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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Recent Editions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1412  Friday, 24 May 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 May 2002 10:48:35 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1396 Re: Recent Editions

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 May 2002 01:31:20 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1396 Re: Recent Editions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 May 2002 10:48:35 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1396 Re: Recent Editions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1396 Re: Recent Editions

Holger raises many important points as to what exactly is Shakespeare's
text. One school attempts to get into Shakespeare's head and find the
version that is closest to what Shakespeare "intended". Personally, I
like the Oxford editors' approach, that the version we should seek is
the version that is closest to the performance script. They are plays
after all, and the plays were more of a company property than we are
willing to admit. It wasn't until the Folio that the plays began to be
regarded as a body of work. Although attributed to Shakespeare in
quartos, they are equally as importantly attributed to a company of
players on the title page.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Friday, 24 May 2002 01:31:20 -0400
Subject: 13.1396 Re: Recent Editions
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1396 Re: Recent Editions

I can't find where Colin Burrow advocates something different from a
conflated edition, but in any case I only want to second his point that
a 3 text edition is not a good idea in a prominent edition like the
Arden, through which students and a wider public are likely to encounter
Shakespeare. This edition, I think, turns its face to the academy, as
opposed to the public. Let scholars have all the 3 text editions they
want, but give non-scholars a reasonable reading edition, incorporating
the latest, and if possible, best guess at what Shakespeare wrote, and
including everything he wrote, as best the editor can tell. This seems
to me the best default position, since all is so conjectural anyway. No
edition will of course fail to give all the information about what's in
each text, or pretend to have discovered a notarized edition buried with
Shakespeare's will.

I'm not opposed to scholarship or history. It's a question of
proportion, again in an edition that turns its face to the public, as
well as to scholars. The quality of criticism in the Arden 3 Tempest
would be a long argument. Generally I think it follows Orgel with too
much "Some say this, some say that," before moving on to something more
interesting, like the derivation of Prospero's name. I think Orgel is
better on the critical side, though both editions have much to say about
history and performance that is valuable. But I believe that much in
both could be cut out and replaced with a more incisive "interpretative
endeavor." Amid this "truthful uncertainty" tendentious and lazy
thinking creeps in, as when the A3 offhandedly refers to Prospero as
"the white colonizer."

Holger Schott says he agrees that "wicked tongue" is better than "idle
tongue" on aesthetic grounds. But he thinks that in such decisions
"critical or aesthetic grounds...really have no place in a scholarly
edition." I prefer "wicked" not simply because I think it's better, but
for two other, related reasons.  First, I think "idle" is so bad in this
context that Shakespeare did not write it. Second, the same words in the
line before suggest the "textual-historical" explanation that the
compositor made a mistake, of a quite understandable kind. My preference
also depends partly on my understanding of Hamlet's character, and of
the play. The New Yorker presented this change as a case where the Folio
"softened" Hamlet's attitude toward Gertrude, implying that the Folio
was later, which though unprovable, is a common and reasonable
assumption. No one knows absolutely, of course.  But here I think is one
good place for an editor to take a stand. To print the versions
separately, and say both may be by Shakespeare, also takes a stand--in
this case, as I've argued, a stand I believe is mistaken.

Jenkins tried to hear Shakespeare's voice as well as he could. I think
it's important for editors, in an edition like the Arden, to keep trying
to do that--and arguing about it. However, I believe it's the play as a
whole that matters most. In my opinion, the differences between q and F
do not affect the understanding of the play as much as this 3 text
hoopla suggests they do. Leading students and the public into textual
controversies immediately seems more likely to repel than to attract, to
confuse than to inspire. I would like to see more attention given to
what's going on in the play. "Textual-historical" evidence does not
exist in a critical vacuum. It always involves the question of how you
read Shakespeare. And why.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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