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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Mislineation
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0359.  Saturday, 11 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Greg Grainger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 May 1996 20:29:55 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0354: Miss-Lineation

(2)     From:   Kurt Daw <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 May 1996 09:49:00 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Mislineation


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Greg Grainger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 May 1996 20:29:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0354: Miss-Lineation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0354: Miss-Lineation

Dom Saliani <
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 > wrote:

> I need help. In examining *Macbeth* I have noticed that most modern
> editions of the play differ greatly from the Folio edition in terms of
> lineation. It seems that what these modern editors have done is re-
> lineated so that the speeches conform more closely to the iambic
> pentameter expectation.

> My query:  When did this practice of relineation begin?
>            What was the rationale?
>            How is this practice regarded by the professional community?

I can't help you with your first question, but as to the second two, and under
the heading of anecdotal sources: an actor friend of mine once told me that the
practice comes from modern editors forgetting that these are texts that are
made to be performed. We were discussing punctuation, but I think the principle
is the same: the original punctuation was designed for people to speak aloud,
and allowed for pauses to draw breath at more or less 'natural' intervals. In
that segment of the professonal community, at least, the practice is regarded
with contempt.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------


To Don Saliani concerning *Macbeth* relineation

>My query:  When did this practice of relineation begin?
>           What was the rationale?
>           How is this practice regarded by the professional community?

Reliniation has been a part of the editorial process almost from the beginning.
 The rationale is, for the most part, a belief that the lineation of the Folio
(of *Macbeth,* at least) does not reflect the manuscript from which it was
printed but are related to printer's concerns. The example you give of Banquo's
line is a case where looking at the Folio (I'm consulting a facsimile this
morning) will quickly reveal the space problem which led to the dubious
arrangement of the lines.

An even clearer example happens at Norton TLN 650.  Here the last two words of
Lady Macbeth's previous verse line: "What hath quench'd them, hath given me
fire. Hearke, peace:," because of obvious crowding problems, are turned under
and included as the first two words of the next line.  This now creates another
space problem in the next physical line, so only part of the next pentameter is
printed on that line.  The rest is turned under, continuing the problem. The
lines go on in mislineated form for another six lines in the Folio until the
space problem can be resolved at Macbeth's entrance.

It is worth remembering that these texts were originally conceived in form to
be *heard,* not seen.  If well spoken, the pentameter form of the verse will
come clear to the ear no matter how it is arranged on the page. Editorial
rearrangement of the lines is sometimes justified as putting lines back into
their "original" form, making it easier for a modern reader to *see* what a
Jacobean listener would have *heard.*  The jarring rhythms of the Folio
lineation are certainly provocative, but I understand the general concensus
leans toward thinking these are accidents of printing rather than effects
intentionally created by Shakespeare.

You can find a much better (and wittier) discussion of some of the contemporary
thinking about lineation (along with much else) contained within Gary Taylor's
essay "Revising Shakespeare," *TEXT* 3 (1987), pp. 285-304.

Kurt Daw
Director of Theater Programs
Kennesaw State College
 

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