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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Burgundy and France
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2030  Friday, 19 November 1999.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Nov 1999 15:29:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2019 Re: Burgundy and France

[2]     From:   Ros King <
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        Date:   Thu, 18 Nov 1999 14:50:37 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1944 Re: Burgundy and France


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Nov 1999 15:29:07 -0500
Subject: 10.2019 Re: Burgundy and France
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2019 Re: Burgundy and France

Prof. Wells presents his position very persuasively, which is, I think,
that in context a reference to Burgandy rather that France is more
logical and coherent with the rest of the text.  The arguments in favor
of the received text are plausible but strained.

The difficulty I have with this is not that the analysis is wrong, but
that it does not convince me that the received text is not what WS wrote
or (pace Hawkes) intended.  It could be that the less plausible
explanations are the right ones.  Shakespeare texts are hardly ever
patterns of coherence.  If we can apply the maxim dificilior lector to
opt for the less comprehensible word, why not the less plausible
situation?

In any event, the issue seems more a question of the philosophy of text
editing.  If the function of the editor is to smooth off the writer's
rough edges, then Prof Wells is correct and this emendation can be
justified, as (for example) might be his partner's similar but more
extensive substitution of Bourbon for Dauphin in a couple of scenes in
HenV.

If, on the other hand, an editor should strive to reproduce as
faithfully as possible the text written by the author, allowing of
course for correction of typos, modernization of spelling, etc., then I
respectfully submit that this approach smacks of revision, not editing,
as Wells seems to acknowledge.  We may consider the various editorial
approaches as existing along a continuum: At one end is a photographic
reproduction of a single copy of the Lear quarto, at the other end is
Nahum Tate's substitute version.  Conflation of the Q and F versions is
somewhere in the middle; and revision of the text to change "France" to
"Burgandy" is closer to the Tate end of the spectrum than to the
facsimile.

It may be argued with justification that there is no such thing as an
authoritative version.  Shakespeare probably tinkered with the text
every time it was performed and he may have revised it substantially
from Q to F (as the Oxford editors believe).  But to my way of thinking
that does not excuse the obligation to present the text or texts in as
pure a form as possible; it does not justify revision because the author
revised the text in other respects.

Revision for the sake of apparent sense may be very misleading.
Consider Theobald's emendation of the following line in T/S,I.ii:

Grunio [being abused by Pet]: Help, mistress, help! my master is mad.

Theobald "corrected" "mistress" to "masters" for the obvious reason that
there are no female characters on stage at the time.  Or are there?  The
Sly motif is still very much present, and the page pretending to be
Sly's lady is aloft.  Consider how funny it would be for Grumio to
address this plea to "her."  Of course, this may be completely off base,
and "mistress" might have been a compositorial error or maybe WS had a
female character present originally and deleted her, or some other silly
error crept in.  But the copytext reading is neither implausible nor
undramatic.  Should we continue to follow Theobald because "masters"
seems to make more sense (albeit it duplicates essentially the same word
used in a different sense later in the line); or would it be better to
go back to the copytext and include a bracketed stage direction
or-Heavens! -- a footnote explanation?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ros King <
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Date:           Thu, 18 Nov 1999 14:50:37 +0000
Subject: 10.1944 Re: Burgundy and France
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1944 Re: Burgundy and France

1)      It's Cordelia who's been banished, not France. As has been remarked,
court protocol must  demand further ceremonial between the Kings.

2) But of course Lear is no longer King and surely that's the point that
Goneril and Regan are making. That's why  'this last surrender of his' -
which must have come like unexpected manna from heaven - might still
'offend' them. It's the sisters who ought to be saying the final
farewells as respective heads of the now divided state.

3) Dramaturgically, I would suggest that the Q and F references to
France taking his leave serves to raise the question of royal legitimacy
and prerogative. These women know that though they are now in possession
of the land, their father has not given up the right to the privileges
and prestige of the title. They are already resolved to do something  -
yet what they know not, ironically enough - about it.  France is also
the power that will come back in military might against them.

(Incidentally, wasn't Burgundy a much more powerful 'country', albeit a
dukedom, than France itself was at this period? So there may be
something here about the strength of Kingship as opposed to over-bearing
feudal baronies such as Cornwall and Albany also represent.)

I would therefore argue for keeping the QF reading. The line as it
stands looks forward to what will be. References to Burgundy are not
needed as he is irrelevant to what happens next.

Best,
Ros
 

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