection,
including HAMLET, MERCHANT, and OTHELLO.

Editors are James Howe and William A. Stephany.

(There; I guess I've earned my examination copy.)

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kate Moncrief <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 12 Apr 1996 19:32:58 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Intro Drama

Todd M. Lidh asked about an Intro to Drama text.  I must admit to being a
little biased since I worked as a researcher on this one, but let me recommend
*Stages of Drama* in the third edition, edited by Carl H. Klaus, Miriam
Gilbert, and Bradford S. Field, Jr.  It has a good selection of English
Renaissance plays-- *Twelfth Night,* *Othello,* *Doctor Faustus,* *Volpone,*
and *The Duchess of Malfi*-- as well as a range of Greek through contemporary
plays.  I've taught out of the book in our Literature of the Theatre course and
I've found the production reviews and photos included for each selection to be
useful.

Kate Moncrief
Univ. of Iowa

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Surajit Bose <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 13 Apr 1996 20:21:03 -0500
Subject:        Q: College texts of Shakespeare and students' reading abilities.

Edna Boris and Todd Lidh have asked about good editions to use in college
courses, and John Ramsay is the latest to remind us that we can't take a sound
vocabulary base for granted among our students any more. In the light of these
two concerns, I'd like to ask a question about Shakespeare editions that has
been bothering me all semester. I'm genuinely struggling to find answers. I'd
appreciate any help, particularly from those with any expertise in textual
editing.

I'm teaching Measure for Measure this sem. to college freshmen. I ordered the
Everyman edition blind, because (a) it's cheap and (b) the description sounded
really good. The edition has ample notes facing the text; each play is edited
directly from the earliest printed texts, and so this is genuinely an edition
as opposed to a reprint of some earlier edition; there's a LONG (35-page)
historical essay on the way the play has been received and interpreted by
critics over the years; there's a briefer foreword from a Shakespearean actor
about the play in performance; there's an introduction, a semi-decent
bibliography, and a scene-by-scene plot synopsis. All this for $3.95. Sounds
great, doesn't it?

There is, however, a major catch: the text is old-spelling. In a longish
textual introduction, the editor, John F. Andrews (whose scholarship is, of
course, formidable) explains the reasons behind this editorial choice.What it
boils down to is that by retaining old spelling, we can retain nuances (either
of sound, for rhyme and meter, or of meaning, usually as puns) that are lost in
modernization. For example, when Angelo, anguishing over his lust for Isabella,
asks himself, "Dost thou desire her fowlly for those things/That make her
good?" (2.2.174-175) Andrews explains that "fowlly" can mean both (a) "foully"
and (b) "in a fowl-like, i.e. filthy and predatory, manner." Sure enough,
modernizing to "foully" would cause us to lose this second meaning.

But I'm wondering about both the pedagogical effectiveness and the interpretive
value of retaining the old spelling. Pedagogically, it's just really
off-putting for students to have to decipher Jacobean orthography. As the many
anecdotes, simultaneously shocking and amusing, about The Future and
diminishing student vocabularies have illustrated, we can't take it for
granted, even in modern spelling, that our students will understand words that
seem perfectly commonplace, such as "Lo" and "Pulpit."  I must say that I seem
to have lucked out with my students, in that the only vocab question that got
raised was a really good one: "Lucio is described as a 'fantastic' in the
Dramatis Personae. What does 'fantastic' mean?" But in general, why add another
level of difficulty by sticking to old spelling? It seems gratuitous.

Hermeneutically, too, I've begun wondering about the editor's premises.
Ultimately the argument behind retaining old spelling seems to be: if we can
reproduce the text exactly as Shakespeare's contemporaries saw it, then we can
recapture the original meaning of the text.  This argument seems rather
dubious. After all, there's so much contingency involved in the way texts
(particularly Shakespeare's texts) got transmitted in those days.  The amount
of control Shakespeare had over the printing of his plays seems
minimal--there's very little guarantee that what we're reading even in the
earliest printed editions (or for that matter even in F1) is an accurate
version of what Shakespeare wrote. Look at the chunks of Middleton that show up
in Macbeth, for example. So what's the reasoning behind using old spelling as a
marker of authorized meaning? "Fowlly" could just be a compositorial accident;
elsewhere in the play, "foul" shows up too. On what grounds, then, can we say
that the old spelling "fowlly" is meaningful rather than random? Or to shift
grounds a bit, why cannot we say that even if the spelling in the original had
been not "fowlly" but "foully," there still could be a pun to be made on "fowl"
and "foul"? Puns, after all, are context-related; if a second sense is
available in any meaningful way, there's a pun; if not, there's none.

The edition at points makes claims about meaning that seem really far-fetched.
Practically every instance of the word "come" is footnoted as bearing an erotic
charge: when Escalus tells Pompey, "Come, you are a tedious fool"; when
Angelo's servant tells the provost that Angelo will come right away.....by
which point I almost begin to seem like one of John Ramsey's students and
wonder whether this sex stuff isn't in fact just stretching things too far.
Which only adds to my doubts about the claim that old spelling carries
authorized meaning that editorial decisons to modernize erase. It seems that
the decision to retain old spelling too is a strategic rather than necessarily
more authoritative editorial ploy.

This sounds funny coming from me; I've had occasion earlier on this list to
champion paleographic rather than philological approaches to texts, and now I'm
saying that old-spelling may not be such a good idea. Old spelling texts seem
to make paleographic readings more accessible, right? Paradoxically, though, I
think the decision to use old-spelling is a philological one: the assumption
seems to be that old spelling texts are purer (less corrupt/more chaste) than
modernized ones.  But that assumption erases historicity even as it seeks to
reinscribe it: it erases the material conditions under which texts were
produced and circulated in Shakespeare's day, and hypostasizes the earliest
texts as authoritative in a way that seems a bit too uncritical.

All these are tentative suggestions; I really have only just begun to think
about textual editing at all. This is partly because of my general unhappiness
with teaching the Everyman text--despite its excellent apparatus and the
authority of John F. Andrews--and partly because of my current research on
Sidney's New Arcadia, where in fact editorial decisions are constitutive of
Sidney's meaning right from the get-go; the posthumous publication of this text
under the editorship of Mary Sidney was definitely intended to produce a
certain kind of Sidney that wasn't necessarily the same as the historical
individual Philip Sidney. So the questions I'm trying to raise here are quite
important to me from both teaching and research angles.  However, I'm really
woefully ignorant about the principles and practice of textual editing, and I'd
really appreciate replies (either private or posted to the list) that might
help.  Thanks!

Surajit A. Bose
Department of English
University of Notre Dame
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.