The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1307 Wednesday, 28 June 2000.
From: Marcus Dahl <>To:
Date: Tuesday, 27 Jun 2000 21:13:08 EDT
Subject: 11.1296 Re: Parallel Texts: The All the answers in one
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1296 Re: Parallel Texts: The All the answers in one
(1) What would you do with _A Game at Chess_, to take a particularly
florid example? For myself, I would rather trust the bibliographic
skills of Richard Dutton or Trevor Howard-Hill, both better textual
scholars than I will ever be, than tackle the 6 manuscripts and 2
quartos myself--particularly when my interests in the play (either in
the classroom or in my research) have little to do with bibliography.
Do you think that because you are rigorous there will be no more
A: One of the central motivations of textual criticism is to read a text
and discuss it. If there is more than one version of a work and this
affects the meaning of the individual texts then I'm afraid you're
rather bound to discuss the different variants as part of your study.
Certainly if one is concerned to discuss the 'author' or the artistic
integrity of a text then I see no alternative. One cannot say what the
author meant or signified by 'this' or 'that' without knowing what the
author did actually write (if anything). Postmodern approaches only
defer their answers like their sense. Imagine having discussed the
possible meanings of 'The Wasteland' (to pick a more recent example)
only subsequently to discover Pound's edited version of Eliot's draft.
Having the two versions must force us to be more careful about who
wrote, meant, signified, thought, printed etc what. It's part of the
(2) Marcus Dahl has some simple rules for textual transmission:
>Furthermore until anyone has any scientific method
>of textual analysis (i.e. never) then sticking to the closest
>(possible) reproduction of the original printed (be it Q1-16
>or F1-6 etc) text is the only method of which a student
>interested in reading renaissance texts should approve.
This rule assumes that all the texts come down to us in printed form,
which is not so. Of the printed ones, Dahl doesn't offer a means of
determining which, if any, is "the original printed (be it Q1-16 or
F1-6) text". Do you mean they are all equally valid? If so, why stop in
the seventeenth century when you could choose an eighteenth or
nineteenth-century edition and say that's the one "a student interested
in reading renaissance texts" should attend to. If they're not all
equally valid, what method of discrimination are you in favour of?
A: The Restoration Shakespeare is indeed a subject in itself. The
difficulty of deciding between the 'authenticity' of different variants
is one of the consequences of our greater knowledge about the multiple
origins and ontology of textual history. Making a distinction between
one text or another is unfortunately a matter of necessity (there ARE
different versions) the question is how we do it and using which texts.
Of course someone (ie Greg, Chambers etc) has to do the hard work of
textual investigation before anyone else can be free to choose his
Shakespeare edition (be it Foster, Sams or Taylor etc) but we would all
presumably not wish to choose our idea of 'Shakespeare' on what a modern
editor decides to include or leave out?
(3) >An amended text is amended after the printed fact
>- it is subject to the additional and unnecessary historical
>speculation of the editor involved. Re-print the closest
>possible text to Q1 and you limit the aesthetic or historical
>intervention between renaissance text and modern.
This appears to be Dahl's answer to my last question: you go for the one
with the lowest number. Dahl seems to think the '1' in Q1 indicates
something special about it, as though it denoted uniqueness, wholeness,
and 'beginning'. Since the numbering system itself is a modern
sequencing of the documents (it's not like Okes said to himself "I think
I'll print Q1 King Lear today") why isn't Dahl as suspicious of the
numbers (which encode modern ways of thinking) as he is of the other
actions of modern editorial theory? Even if Dahl thinks the numbers
merely denote chronological order of printing, that surely is not
available to us as "printed fact" but rather must be recovered from the
texts themselves and other evidence. For example, printers could put a
false date on the titlepage or indeed change the date during the run.
A: I am of course suspicious of the Q numbers. These are merely
imperfect and arbitary tools of reference. Texts such as Hamlet clearly
have a problem with dating in the Q variants... namely the Q2 is not
necessarily a later version than Q1 or earlier than Folio etc.(note SR
entry etc) However this is just my point since it is the reliance upon
common assumptions of chronology, aesthetics etc which leads critics to
a lazy acceptance of these terms as purely factual. E.g. The Oxford eds.
assume that 1HVI is a 'bad quarto' of some kind and yet the quality of
evidence for this assertion is debateable. In many respects the text
resembles an unpublished (unstaged) text which implies the absence of an
earlier (or later) quarto variant in the sequence of Henry VI texts.
The Oxford decision about the nature of the text affects how they edit
the text, where they place it in the Works, who they attribute it to and
when they date it. This is only one example of a common practice.
(4) >Why not point the reader to the existence of however
>many multiple texts -as they were originally printed (by
>whomever of the dodgy or costly printers available) and
>aid their understanding by additional notes and historical
Dahl goes back to his first approach: offer the reader the textual
multiplicity and some notes. Apart from all other considerations, the
complexity of the additional notes and historical introductions needed
to do this properly excludes readers below a certain threshold of
education. (Good undergraduates can handle it, weak ones can become
bewildered.) There are plenty of interesting things to do with
Shakespeare and his contemporaries which don't require the reader to use
early printed texts.
A: I see no reason why an undergraduate would struggle to read Q1 Hamlet
or A Shrew or the variant Quartos of Henry VI etc. Students of
Literature have too often (as J.C Collins, Leavis, Bloom etal) thought
themselves above details of fact. The first lesson of history is in the
multiplication of narrative. I am surprised that all you lovers of the
so-called 'post-moden' do not relish the thought of multiple narrative
and (apparent) equality of text. As to what is interesting, I merely
remember Hume - there can be no argument as to matters of taste.
(5) >. . . it is of primary concern to the student interested in
>textual or literary issues that s/he is not mislead by changes in
>meaning, intonation etc caused by amended texts.
The greater danger surely is that the student will be misled by changes
in meaning, intonation etc caused by historical difference. How many
undergraduates know the meaning of "wherefore are thou Romeo?"
A: Many do, some do not. Do not undergraduates have teachers? Historical
difference as many on this site have argued is as difficult a subject to
define as Historical similarity (apparent or otherwise).
(6) >They [the Oxford editors] let us know [their editorial theory] in
>a separate and highly expensive oversize addition never
>seen in the hands of any undergraduate I've ever seen.
The cost of books is an important issue. The Textual Companion is now
available (with original pagination) from Norton in paperback. I got a
copy in the US and am fairly sure Amazon would ship it worldwide. (If
not, I know several US SHAKSPERians have in the past offered to
facilitate dissemination by buying locally and forwarding.)
A: I am glad there is a cheaper edition. Now all they have to do is tidy
up the scholarship.
(7) >The point about unamended reprints of renaissance texts (a la
>Society) is that since we do not know what the theories or exact
>activities of the printers, scribes etc, it is best to view their
>combined textual work as it in fact attained print -- not as some
>editor believed it was produced.
The Malone Society Reprints have modern editors and they make
decisions. They might try to represent particular features of the early
printed text (or indeed the manuscript) but they cannot represent all of
the features with absolute fidelity. Two texts cannot be identical, as
you seem to believe. You might say "I'm happy with what's been ignored
in the copy text" if, say, holes made by bookworms are of no interest to
you. But that's your decision for your work and you are mistaken to
think that everyone's needs are served by the editorial practice which
suits you. Peter Blayney solved a problem concerning the order of the
pages in the manuscript of _The Book of Sir Thomas More_ by attending to
the progress through the bundle of a particular bookworm, and he could
not have done that using the Malone Society Reprint because Greg
(wisely, most readers believe) ignored the bookwork holes.
A: You're right that Malone society texts are to some extent 'edited'.
The editing is however mild in comparision to other editors' efforts at
conflation and emendation. The ethos of Malone society is to present the
text as clearly and with as little change as possible from the texts
which they attempt to reproduce. There is not much I can do about that.
I am concerned with the practise of contemporary literary renaissance
studies and will use the best tools (and texts) available to me. If I am
studying the authors, players, printers etc of the years 1590-1623 (say)
then I wish to read as close a text as is possible to the texts those
authors, players, printers produced. If I am in doubt about my history I
will consult another book.