The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2229 Friday, 8 November 2002
From: M. Yawney <
Date: Thursday, 7 Nov 2002 10:12:26 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.2220 Re: Cuts in Performance
Comment: Re: SHK 13.2220 Re: Cuts in Performance
Ivan Fuller <
>Weren't the first printed versions of the plays a
>mixed bag of actors'
>sides, remembered lines and fragmented rough copies?
>If so, then we
>cannot conclusively know what the original
>performances were like. In
>fact, can we really know anything about the original
The nature of the texts we have is hotly disputed. Macbeth is a good
example to use since the text from the folio is fairly good but very
short compared to other tragedies. This and other internal evidence lead
most scholars to believe that it was a performance script. (It is worth
noting that this is the major tragedy most often done uncut.)
Other plays seem also to have been altered in some way for performance,
such as Twelfth Night, which shows evidence that Viola originally sang
but was rewritten so she would not sing. This is not a cut, but I
mention it because it is a generally accepted example of how our best
text for a play that has come to us, seems to have been altered for
Other than Macbeth and Twelfth Night examples of performance changes are
less universally accepted and still in debate.
Some of the quarto texts do seem to be based a reconstruction of
performances, which is why many scholars and director have been
referring to them for stage directions, which are often fuller than the
folio and probably indicate the original stage practice. The question of
how much textual authority they are given is still debated, though
scholars today do give them more weight than they did in times past.
Many modern editions include lines from the quartos (and stage
directions). In some cases (such as Henry V) this has led to
interpretations radically at odds with the traditional ones.
At worst even if the "bad quartos" are just trashy reconstructions with
no authority (as they were often though to be in the past) they are
valuable as sources documenting Renaissance stage practice.
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