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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0338.  Sunday, 5 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 May 1996 20:41:03 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0333 Re: Texts

(2)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Saturday, 04 May 1996 02:43:32 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0333 Re: Texts

From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Friday, 3 May 1996 20:41:03 +0100
Subject: 7.0333 Re: Texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0333 Re: Texts

I am aware that the delays in cyberspace (and, probably, in Hardy-space) make
for the kind of overlapping of question and response that satellite-bounced
'phone calls are subject to, but I wish to impatiently respond to Andrew
Murphy, who wrote of the Shakespearean Originals series:

>'Originals' indicates that what is provided is an edition of the first printed
>version of this particular textualisation (in my own case, an edition of Q1
>_Othello_, published a year prior to F1, in 1622). It is not a question of some
>sort of mythical 'origins', rather a question of temporal priority.

Surely Q1, Q2, F1 are the textualizations, and the correct generic term
embracing these variants is 'play'? So, the series provides the first printed
version of the play. Doesn't this concern for "temporal priority" conflict with
the notion that each textualization has an independent validity? Why reprint
only the earliest, especially in a series called "Originals"? This inevitably
suggests that the earliest have a greater validity because they are the

>It's fine by me if others would rather stick exclusively with texts which are
>layered with four centuries of what Michael Warren has called 'editorial
>fossilization.' Or should that, again, be 'fetishization'?

The Shakespearean Originals have layers of editorial interference which they do
not come clean about. For example, in King Lear the scene in which Gloster is
led to believe that he is climbing the Dover cliff begins thus:

Enter Gloster and Edmund

This palpable error (ie Edmund for Edgar) comes from Q1 and must be attributed
to carelessness or interference by someone who doesn't know the story, probably
a compositor. The Shakespearean Originals editor keeps it in, and thereby
retains Q1's contradiction between the stage direction and the subsequent
speech prefixes: Edmund, if he is present, does not speak, and Edgar, who is
not present, does speak. This is an example of the false claim that these texts
can stand 'as-is' as play-texts. This claim is only true if we abandon certain
dramatic conventions regarding the relationship between stage directions and
speech prefixes, and we have no reason to abandon these conventions when a
simple model of compositorial error will do instead.

But, fine, the Shakespearean Originals editors want to keep interference to a
minimum so they prefer the contradictory Q1 version. But they do not follow
this principle consistently. On p83 there is a stage direction "Exit Edgar"
which in Q1 is clearly "Exit Fdgar". Why doesn't this use of 'F' for 'E' (and
it is not one of Blayney's modified 'E's, I think) matter enough to be
retained? It too might be a compositorial slip, although the argument that it
is the nominal literalization of the burgeoning effacement of Edgar's
personality has some charm to it as well.

The General Introduction says "we have aimed at 'diplomatic' rather than
facsimile status" (p10), but this is one of many examples of the failure of the
series to hit its target.

Gabriel Egan

From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Saturday, 04 May 1996 02:43:32 +0100
Subject: 7.0333 Re: Texts
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0333 Re: Texts

I think Gabriel Egan has in part answered my question, though I still think
that "fetishization" as I understand the term in its context in Marx and Freud
is not what is going on.

The function of the series is to try to focus attention on the texts that lie
behind modern edited editions, that is to say diplomatic editions.  The
objective is not to reproduce exactly the typography, lineation, etc. of a
quarto- that would require a facsimile edition- but to give students a flavour
of an old-spelling text with its inconsistencies.  We get into much deeper
water when we start talking about "intellectual labour and intention".  I
suppose  how you respond to this issue depends on whether you are prepared to
take on board the directions which marxist enquiry has taken over the past 20
years or so.  There is much to attend to in these texts at the level of the
signifier, and I think we should be just a little more cautious before we push
on too hastily to the level of the signified.  Early texts are never quite what
they seem.

The Shakespeare Originals series, however, is not unedited.  The moment I
substitute a modern "s" character for a long "s" then I'm editing.  The
question is: what might that change signify?  the moment I replace an intial
"i" with a modern "j", and normalize that practice throughout a text, I'm
interfering with it, giving it a uniformity that the copy-text might not
possess.  The moment I select one copy of a quarto as my copy-text I am
limiting the possibilities of textual variation that I might find if I collated
it with other quartos from the same edition.  If I were to undertake this kind
of textual work it would lead me in the direction of compositorial rather than
authorial labour, and once we arrive at that point, then the question of
authorial intention is really a very complex one indeed.

I would be a little more persuaded by Gabriel Egan's use of the term
"fetishise" if he could convince me that the late 16th or early 17th century
book trade was a full-blown capitalist activity.  In what ways was the author,
and/or the compositor alienated from the fruits of his labour? In what ways did
the book represent a fetishized object?  How might that differ from the ways in
which we treat books as commodities now?

Best wishes,
John Drakakis

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