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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Feathers
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1081  Wednesday, 9 May 2001

From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 May 2001 09:20:25 +0100
Subject: 12.1047 Re: Feathers
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1047 Re: Feathers

To carry on the debate, but still on the same topics:

1. I am reluctant to elaborate on this, as I do not have access to a
transcript of the Stationer's Register, and I fear I may misrepresent
Blayney.  Blayney shows that there is a low level of plays being entered
in the SR, except for two peaks in 1594-5 and 1600-1 (in each case 27
plays in an 18 month period - against an annual 'background' of three).
Given the number of plays entered in 1594-5, it is hardly surprising
that there appear to be lots of history plays.  In the circumstances,
this cannot be related to the number of plays performed or the number of
plays written.  What seems to have happened is that publishers thought
that there was money to be made from publishing plays.  And there might
well have been, if everyone hadn't tried to get rich simultaneously!
(This is a point which could be borne in mind next time Capitalism comes
up for debate...)  Blayney shows that (as far as the evidence allows)
there wasn't a strong demand for plays, and there were relatively few
bestsellers.  Blayney carefully distinguishes the role of publisher from
that of bookseller (wholesale or retail) and printer.  An entry on the
SR just meant that a publisher had purchased a playtext with a view to
publication, and had nothing to do with authors or companies of players
whatsoever.  Blayney also distinguishes authority, license and entry.
Blayney also draws attention to a passage in Humphrey Moseley's preface
to Beaumont & Fletcher's Works (1647):

"One thing I must answer before it bee objected; 'tis this: When these
Comedies and Tragedies were presented on the stage, the Actours omitted
some Scenes and Passage (with the Author's consent) as occasion led
them; and when private friends desir'd a Copy, they then (and justly
too) transcribed what they Acted."

and comments: "What Moseley has been trying to tell us since 1647 is, I
believe, the commonplace and innocent origin of the kind of text that
Pollard called a Bad Quarto - but we have been too busy chasing
imaginary pirates to listen."

2. No, I HAD forgotten the line "She beares a Dukes whole revennewes on
her backe": its significance is that it seems to be an unambiguous
example of a Q3 variant that derives from the F text.  But none of the
Q3 True Tragedy variants seem to derive from F.  Given the disparities
between the Folio and Q3 versions of the whole text, there would have to
be simpler explanations than that Pavier had access to the Folio text
(and ignored most of it). I would suggest that either that Q3 copy has
been corrected against the original MS copy for Q1 (which suggests an
alarming degree of inaccuracy by the original compositors) or against a
different MS transcript of the same text (which would justify, after
all, the claim on the title page!).  I don't even want to think about Q3
'contamination' of F text...

3. Marcus originally wrote that "The Pembroke's Men (who played TT) are
not the same as Strange's Men (who played Harey)".  This is only true in
the formal sense: it is highly likely that at least some of the players
of Strange's Men who performed "harey the vj" later toured with
Pembroke's Men.  There was considerable re-shuffling of personnel at
this period.  Everyone who writes on the companies manages to tie
themselves in knots over nomenclature.  The situation is not helped by
the (documented) example of Ned Alleyn describing himself as the (sole)
representative of the Lord Admiral's Men at a time when he was with
Strange's Men!  Which company Shakespeare wrote a play for is not the
same as which company performed the play (or indeed which company
Shakespeare was a member of).  There are documented examples of
playbooks transferring with players.  The three companies mentioned on
the title page of Titus could be an illustration of this.  There is some
suggestions that players' Parts were their own property - a point to be
borne in mind if you believe in reconstruction (memorial or otherwise).

4. I never said that there were no mentions of roses in 2H6 or 3H6 it
would be surprising if Shakespeare managed to write two plays about the
Wars of the Roses without mentioning them! - my point is rather that
there is no mention of the wearing of roses in the texts of 2H6, 3H6, 1
Contention or True Tragedy.  The only mentions of the wearing of roses
are in the SDs of True Tragedy.  1H6, on the other hand, is to a large
extent about the wearing of roses!

5. Yes, I am saying that at the very least the performances of True
Tragedy which the SDs of the Octavo text represent postdate 1H6, whereas
the substantive text does not.  My interpretation is that 2H6 and 3H6
were written (and performed) in 1590-91, that 1H6 was written
(collaboratively) and performed (as 'harey the vj') in 1592, that R3 was
written 1592-93, and that 1 Contention and True Tragedy represent (in
some sense) texts performed (presumably on tour, presumably by
Pembroke's Men) in 1593.  Who performed R3 and when Titus was written
are subjects for further debate!  I am not committed to this
interpretation (on checking, I am alarmed to find that I have
unconsciously reproduced the position of the Oxford editors!), but as it
seems to fit all the facts it would seem a reasonable stating point for
further conjecture or interpretation.  And my original question was: Why
did Shakespeare start with 2H6?

6. No, I don't see any connection between 1H6 and R3, but the supposed
collaborative nature of 1H6 could obscure any connection.  I think that
Titus should be brought into any analysis: I would expect this to be
closest to R3.  There is no reason for Crookback to appear in 1H6: the
historical character would have been too young!  (The historical Richard
first appears in 2H6.  The SDs of 1 Contention refer to him as

7. The original point at issue was whether I believed that R3 was
earlier than 1H6.  I said that no, I didn't, but helpfully showed how it
might be...  The question of whether Richard's soliloquies are original
to 3H6 or later interpolations is secondary, but, I believe, important.
Can linguistic analysis resolve this question?  If the answer is that
the speeches are too short to bring statistics to bear on them, I may
lose all faith in number crunching!

(Sorry I can't help with the programming!)

John Briggs

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