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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0379.  Thursday, 16 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Thomas E. Ruddick <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 96 18:49:51 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(2)     From:   C. David Frankel <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 1996 15:55:29 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(3)     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 14 May 1996 21:14:00 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(4)     From:   Michael Saenger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 15 May 1996 11:30:42 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0373 Re: Mislineation & Punctuation


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas E. Ruddick <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 96 18:49:51 EST
Subject: 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

As an actor and director myself, I confess amazement at the comments coming
down about using "Shakespeare's punctuation" to guide performance.

Friends!  We DO NOT KNOW Shakespeare's pronunciation--unless I have been
severely cut off from reality here in my bucolic brigadoon, *none* of
Shakespeare's original "foul papers" or part-books, or even finished original
book-keepers copies, have been discovered.  The punctuation in the quartos and
folios, then, must often be somewhat removed from Shakespeare's
originals--while some of the plays may correspond closely, I wouldn't want to
stake my performance on any single semi-colon's validity!

To say (as E. Thompson and R. Kincaid seem to have) that Shakespeare made
spelling errors purposefully to guide performance is, I think, to invent
standards for English spelling that did not exist in Elizabethan times.
Shakespeare never mis-spelled a word; words could be spelled any way that a
writer thought correct in those days.  It causes problems for us as readers
today, accustomed as we are to standard spellings, but that's the way it was.

Finally, I can't believe that Burbage and company would or could have been
slavishly attentive to the difference in rhythm between a semicolon and a
period!  Contemporary accounts indicate that it was common for performers
(burdened as they were with presenting a different play daily) to botch up
parts, paraphrasing monologues, entering wrong, making inaccurate sound
effects, etc.  (In fact, there's some evidence that performers would sometimes
insert their own business--Will Kemp mugging to the groundlings when the script
didn't support it, for example--thus further perverting the playscript).

I deeply appreciate the art of editors who can provide new insights into
Shakespeare by a careful study of such issues as punctuation, and I don't want
to seem to disparage that aspect of this discussion.  However, any performer
who delivers Shakespeare's lines to an audience should pay more attention to
communicating the *meaning* of those lines--accomplished by emphasizing key
words--than to delivering precise variants of the punctuation!

(Egad, I'm reminded of the George Carlin routine where he pronounces
punctuation marks!  <--that exclamation point would have been said "Shhhooop
POP")

Thomas E. "TR" Ruddick

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 1996 15:55:29 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

Richard Kincaid said:

> Remember his troupe didn't have months to rehearse and there was no such
> thing as a "director." (lucky them)  The actors saw nothing but their
> lines and their que, never the whole play, so he had to convey his
> "direction" through the way he wrote: if he wanted the actor to "plow
> through" a speach, he'd use a colin when a period seems proper. If he
> wanted to make sure the Actorr didn't lose the "R" at the end of a word,
> he's spell it with two "R"s. If he wanted the actor to stress a
> something so the audience would take note that This is important to the
> plot, Shakespeare would capitalize it.

Although presumably Willie the Shake was there to lend an ear.

C. David Frankel

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 14 May 1996 21:14:00 GMT
Subject: 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0373  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

I'm afraid that the question of punctuation just is not as straightforward as
Richard Kincaid suggests. Whilst it is likely that Shakespeare himself
punctuated lightly, the texts that we have in folio and quartos are extremely
various in their habits of punctuation, reflecting both the scribal habits of
people like Ralph Crane, and the varying degrees of freedom that different
compositors allowed themselves.

It is certainly very interesting to look at F punctuation as Eric Armstrong
suggests, - and I do think that the collations in modern editions do not
sufficiently record the editor's departures from it.  But we simply can't
assume that it is Shakespeare's, nor, since it was presumably a play-house
scribe who transcribed the actor's parts, that what they had before them either
reflected faithfully Shakespeare's own manuscript, or corresponds with the
printed text that has come down to us. We just can't say that Shakespeare
'purposefully' misspelt words - or at least, can't say which those words might
be (if the concept of 'misspelling' has any valency in the period anyway).

So what is an editor to do? I'm working on The Tempest.  It's generally agreed
that this was printed from a manuscript prepared by Ralph Crane, and it's
certainly the case that Crane punctuated relatively heavily, and imposed his
own preferences on the copy he had before him.  Should I, then, reproduce
Crane's punctuation, or should I 'thin it out' - which might be in line with
Shakespeare's habits (if we could really know what they were), and is certainly
more in line with modern practice?  If one compares, say, Kermode's Arden
edition with Orgel's Oxford, then the former retains much more of the Folio
(Cranean) punctuation than the latter.

I don't think this is trivial, either - and perhaps this example will show why.

Miranda responds to Prospero's request to supply him with her memories with the
lines:
                               'Tis farre off:
   And rather like a dreame, then an assurance
   That my remembrance warrants:

Leaving on one side the question of the colons (Crane was very fond of them),
what about the comma after 'dreame'?  Almost all recent editors omit it - and
one could make a perfectly good case that it's an example of the kind of
pernickety clausal punctuation that Crane would be likely to introduce. But,
equally, one could suggest that to omit the comma persuades the speaker of the
lines that the opposition Miranda makes is between 'dreame' and 'assurance',
whereas with the comma the primary opposition becomes one between 'dreame' and
'remembrance', between the uncertainties of the middle region of the brain
where Spenser, in his bodily allegory in Faerie Queene Bk II,  locates
*Phantastes*, to whom belong dreams, fantasies and wild imaginings, and the
rearward chamber of Eumnestes, or historical memory.  In general terms, one
might say, there's not a lot of difference - but in a play so preoccupied with
memory, the point becomes significant, I think.

At the moment I want to keep the comma - even if it's Crane's, it seems to me
to suggest to a reader or actor something  small, but not trivial. (Though I'd
be glad of any comments.)

And really that's the problem - all punctuation is coercive - whether it's
Shakespeare's, Crane's, compositor B's, or the editor's.  One answer - and I
think Honigman suggests it in his Othello book, and I believe it's being tried
in at least one volume of the new Middleton - is to have no punctuation at all
and leave readers to sort it out  for themselves.  I'm not persuaded of this
line.

Sorry to drone on so about minutiae - but editors do dream of commas (and it
makes a change from the Funeral Elegy?)

David Lindley
University of Leeds

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Saenger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 15 May 1996 11:30:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0373 Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0373 Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

Regarding Mr. Kincaid's comment on Folio punctuation.  Actually, evidence (Sir
Thomas More autograph) is that Shakespeare did not punctuate at all.  He didn't
need to; he was always available for questions in the theater.  What was in
demand were his words, and they were very valuable, so he could best serve the
company by ignoring punctuation and writing quickly.

Where the punctuation in the Folio comes from is a complicated question. It
surely comes in part from Hemmings and Condell, who would be excellent
authorities on how the lines were said.  Punctuation can be a very interesting
subject, and the Folio is a fascinating resource, but in the end perhaps we
must accept the fact that Shakespeare himself allowed his words to be
interpreted in different ways.  In other words, if we really search for the
original, we find that it is intentionally unfixed.
 

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