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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: December ::
Re: Shakespeare's Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2209  Friday, 1 December 2000

[1]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 12:01:15 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2197 Re: Shakespeare's Characters

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 14:02:31 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2197 Re: Shakespeare's Characters


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 12:01:15 -0500
Subject: 11.2197 Re: Shakespeare's Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2197 Re: Shakespeare's Characters

I don't want to become a boring old fart about this, but until someone
shows evidence to prove otherwise I believe it is the case that
Shakespeare's plays were actually the property of the
Chamberlain's/King's Men, not just W. S.  Jonson and other examples
cited are different because they were not sharers in a company.  The
entity which would deal with the Stationers about printing would have
surely been the Company not the "author," whatever that thing may be.
Two members of the Company (Hemings and Condell) seeing that the First
Folio got into print, if they did more than just add the authority of
their names, would seem to me to indicate that this was the situation.
Furthermore, the previously printed plays would, as far as print is
concerned, have left the Company's control already and if anyone had
control over their subsequent printing it would have been the stationer
who owned the copyright (see the Stationers' Register entries for the
mad scramble to get them all entered).  If any member of the King's Men
got a chance to oversee the printing it would have only been through the
goodwill of the stationer(s) involved.  Does someone have some evidence
that it is otherwise?

William Proctor Williams

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 30 Nov 2000 14:02:31 EST
Subject: 11.2197 Re: Shakespeare's Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2197 Re: Shakespeare's Characters

A few thoughts on transmission and bardolatory:

I think Brian Vickers has already quoted Kokeritz's intro to his edition
of the First Folio which demonstrates the textual arbitrariness of the
editorial process (print shop mis-pagination of Troilus/ Lear using
earlier prints/ 3HVI using Q3 Contention etc etc) and he acknowledges in
his reply to my questions the way in which (mis)lineation can change the
metrics of a line.  So all agreed that texts do not appear straight from
the bard's pen. Question. How then do they arrive? When they appear in
multiple forms (see: Richard III, Hamlet, Contention /True Tragedy for
some serious mulitextual interplay rather than the rather lame so-called
'revisions' printed in the Oxford Works) they represent presumably
different stages in the textual transmission of a play. But of a single
play, a company play, an author's play? Personally I find it hard to
believe that Shakespeare ever considered revision of one of his own
plays when the actors or their colleagues could've done it themselves.
Let us not forget that S only published two texts in his lifetime under
his name: Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece - both expensively bound
and well printed by notable printers of the day...both with their
famously provocative dedications to a rich patron. And all the rest of
his 'immaculately conceived' (and often collaborative) plays were
printed anonymously (in this he is apparently and consistently unique
among the big playwrights of his day- Lodge, Greene, Peele, Marlowe,
Nashe(?)) . Moreover when the plays were printed in several different
editions and attributed to various different companies he seems to have
made no effort to claim them as his or to profit from their sale. In
this his practice appears outside of his generally quite healthy
appreciation of his own financial interests (see Schoenbaum etc). Let us
add that between the various editions of Shakespeare's plays there is
plenty of evidence of editorial (later and earlier) intervention in the
form of consistently different word counts,, vocabulary, metrics and
even internal style (Brabantio in Othello for example suddenly speaking
in rhyming couplets like a character from Selimus). Names of characters,
places, etc are changed erratically and consistently within single plays
sometimes within scenes. There is no reason to suppose with Gary Taylor
that authorship is to be located by modern day scene or act divisions
(see changes of spelling within single scenes etc as counter to Taylor's
claims in this regard). Though of course Brian Vickers is right to point
to the apparent consistency of Shakespeare's verse style over a period
of time (certainly in comparison with Greene et al. who often change
their metrics three times in one speech) we must remember that the many
different editions of Shakespeare (early and recent) lead to equally
consistent arguments about this very nature of Shakespeare's style
(manner) furthermore forgetting that comparisons with editions of other
playwrights of S's day (as mine above) are rendered disproportionate
given the much smaller canon of works known to have been written by
Greene or Peele etc plus the generally poor state of repair of the texts
in which the record of their works consists. Where is the Marlowe Folio
or the Greene Compendium?  Quite apart from any Bardolatry we must
maintain an almost stoic detachment from high falutin notions of
'consistency' in regard to the textual histories /transmissions of the
works of any early modern English playwright.

On the issue of knowing another (be he/she/it literary, fictive,
historical, putative, ostensive ontological etc) it seems the discussion
has moved between what in England everyone knows as the Acid House pub
philosophers of I. Welsh (Namely a Kuhnian and a Popperian who meet up
to have a jar and talk philosophy only to come to blows in the carpark
afterwards rather like a postmodern Johnson kicking the stone) to a
confrontation between the pseudo-kantian jargon of Noumenal ethics and
the determined proponent of epistemology read though the veil of the
human genome project (ignoring thereby I presume both Popper and Kant).
Words words words?
 

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