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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: June ::
Renaissance Promptbooks
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0419.  Wednesday, 5 June 1996.

From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 May 1996 18:12:50 -0400
Subject:        Renaissance Promptbooks

In his edition of *Antony and Cleopatra*, John S. Wilders asserts Shakespeare's
"prompter" would have remedied the omitted names in Shakespeare's entry
directions "when he prepared the script for performance" (76). He quotes Greg's
phrase "indefinite and permissive stage directions" and says that these and
similar "features point strongly to the author's manuscript as copy for setting
the Folio text" of *Antony and Cleopatra* (78).

It seems to me that these comments fly in the face of recent research into
Renaissance playbooks done by Bill Long, Leslie Thomson, and others.
Renaissance bookkeepers (i.e., Wilders' "prompters") apparently did not "clean
up" a script before performance. Mistakes of the kind mentioned by Wilders were
usually left uncorrected. And Greg's assumptions about what a playbook would
look like (even though he himself had worked with these playbooks) are
generally not founded on facts.

My questions are these:  did Wilders simply ignore Long and Thomson in
preparing his comments on the text?  Or are his comments tacit rejections of
the Long-Thomson research?  In any case, neither Long nor Thomson appears in
Wilders index or references.

Further, Wilders concludes that the features he has noted "point strongly to
the author's manuscript as the copy used for setting the Folio text, as do
certain distinctively Shakespearean spellings, especially the predominant use
of 'oh' instead of the shorter 'o' noted by the Oxford editors (Wells,
*Companion*, 142)" (78). The correct page reference to Wells is 549 (not 142
which is a page of the Works Cited), and here Wells writes: "the predominance
of the longer 'oh' spelling violates Shakespeare's apparent preference, and may
point to some sort of transcript of foul papers" (Wells 549). If I am reading
Wilders correctly, he seems to be claiming Wells's support for a position that
Wells does not hold.

I haven't read any reviews of Wilders' edition.  Wait a minute, did the TLS
review include this edition? If so, I did.  But from my brief use of the
edition today, it doesn't seem very reliable. Do you know Wilders?  I've been
trying to find his email address all day -- with no luck. He seems to be gone
from Middlebury.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[See the Fall 1995 *Shakespeare Newsletter* (45.3, 226) pages 49, 58-60, 63.
--HMC]
 

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