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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Punctuation
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0393.  Wednesday, 29 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 May 1996 13:34:12 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0379 Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

(2)     From:   James Schaefer <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 May 1996 14:14:55 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0387  Re: Punctuation


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 17 May 1996 13:34:12 +0100
Subject: 7.0379 Re: Mislineation & Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0379 Re: Mislineation & Punctuation

I was pleased to see David Lindley and Michael Baird Saenger correcting the
misunderstandings about punctuation. We DO know something of Shakespeare's
habits of punctuation and about the interference habits of different scribes
and compositors. The categorical statements to the contrary, and the nonsense
about F punctuation being a guide to speaking, must be challenged.

David Lindley invites comment on his dilemma in editing The Tempest:

>Should I, then, reproduce
>Crane's punctuation, or should I 'thin it out' - which might be in line with
>Shakespeare's habits

Doesn't deciding what you're trying to (re)create precede the editing? If you
want to construct some idealised autograph promptbook you go for Shakespeare's
habit. If you want to reconstruct a probable King's Men promptbook you go for
the habits of the company scribe, Crane.

These ease with which that answer came to me convinces me there's more to this
than I'm grasping. I suppose one could introduce the complication that the
modern reader understands something quite different when seeing a colon than
Crane meant when writing one. (And thus we're back to intentionality again.)

Gabriel Egan

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <
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Date:           Friday, 17 May 1996 14:14:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0387  Re: Punctuation
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0387  Re: Punctuation

If K. J. Dover is to be believed (in his *Aristophanic Comedy*), Tom Berger's
suggestion that all punctuation be removed in order for each actor/director to
ferret out the "real" text and its action is a close approximation of the task
confronting both ancient readers and modern editors of the the Greek dramas.
Dover writes (pp. 6-8):

        "Anyone who looks at the text of an Aristophanic play as it actually
appears in the [Codex] Ravennas may be struck by the fact that whereas the
speakers are indicated most of the time by abbreviations ('sigla') of their
names ... there are sometimes several pages running in which no indication of
the speakers' names appears at all, but only a sign (a double point or a long
dash) to show that the following words are not spoken by the same person as the
previous words. ... But the sign is obviously liable to be accidentally omitted
or confused with some other mark of punctuation, and deficiency or instability
in the indication of speakers can land us in real trouble when a dialogue
involves three or four persons.  Ancient fragments of dramatic texts show that
this kind of inadequacy in the Ravennas is not the fault of its copyist, nor
does it reflect an indifference of the period at which he was working; it is
quite clear that texts of plays in the ancient world imposed on the reader a
much harder task of interpretation than do modern texts, in which every speaker
is unambiguously indicated by name. ... [I]t is apparent from the scholia that
ancient commentators treated the assignation of the right words to the right
speakers not as a matter of continuous tradition from the author's own pen but
rather as a matter falling within their own province as interpreters of the
transmitted text.  Commentators who seem rarely or never to have considered
emending the text itself evidently felt free to alter assignations. ... [T]he
modern editor, grateful as he may be for information in the scholia about
ancient assignations, has to do the job afresh for hinmself in the same way as
they did, considering what is theatrically most plausible and what contributes
to producing the most coherent picture of Aristophanes' technique."

I had a similar task in preparing an opera libretto based on a play by Gertrude
Stein.  But while these (and Berger's suggestion, whether facetious or serious)
are extreme examples, they are only exaggerations of the interpretative task we
face with any playwright's work:  finding the drama in the text we have been
given.

Jim Schaefer
 

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