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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: King John Date
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0580  Monday, 24 March 2003

From:           Roger Parisious <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 12:42:46 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.0569 Re: King John Date
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0569 Re: King John Date

>Roger Parisious wrote:
>
>>And, by the way, the possibility was  raised with
>care, but not argued,
>>in my last communication that "King John" dates
>pretty much as we have
>>it from around l587. If so, Shakespeare was
>technically well in control
>>of himself six years before he published "Venus and
>Adonis".
>
>John Briggs writes:
>
>>I should point out that such an early date for
>"King John" is not
>>accepted these days.  The general consensus seems
>to be c.1595, even if
>>the date has been plucked out of thin air!  In any
>case, the copy for
>>the Folio text seems to be a transcript and may be
>a late theatrical
>>one.
>
>While I would say that 1587 is too early for King
>John because there are
>so many other plays that Shakespeare has to have
>written before he
>tackled it, there is certainly no consensus that
>c.1595 is the answer.
>That's the date suggested in Braunmuller's Oxford
>edition. I've argued
>(in 'The case for the earlier canon' in
>Shakespearean Continuities:
>Essays in Honour of E.A.J. Honigmann, John
>Batchelor, Tom Cain, Claire
>Lamont (eds.) London and New York: Macmillan, 1997)
>that the play
>probably dates from c. 1590 as does Lester Beaurline
>in his Cambridge
>edition (1990).
>
>It is inconceivable that the author of Troublesome
>Reign (published
>1591) could have invented the character of the
>Bastard unaided by
>previous example. That author doesn't understand the
>dramaturgical
>reasons for creating such an a-historical character.
>He and his printer
>do know, however, that the character is essential
>for marketing
>purposes. Audiences are not going to be flocking to
>see TR's Bastard. If
>the character is marketable he is so only in
>Shakespeare's version.
>Shakespeare's version therefore has to be on the
>stage before TR is
>published.
>
>Ros

I appreciate Mr. King's argument and look forward to reading his essay.

However, his further comments bring us back to J.M.Robertson's position
to which I alluded on the Titus thread. Robertson and Mrs Eva Turner
Clark (following Robertson) are almost unique in the 20th century in
pointing out that the successive run of MND, King John, I Henry IV, and
the first two Acts of Henry IV Part II contain the lowest percentage of
double endings in the Canon. The four plays start at something over five
per cent for A Dream and are around nine per cent for the opening acts
of Henry IV, Part II. At this point they suddenly zoom up to most of
twenty per cent and never come down again for the rest of the poet's
career.

From Robertson's point of view, the answer was simple. He took the
dedication to Venus and Adonis literally as "the first heir of my
invention", put the Dream in l594 and proceed with one virtually unique
work a year until Shakespeare belatedly adopts the double ending while
revising Henry IV, Part II, about the time of the Cobham scandal. This
meant that the use of the double ending in English dramatic verse was
virtually  created by Marlowe and Greene in their later works and that
most of the earliest Shakespeare work is low double ending work
inserted at the request of his management over unfinished or
superannuated material by the last named gentlemen, Kyd and Peele.

Clark(l931) was the first critic to realize that one could avoid
Robertson's inevitable and disconcerting conclusion by the simple
expedient of moving the low double endings sequence en bloc  back to the
second half of the l580's.Unfortunately she could not synthesize this
eminently sensible perception of the metre problem with the rest of her
chronology,which was in no way based on metrical considerations.

As Nashe refers to an Oldcastle play which sounds suspiciously like the
one we know in l593,it could be then argued that the raise of the double
ending rate dates from a revision four to six years after the original
composition(1588-l589) but nearly simultaneous with Lucrece.

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