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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: May ::
Re: Hamlet Texts
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1426  Tuesday, 28 May 2002

[1]     From:   David Wilson-Okamura <
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        Date:   Friday, 24 May 2002 11:44:02 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet Texts

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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 >
        Date:   Friday, 24 May 2002 10:26:23 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1408 Re: Hamlet Texts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wilson-Okamura <
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Date:           Friday, 24 May 2002 11:44:02 -0500
Subject:        Re: Hamlet Texts

Mike Jensen <
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 > wrote:

>The arguments against the Arden 3 approach to *Ham* strike me as
>misguided and simplistic.  There are a wealth of conflated texts, and
>one may wallow in them to one's heart's content.  None of them come as
>close to what Shakespeare probably wrote as Q1, Q2, and F do
>independently.  They are false constructs, cobbled together in an
>editor's study that fool people into thinking they have Shakespeare's
>*Hamlet.*

A couple of assumptions need to be flagged here:

1. Q1, Q2, and F are closer to what Shakespeare wrote than an editorial
conflation.

   Isn't this begging the question? If the early printed texts were
self-
   evidently superior to editorial constructs, there would be no debate.
   Ditto if we knew that F records authorial revisions. But we don't.
   Hence the need for discussion.

2. Composite texts are "false constructs, cobbled together in an
editor's study."

   Yes, composite texts are "constructs, cobbled together." But what is
the
   alternative? The early printed texts are also "constructs, cobbled
   together" by compositors -- from what materials we do not know,
though
   we can speculate, and "under conditions that seem unpropitious" if
what
   you want is a transcription, either of what Shakespeare actually
wrote
   or the text that his company performed. Although the Folio was proof-
   read with some care, there are still lots of concessions to things
that
   have nothing to do with establishing an accurate text. E.g., how many
   pieces of e type are available at the end of a page? how much space
is
   left at the bottom of the page? See the Textual Companion to the
Oxford
   edition for examples and a brief discussion. As for Q1, do you
_really_
   want to defend it as a _text_? I'm not saying it's unplayable, but if
   you think that's what Shakespeare sounds like then you need to get
your
   ears checked. (Yes, I know I just made a value judgement: that's why
they
   call it literary _criticism_.)

>There will still be conflated texts aplenty for those who chose them.
>There is also room in the marketplace for the Arden 3, and I believe it
>is to be applauded.

This is a good point: it's not like the Arden is going to drive
composite texts out of existence. What I suspect will happen is that the
Arden _text_ will become irrelevant. People will buy the edition for the
notes, but they will cite the play from a composite text. Why?

1. Because people who really care about Q1, Q2, and F will skip the
middleman and cite them from facsimiles or diplomatic transcriptions.

2. Because in ten years scholars in search of something new to write
about will rediscover the pleasures of _restoring_ a text that has been
imperfectly transmitted by scribes and printers.

3. Because in five years the pendulum of fashion will swing back to the
opposite extreme and we will all suddenly "realize" that Shakespeare was
a poet at heart and that he hated actors. The acting texts transmitted
in F (if that is what they are) will become objects of scorn and
derision. The annotators of the Norton Shakespeare will publish tell-all
memoirs in which they bitterly complain of how they labored under
foreign oppression (by which they will mean, of course, the
actor-centric tyranny of the Oxford Establishment). Ok, this last part
is probably _not_ going to happen, but have a look sometime at the
footnotes for Hamlet; it's obvious to me that Stephen Greenblatt has
been teaching the play for a long time from an edition that was based on
Q2, and he doesn't like to see the familiar readings demoted to the back
of the bus -- so he flags them in the footnotes.)

What should Arden have done? Reissued Jenkins with a new introduction,
text and notes revised where nice or necessary.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 24 May 2002 10:26:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1408 Re: Hamlet Texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1408 Re: Hamlet Texts

> >And instead of dying with 

 

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