Revision and Publication of the Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2466 Monday, 30 December 2002
From: John Briggs <
Date: Monday, 23 Dec 2002 15:08:15 -0000
Subject: Revision and Publication of the Plays
Ed Taft wrote (in part, in the 'Cordelia and Listening to the Play'
>Bill Godshalk wrote:
>"The author's intention may be intuited, but it is not a matter of fact.
>Perhaps the author thought of his script, not as a series of speeches,
>but as one long poem -- and actually thought that it would be best read
>in the closet -- as one long poem."
>Or perhaps the author thought of his/her script as BOTH a play to be
>performed AND a text to be read later? Why not both? After all, in the
>case of _Lear_, at least, we have good evidence that the play was
>carefully revised -- perhaps with an eye towards eventual publication.
>If Ben Jonson thought of his plays as "Works," why not Shakespeare?
I feel that I really must insist that there is no evidence that
Shakespeare took any interest whatsoever in the publication of his plays
during his lifetime. Jonson thought differently, of course, as did
Heminges and Condell on Shakespeare's behalf. Shakespeare was careful
about the publication of "Venus and Adonis" and "Lucrece", and a case
can be made for the sonnets, but all revision of the plays (and this is
not always definitely by Shakespeare himself) is for theatrical
Jonson was mocked for considering his plays as "Works", but he clearly
started a trend. I sometimes wonder whether Shakespeare's death was
hastened by drinking too much at the launch party for Jonson's "Works" -
or perhaps Jonson took a copy with him to Stratford as a birthday
present with the same effect!
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