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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: "Leaking" Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0231  Thursday, 1 February 2001

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 12:49:29 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0228 "Leaking" Plays

[2]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 13:38:43 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0228 "Leaking" Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 12:49:29 -0500
Subject: 12.0228 "Leaking" Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0228 "Leaking" Plays

Annalisa Castaldo's student suggested that, rather than post-performance
reconstruction, "bad quartos" might be the equivalent of leaks today --
that drafts of a play might have been leaked to a printer -- apparently
to drum up interest in the forthcoming performances.  If you've read the
play, you might well want to see it on stage -- just as twenty-first
century novel readers want to see the movie versions of the novels
they've read.

Of course, the conservative position is that acting companies protected
their scripts from publication, and only sold scripts to the printer
when they were hard up for money, going out of the theatrical business,
or had exhausted the box-office potential of the script.

The theory was that, if an early modern person read the play, he or she
would not spend the extra money to see it in a theatre -- and other
companies would have access to the scripts and be able to perform the
plays.

Today many of us are not convinced by this position, and why not
consider the possibility that the questionable first quartos are "leaks"
of some kind?  As for hard evidence, we have none, but inference and
conjecture aplenty.  Let conjecture thrive!

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 13:38:43 +0000
Subject: 12.0228 "Leaking" Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0228 "Leaking" Plays


>A student suggested that rather than post-performance reconstruction,
>bad quartos might be the equivalent of leaks today - that drafts of a
>play might have been sneaked to a printer before it was even done, let
>alone staged. Does anyone know of any evidence about this, either for or
>against?
>
>Annalisa Castaldo

There may be more than one true explanation for the bad quartos, that
is, some may have been published for one reason, some for another. One
that makes sense to me is that some of them were road versions, that is,
the poetry was trimmed, and the roles were combined or rearranged so
that a smaller company could perform the play for an audience without
much interest in high flown language or long speeches. I believe an
argument for this interpretation of the 1603 version of Hamlet was put
forth by Cairncross.  This road version got into the hands of someone
outside the circle that depended on the Lord Chamberlain's Men for their
sustenance and so had no loyalty to them, and therefore simply sold it
for the money.

Stephanie Hughes
 

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