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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Punctuation
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0387.  Friday, 17 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Fran Teague <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 96 11:34:22 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(2)     From:   James Schaeffer <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 1996 14:44:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(3)     From:   Armstrong Eric <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 1996 15:52:34 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re Punctuation and spelling and sound effects

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 1996 16:26:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(5)     From:   Thomas L. Berger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 May 1996 22:47:12 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Fran Teague <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 96 11:34:22 EDT
Subject: 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

Regarding the discussion of whether actors in early modern productions used the
punctuation and spelling of the playtexts to guide their interpretations: can
someone direct me to the source that established that all these actors were
literate?

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaeffer <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 1996 14:44:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

When David Linley quoted these lines from *The Tempest*

                               'Tis farre off:
   And rather like a dreame, then an assurance
   That my remembrance warrants:

he focussed on the uncertainty of the passage's punctuation.  But these lines
also demonstrate the spelling problem.  Changing "then" to "than" (as G. B.
Harrison, whose edition I happen to have in my office, did) conveys Miranda's
sense of the opposition between her actual, faint memory of the time before
banishment and what she feels the memory of real events should be, thus
revealing her uncertainy concerning these events--and own identity.  But
suppose one wanted stubbornly to argue the case for "then," since that's what
the text quoted above says.  In that case, "then" could suggest a growing
assurance on Miranda's part about this faintly "recovered memory" -- albeit
only two half-lines' worth of assurance, soon to be dashed when her father asks
if she can remember how she came to be here: "But that I do not."  That
certainly does not provide much context to hang an interpretation on, but
performances have been built on flimsier evidence.

Jim Schaefer

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Armstrong Eric <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 1996 15:52:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re Punctuation and spelling and sound effects

In response to Thomas E. Ruddick:

I believe that the punctuation sound effects were the intellectual property of
Victor Borge, not George Carlin.

Though misspelling is, as you say, not something I want to invest in, surely
those people who did punctuate the first printings used SOME sort of system. If
a comma, colon, semi-colon and period all mean the same thing, why bother
differentiating? Or was it merely because they had run out of periods, so they
are using whatever type that was left over? :-)

As an actor, I like to play with possibilities. Seeing as many different
punctuated versions helps me make choices. Seeing NO punctuation just confuses
me.

Finally, if people just spelled how they thought it should be, but meant
NOTHING by it, why would you spell the same word many different ways? Could
there not be some meaning in choosing to spell one way or the other? Let's be
clear: I DON"T think that Shakespeare dictated the spelling but whoever did set
the type... does their editorial intervention, though different in intent from
ours, mean nothing?

As an actor, I like to play with possibilities. Seeing as many different
punctuated versions helps me make choices. Seeing NO punctuation just confuses
me. Maybe I should try it as an approach... Ultimately it is the words that I
rely on - I think they tell me which punctuation makes sense to me.

So, for my work on WT (as Antigonus"exit persued by bear") this summer, I
resolve that:
- I won't slavishly accept any philosophy that dictates meaning for punctuation
(at least not this summer!),
- I will attend to the words, but I won't worry why it might be spelled funny
UNLESS I find very neighbourly words spelled differently, one from the other.(I
probably won't do anything different there either - I usually to busy acting to
remember that kind of detail!)

"i miei due lire"
(so it's really worthless...)

Eric Armstrong

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 1996 16:26:58 -0400
Subject: 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

David Lindley writes:

>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.

And Michael Saenger writes:

>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.

I've recently been reading (for pleasure) *The Wasp* (Malone Society,
1074/1976), and this reprint of a play from "a unique manuscript in the Duke of
Northumberland's library at Alnwick Castle" (v) certainly indicates that
authorial and scribal punctuation, spelling,  and punctuation could be anarchic
by twentieth century standards. I'll give an example:

        This mad hangman, had a trick to be lukewarme in his office, & burnt
a thefe in the hand wth a           cold Iron; for wch it is knowne he tooke
bribes & thervpon, he is privately fled the Citye,
(1256-58)

Yes, the sentence ends with a comma.

Fused sentences, like the following in which there are two, seem to abound: "An
oake is a body now a body yw all knowe belongs to the topp: the top is the
head, but the husband is the head Ergo he being the head may Ritu Mariti
challenge the body Armes hands," (1611-15).

Though we don't know that Shakespeare's scripts came to the printer looking
like this, they may well have.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas L. Berger <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 May 1996 22:47:12 GMT
Subject: 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0379  Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

In response to Mr. Kincaid's recent effusion, I can add little to what David
Lindley has observed.

Currenly I'm putting together the historical collation of 68 editions of HENRY
V for the New Variorum edition, working on 5.2, where if you keep the commas,
you have a very tentative and hestitant wooer in Henry with the Princess
Katherine. If you drop them, then he's as slick and sly and manipulative as
we're been prone to see him lately.  So it goes.

It would seem to me that is actors and directors want to find the "REAL" text,
they would be well served to write to the Oxford Computation Center, and order
up the First Folio on disk.  Then they could pick a play of their choice. Then,
strip out ALL the punctuation, ALL the capitalization, all the lineation, and
make it into one very long paragraph.  Then, using what you know about verse
and prose, about meter, about a little of this, a little of that, put the play
back together again.  A noble venture which might yield some interesting
results.

Tom Berger
St. Lawrence University
 

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