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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Endings of Titus Andronicus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0340  Friday, 21 February 2003

From:           Richard Burt <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Feb 2003 23:50:21 -0500
Subject:        Re: Endings of Titus Andronicus

I happily concede that I was not born to be an editor.  So I may be
totally in the dark here without knowing it.  But I am surprised (and
even dismayed) by the way so many people pass off speculation and
conjecture as fact and certainty when it comes to talking about editing
Shakespeare. In the case of the ending of Titus Andronicus, we have
what, for the sake of clarity, I will label an "addition" theory:  the
printers added the lines.  Since I do not find this theory convincing,
let me add a possibly new "restoration" theory, namely, that the lines
are by Shakespeare (or his representative or his collaborator).

I don't find the addition theory convincing for several reasons.

1. It assumes, without any foundation as far as I know, that problems in
Q2 were introduced by someone other than Shakespeare (either the
printers or the editor[s]) while Q1 is a perfect transcription of what
Shakespeare wrote.  Why not consider that the printers of Q1 mistakenly
cut the lines in Q2 and that the printers of Q2 were correcting their
error?

2. The idea that the printers added the lines depends on the
contradictory assumptions that (a) they were too dumb to recognize the
real ending, which is supposedly good and marked by the final, redundant
couplet and (b) smart enough to rewrite the final line (of Q1) and then
make up the final four lines (of Q2) themselves.  Further, it assumes
that they were industrious enough to write the lines but too lazy to ask
the editors about the correct ending of Q1.

3. The addition theory also assumes that the there was no intermediary
between Q1 and Q2.  The printers of Q2 merely used Q1 and did not have
access to the source of Q1 or a more recent and revised version of the
source of Q1.  What if this assumption is incorrect?  What if the
printers of Q2 added lines given them by the editor(s) of Q2?   If the
ending of Q2 the result of editing rather than printing, we may view the
ending of Q2 as an attempt to correct perceived problems with the ending
of Q1.  The most obvious problem is that the final couplet rhymes the
same word, namely, "pity."  One can make a virtue of this defect, of
course. One could argue that the word "pity" is so important in the play
that Shakespeare repeats it in the last two lines of the play so his
audience can appreciate its importance. But if that was the goal, the
execution is patently awkward.  It's kind of like an Oliver Stone movie
where EVERYTHING IS SPELLED OUT REALLY CLEARLY because the viewer is
assumed to be incredibly stupid.  If a case can be made for the Q1
ending, a case can also be made against it, it's enough to see.  And so
if the editor(s) of Q2 thought the ending of Q1 weak, or knew that
Shakespeare thought so, they may have either restored Shakespeare's
original ending (missing from Q1) by supplying what were Shakespeare's
original lines or by supplying what they thought was an approximation of
Shakespeare's lines or by supplying what were lines added in performance
and written by someone else, possibly with Shakespeare's knowledge.  I'm
not saying that the rewritten line and added lines of Q2 were
necessarily written by Shakespeare.  I am saying that they were an
effort to restored rather than simply tacked on.

4. Finally, Heminge and Condell accepted the Q2 ending.  Perhaps they
were lazy, indifferent, or incompetent editors in this instance. Perhaps
not. Perhaps they thought the Q2 ending the better ending.

If there are "facts" of which I am ignorant that invalidate my
restoration theory, let me just say "never mind" in advance.

Best,
Richard

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