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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Feathers
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1100  Friday, 11 May 2001

[1]     From:   David Knauer <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 May 2001 10:24:31 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1047 Re: Feathers

[2]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 May 2001 19:12:02 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1090 Re: Feathers

[3]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 May 2001 09:04:56 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1090 Re: Feathers


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Knauer <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 May 2001 10:24:31 -0500
Subject: 12.1047 Re: Feathers
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1047 Re: Feathers

My original post on this was mangled in the ether. Apologies for the
confusion. What I meant to send was:

John Briggs writes,

"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). . . .
What seems to have happened is that publishers thought that there was
money to be made from publishing plays. . ."

I recall Blayney's argument differently. He notes that the two
statistical peaks on the SR fall in years after plague outbreaks and
subsequent theater closures. So why would the SR become relatively
flooded with entries after the theaters had reopened? He says, rather
unconvincingly and ahistorically, that the playing companies sought to
advertise their return to work with the publication of their books. Huh?
Surely there must have been better ways to remind a largely illiterate
audience that the playhouses had reopened than to sell off your books to
print. If I'm misremembering or misinterpreting Blayney, someone
enlighten me. This seems to me the only point at which his otherwise
excellent article runs off the rails.

John continues,

"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 . . ."

While this is correct, I would merely call attention to the corollary:
if publishers bought a book, a theater company had likely sold it. So,
yes, an entry on the SR does in fact have something to do with companies
of players, albeit indirectly. Why they may have sold it (poverty? Ben
Jonson-like egos? personnel changes? superceding stol'n and
surreptitious copies? spring cleaning?) is a question that no one I've
read, including Blayney, has answered satisfactorily. Perhaps there
isn't an answer we can generalize?

Dave Knauer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 May 2001 19:12:02 EDT
Subject: 12.1090 Re: Feathers
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1090 Re: Feathers

I'm a bit busy at the moment so will try add a bit more to this thread
on the weekend but I will note here that I'm interested in this SR
interpretation question. I have looked at it and read the information in
one way (which John thought sketchy) but the question of 'low level'
entries/ sales etc and what counts as a whole batch of entries (etc) is
intriguing. When I looked at the SR recently there seem to be hardly any
history plays for a long time and then eleven in a short time in 1594
(including the contentious first parte of the contention -entries by
Shorte, Harrison, Creede, White Danter, Gosson, Millington and Islip
(crossed out)).. Now, is this important to know when looking at an
argument over the date of a play or the question of its authorship etc?
(I think it is) People use dates in the SR all the time but argue about
their meaning as frequently. It seems about time that we happy few
Shakespearean scholars (most of whom simply quote Chambers, Greg or
perhaps Blayney) sorted out their understanding of the basic questions
surrounding the history of the production of play texts- date, context,
meaning etc (Question : is John right to think Blayney has done this?
What about Werstein, Urkowitz, Brooks etc) . I am interested to know if
anyone else out there has a take contrary to Blayney / John Briggs?

Speak soon.

Cheers,
Marcus.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Friday, 11 May 2001 09:04:56 +0100
Subject: 12.1090 Re: Feathers
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1090 Re: Feathers

Actually, it is not obvious that a company is likely to have sold it.
Blayney suggests that 'private' transcripts could be a possible origin
for 'bad' quartos, and the break-up of companies could have left plays
in the hands of individual players (or playwrights) with some plays
being 'orphaned'. Companies had exclusive rights in the performance of
plays, but they had no exclusive right in the publication of plays (or
rather to sell a book to a publisher: publication rights belonged to
publishers).  Blayney suggests another motive for companies selling
books: "publicity".  But Blayney suggests (or at least implies) that the
main reason for companies selling books was that publishers were willing
to buy!  Which most of the time, for most plays, they weren't.

John Briggs

Dave Knauer wrote:

...if publishers bought a book, a theater company had likely sold it.

So, yes, an entry on the SR does in fact have something to do with
companies of players, albeit indirectly. Why they may have sold it
(poverty? Ben Jonson-like egos? personnel changes? superceding stol'n
and surreptitious copies? spring cleaning?) is a question that no one
I've
read, including Blayney, has answered satisfactorily. Perhaps there
isn't an answer

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