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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Feathers
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1018  Thursday, 3 May 2001

[1]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 May 2001 12:34:11 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0996 Re: Feathers

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 May 2001 08:41:29 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.0996 Re: Feathers


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 May 2001 12:34:11 EDT
Subject: 12.0996 Re: Feathers
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0996 Re: Feathers

OK let's try to sort this mess shall we ... (the crowd sighs and shifts
listlessly)

John Briggs said "we want an early date for 2HVI" and he saw no
difficulty in locating the earlier date of this play before 1HVI. Now
while I would agree that we *need* not place 1HVI before 2HVI there are
some difficulties in not doing so. My problem relating to the
Stationer's Register is that around Myllington's [sic] entry of The
First Part of the Contention there is a veritable glut of different
*publishers* (for want of a better word) entering *history* plays. There
is then (or appears to be) some sort of fashion around March April May
1594 (at least among people who make entries for plays on the SR) for
history plays.  Now this is fine so far for the publishing of Contention
and even True Tragedy but does not suit or relate to the late date of
1HVI. I.E. Presuming that Contention and TT are indeed memorial or 'bad'
*copies* we must assume the priority of the texts first published in
1623. Now do we have good reason to disassociate 1HVI from these texts?

In 1592 Henslowe's diary contains that allusive 'ne' 'harey the VI' and
Nashe sees his Talbot play around the same time but there is no entry on
the SR. So assuming the priority of the plays first published in the
Folio we must also assume that at least ONE henry the sixth play was
written before Contention was published. However, we simply do not know
(and should not say we do) WHICH one (s). It is usually assumed that
Millington's transfer in 1602 of 'The first and Seconde pte of henry vj
ij bookes' to Pavier was of his copies of Contention and True Tragedy
which Pavier subsequently reprinted in 1619 as The Whole of The
Contention. Now unfortunately there is still no clear reference to our
Folio-only play 1HVI. It is natural perhaps to assume that Millington's
"The first...pte" which he gives to Pavier is Contention and not what we
know as 1HVI however there is no proof. Furthermore the text which
Pavier prints as The Whole Contention contains some text (or seems to)
from Folio 2 & 3 HVI and not solely from the Quarto texts. Thus it seems
that Pavier might have had access to some sort of Folio variant or
earlier draft of what is printed in the Folio.

Now, while this doesn't tell us when 1HVI (or any of the Folio Henry VI
plays) were written it does tell us that there were different texts
around, moreover that Millington himself might have access to other
texts (1HVI included). Millington might (like Henlsowe) have been
capable of calling the same plays by different names thus if he only had
Contention he later called it The First part of Henry the sixth. But if
so this tells us something about Henslowe's Diary entries (which we
already knew from Chambers) namely that the same play could be called
different names. If Henslowe is anything like Millington then 'Harey the
sixth' could have been Contention and not either 1HVI or 2HVI. Of course
it could have been 2HVI thus fitting with Millington's later quarto
edition and Pavier's combined Whole Part of the Contention. But if so we
again lose sight of 1HVI.

There is no Talbot in 2HVI or Contention but Nashe saw a Talbot play.
There is (as the philosophers say) at least one early Talbot play. Now
even if this is not the play we now have as 1HVI printed in 1623 in the
First Folio, we still have a narrative gap between the 1592 Talbot play,
the Henslowe diary entry, the apparent fashion for history plays around
1594 (two years later) and the different names ascribed to the texts by
contemporary witnesses Millington, Pavier Henslowe, Heminge and Condell.

(I'll make one caveat here and that is related to problems of SR
entries...Woodfield in his book Surreptitious Printing in England
1550-1640 proposes as I remember that (at least for foreign language
books) there was sometimes good reason to enter plays on the register
after they had already been printed and it is conceivable at least that
the glut of history play entries on the register was purely one of
competing publishers attempting to keep control of plays which had
already been in circulation or in print and not necessarily related to
the authors all just having written a bunch of history plays- but this
is a question of complexity which I don't wish to attempt to answer now)

Then there is the problem of inconsistency between the texts. Talbot
disappears from 2HVI and Contention when one would think (as indicated
by Nashe's ref to a "Talbot" play) that the big man of 1HVI would still
be remembered in 2HVI and 3HVI but he is not - making some believe that
1HVI was written after 2 and 3. Now my problem with this is the very
popularity of a "Talbot" play right around the same time that we would
expect a Talbot play to exist (i.e.the Henslowe's diary ref.). If Nashe
had already seen a Talbot play BY 1592 then why would the putative
author(S) of 1HVI bother rewriting the big Nashe play long AFTER
Shakespeare has already written 2 and 3HVI. Why would the Shakespeare
who is in 3HVI almost advertising how good his next play (R.III) is
going to be - with the all-bad-Crookback role having just been
developed-  bother to write (or co-write) a rather old fashioned
stylised very long and by now un-original (since someone else has
already done all the good Talbot bits) just before Richard III (or just
after 3HVI) or even just after 2HVI? It simply doesn't make much sense
to me.

Witness:

1) 1592 A TALBOT PLAY (seen by 10000 spectators at least)

2) Contention ( a non-talbot play registered by Millington in 1594
published in 1594 with no reference to an acting company or author)

3) 2HVI ( a non-talbot play first published in F1 in 1623 presumably the
origin of Contention but never registered on the SR)

4) True Tragedy ( a non-talbot play first published in 1595, with
reference to having been played by the Earle of Pembrokes Men (not
Strange's Men) but not entered on the SR)

5) 3HVI ( another non-talbot play first published in 1623 presumably the
origin of True Tragedy but never registered on the SR)

6) Rich. III. ( another non-talbot play beginning with some of the most
famous lines in the English language and developing the Richard
"Crookback" role established as early as 1595 in the Octavo play True
Tragedy.

7) 1HVI ( a Talbot and Joan of Ark play never entered on the SR and
first published in 1623 containing not a hint of Richard the Crookback)

Coming back to John's analysis of my (very brief) list of 1HVI doubts
and possibilities  I shall answer a few of his asides:

I cast doubt on whether 1HVI Folio can be seen as Henslowe's "harey" for
two
reasons which may have been unclear. They are:

(1) S's known habit of rewriting other people's work (Leir, Troublesome
Reign etc)

(2) There is no need to doubt how quickly a play could have been written
to fill a commercial demand between Henslowe's "harey" and S's 1HVI - my
point about the SR in this regard was that if the printers/publishers
could all rush to the registration of plays then surely the authors
could (be they collaborative or not) have rushed to the creation of
those plays.

3) (this is a new point) There is reason to suppose (assuming you
believe the Oxford Editors...) that 1HVI was never acted or at least is
not a stage prepared text. In which case there is still another missing
1HVI or Harey play which like its folio comrade is both fatherless and
unregistered at birth. This putative missing harey text  is the one in
Henslowe and the one acted by the Strange's Men. It is the one which
Shakespeare (and his collaborators perhaps) followed but abandoned
(until after S's death when Heminge and Condell found it in his papers
etc etc). Incidently this little fantasy does have the merit of making
us think about the names again: to me it is strange that both the
prequel argument for 1HVI and the "natural sequence" arguments both fail
to explain why the texts which followed Henslowe's "harey" play and
Nashe's "Talbot" play did not allude more closely
to those (or that) popular play(s). It further seems strange to me that
Nashe's popular play is 1HVI (which seems not half so much a "Talbot"
play as some have argued...he is after all dead by Act4 Scene 1) or that
(given the nature of the text) it was the Henslowe text performed by the
Stange's Men (to me it seems too long, too literary and too unmarked -
particularly in contrast with the highly complex textual nature of both
2HVI and 3HVI).

In terms of textual history The Pembroke's Men (who played TT) are not
the same as Strange's Men (who played Harey).

John Briggs does seem to have ignored the point that irregularities
between 1HVI and 2HVI form a large part of many arguments for the late
date of 1HVI and thus that if one could show that the irregularities
between 1HVI and 2HVI are not so important as they have been made out to
be then at least part of the argument for the "prequel" idea would fall.

His point about SD's for the wearing of Roses in TT bnut not in 3HVI is
interesting for its failure to look again at Chronology. As we have it
there are only two early Henry VI play texts available: Contention and
True Tragedy. True Tragedy is the only one of these which has an obvious
link with the stage (on its title page the reference to Pembrok's Men).
All the other three texts were first printed (with small exceptions to
interpolations in Pavier's Whole Contention) in 1623. Contention and
True Tragedy are as John says often thought to have a closer connection
with the stage (in whatever way "performing version" or not) than any of
the Folio plays - why therefore does a Stage direction to wear roses
link True Tragedy with 1HVI any more than with 2HVI or Contention is
absurd given that both plays (Q&F) contain references to the wearing of
roses. It is furthermore well established that the SD's in quarto and
folio plays often show a quite different form and that part of the
argument for the memorial nature of both Contention and True Tragedy is
in regard to the different nature of their SD's to those of their folio
equivalents. So...

John says that failure to unify the parts of 1HVI is not confusion but
different views of history. My answer would be that firstly it is not my
own belief that 1HVI is particularly fragmentary (as function word
testing seems to show); secondly that my point was in regard to 1HVI and
its connection with 2HVI and 3HVI - namely that if 1HVI was
collaborative it tells us even less about when the play was written and
even less about any notion ideas of a Shakespearean tetralogy since
there is less reason to suppose any unified or guiding vision between
the plays. How then would we check to see how early 1HVI was when we
cannot tell by any holistic stylistic or narrative comparison with 2HVI
and 3HVI?

Which brings me to John's tone analysis. Now I will be the first to
admit the inadequacy of my own poetic ear (i am not doing number
crunching for nothing) but I would make a plea that the imperative form
of the unusual auxiliary verb form "Hung be" is quite different in form
(affecting both grammatical and chronological regularity) than any of
the other Henry VI play beginnings John quoted. In fact none of the
forms were the same per se.  I would add that the fact that the passage
has rarely been attributed to Shakespeare is partly due to the very
anachronism of the form which I pointed out. Thus the stylistics of the
play (and particularly its collaborative nature which has yet to be
demonstrated) are deeply tied to the issue of its chronology.

I have discussed this issue briefly in my analysis of Gary Talyor's
article on the subject (which anyone can see on the Durham Internet
Journal).

I will add that there are more grammatical variations between the quarto
and octavo texts of Contention and True Tragedy and their respective
Folio equivalents than there are between 1HVI and 2HVI , but that on a
count of the 'do' auxiliary for 1HVI it comes closer (as does Rich.III)
to Greene and Peele than does 2 and 3 HVI. Thus evidence is never
entirely clear. But what does seem increasingly clear (at least to me)
is that our job as critics is mostly to find out where and why things
are different which we would have expected to be the same.

Lastly I am intrigued to know why John Briggs thinks Rich.III was
written before 1HVI. Can you let us know John?

Cheers,
Marcus.

(all rights preserved...)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 May 2001 08:41:29 +0100
Subject: 12.0996 Re: Feathers
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.0996 Re: Feathers

Just as this thread is dying, I have had a thought about the feathers!
In the film "Shakespeare in Love" there is a fracas during a rehearsal
at the Rose Theatre, involving swords and pillows, culminating a
snowstorm of feathers (white, of course).  Could this have provided the
inspiration?

John Briggs

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