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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: King John, Titus, Peele
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1013  Friday, 23 May 2003

[1]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 May 2003 13:58:30 +0000
        Subj:   Peeling away

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 May 2003 11:01:00 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 2

[3]     From:   Holger Schott <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 May 2003 12:39:33 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 1

[4]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Thursday, 22 May 2003 18:06:26 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 1


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 May 2003 13:58:30 +0000
Subject:        Peeling away

I have no wish to entice the discharge of any foul bombard's liquor upon
my head by interfering in the hail of post betwixt entrenched parties,
but can I assume that Jim Carroll's last paragraph in his 14.1003 of 22
May should be read with all the usual caveats applied - which appear to
be missing - to what otherwise may seem absolutes/
verities/certainties/only options where I have marked thus: [XXX]. My
feeling is that they should perhaps have a health warning in some cases,
more substantial support in others and a wider explanation in the
remainder. Possibly he felt his post was too long to merit such
expansion. My position on the general topic remains a secret and
therefore should not be conjectured from the foregoing.

"Shakespeare's [XXX] stage directions are usually pretty simple,[XXX]
and the stage directions written into his [XXX] portion of Sir Thomas
More merely say "Enter" followed by a name or names. Is it possible that
the stage directions in some plays were added by a prompter [XXX] or
some other person associated with the actual performance of the play?
The Riverside Edition [XXX] comes to the opposite conclusion in the
textual notes, that the confusions of the stage directions and
speech-prefixes are indicative of the author's "foul papers".[XXX] It
seems to me that given the frequency [XXX] of the "as [ ] as may/can be"
construction in Shakespeare, it's just as likely that Peele got it from
him."

Yours,
Graham Hall

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 May 2003 11:01:00 -0300
Subject: 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 2
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 2

I appreciate Ward Elliott's statistics behind possible Shakespeare
co-authorship.

I'm wondering, though, whether the tests were derived by statistical
analysis of "the 32 plays in our core-Shakespeare baseline" in which
case, one would expect them all to pass.  I gave an example a few days
ago about how the algorithms in stock-picking software are usually
derived from historical data, which means that testing them against the
same data always leads to circularity.  It is when faced by new data
that the algorithm fails, which is why no computer model can beat the
market.  If the tests for Shakespeare authorship are derived from the 32
plays you mention, then used against those same 32 plays, then all which
has been proven is that the 32 plays resemble themselves and that other
plays don't resemble them as much.  All that's really been shown is that
some Shakespeare plays are different from others, which is not very
surprising.

Allow me to indulge in another analogy.  Between 1952 and 2002, the
Canadian Olympic men's hockey team didn't win a single gold medal.  If
we turned losing into a test of whether the players were really Canadian
(since, statistically, Canadians always lose in Olympic hockey, based on
the data set in our core baseline of championship games between 1952 and
2002), we would be forced to conclude that the winning team in 2002 must
have been recent immigrants or carrying fake passports or something.
Statistically, they would most resemble team USSR.

This isn't to say that statistical analysis isn't useful, but it has to
face up to and somehow defeat the problem of circularity.

Keep your stick on the ice,
Sean.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Holger Schott <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 May 2003 12:39:33 -0400
Subject: 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 1
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 1

This is getting rather enjoyably polemical...

What the debate seems to boil down to is a difference in approach to
what we, as literary scholars, _do_. Vickers and his supporters seem to
argue for a quasi-scientific approach, and believe that they can
determine the truth about authorship through a rigorous analysis of
texts. Jim Carroll and his supporters take a more impressionistic
approach (note his emphasis on his "sense" that _Titus_ is wholly
Shakespearean, and his insistence on his "belief" [which, I should say,
I find a more honest word to use in this context than "knowledge" or
"certainty"...]), and remain unconvinced by the sort of evidence Vickers
et al. marshal (although Carroll also deals some pretty crippling blows
to that evidence!).

As is evident from Carroll's second post, on repetition in _R3_, he is
far more interested in persuasive and/or powerful interpretations than
in attribution. His quick sketch of a reading of the repetitions in Act
1 of _Titus_ is based on the assumption that the scene is by
Shakespeare, and that the repetitions serve a dramatic function -- for
him, the text constitutes a completely different kind of evidence than
for Vickers, and his interpretation (which makes sense to me) relies, at
least to an extent, on the absence of other models of explanation, like
that offered by the disintegrationalists. (Although one could presumably
argue that Peele uses repetition to a dramatic end, not because he is
subject to a deplorable case of repetition compulsion.)

I imagine that from Jim Carroll's perspective, attribution studies
threaten to rob these scenes of their literary interest: if
irregularities or unusual features of a text can be explained away as
the traces of another author's hand, powerful interpretations that
integrate such features persuasively into a reading of the whole play
become more difficult to pursue -- or, at the very least, become subject
to attacks from the "scientific" camp, who would argue that all these
fancy readings are very sweet, but really quite unnecessarily clever,
since the "real" answer lies in the collaborative authorship of the
play.

Thus far, I would side with the Carrolls. Aside from personal vendettas,
however (and it seems clear that the main combatants in this debate all
have chips of various sizes on their shoulders), I'm not entirely sure
why the stakes of this discussion seem so high. As I suggested above,
the repetitions in _Titus_ could both be read as evidence for Peele's
authorship and as a dramatically effective and meaningful device -- the
two arguments are not necessarily mutually exclusive. More importantly,
I do take issue with Jim Carroll's "argument" that he "can see, just by
reading the play, that a different writer is at work in the first two
acts of Pericles. I can't tell who the first writer is, but I can see
that it's not Shakespeare, and that the writer of the last three acts
does appear to be Shakespeare..." Presumably his sense of what
"Shakespeare" sounds like is based on many years of studying the plays
-- i.e., he recognizes the Shakespeare-effect.  That, however, strikes
me as circular: one knows what Shakespeare wrote because one has read
Shakespeare and recognizes his style. To require a jolt of strangeness
for collaboration to become a notion worth entertaining seems odd: for
one thing, "strangeness" has many possible explanations ("I there's the
point" anyone?); for another, it's a very narrow view of collaboration.
I can tell, I think, Jonson from Shakespeare; but can I tell Jonson from
Chapman, Chapman from Marston, in _Eastward Ho_? Not really (although
that might be my lack of skill). We know that collaboration was a
standard practice in early modern playwriting (see Roslyn Knutson's
recent book for ample confirmation). Why, then, is it so hard to accept
that Shakespeare might / would have worked with others, too? If
co-authorship had regularly produced texts that were radically uneven,
jumping stylistically from scene to scene, the practice would clearly
not have been as wide-spread and successful as it was. We might think of
Shakespeare as a particularly strong collaborator, more skillful than
others at integrating the contributions of others into his work. That,
then, we might think of as the Shakespeare-effect. But why do we have to
insist on single authorship in all cases except those were a second hand
_must_ be assumed (i.e., cases where the text is too bad to be
Shakespearean?). I'm not sure how much water arguments based on Condell
and Heminge's "special relationship" with the author really hold, nor do
I fully understand what "editing" in the context of the 1623 folio means
(it's evident what it would mean in the case of Jonson's 1616 _Workes_
-- F1 seems to me not a particularly closely, let alone uniformly,
edited text).

Finally, Carroll casually puts on his attribution studies hat at the end
of his post: "Shakespeare's stage directions are usually pretty simple,
and the stage directions written into his portion of Sir Thomas More
merely say 'Enter' followed by a name or names." "His" portion? And how
do we know that? Because it "sounds" like Shakespeare? (I agree that
there is a Shakespearean whiff when Hand D enters, but I'd be very
hesitant to use that as firm evidence -- and I'd certainly be wary to
then build a secondary argument on that unsubstantiated assumption!)

I find Brian Vickers' tone overbearing and disrespectful of other
approaches, and I believe that interesting, powerful, and persuasive
interpretations are ultimately more worthwhile (both to write and to
read) than studies that strive to achieve a quasi-scientific certainty
that strikes me as very alien to our field. At the same time, I can't
quite accept Jim Carroll's similar claims for certainty, based on his
ability to intuit authorship -- although I do suspect that his absolute
statements are perhaps merely a reaction to Vickers' similarly phrased
pronouncements.

Holger Schott

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Thursday, 22 May 2003 18:06:26 EDT
Subject: 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 1
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1003 Re: King John, Titus, Peele 1

Phew! As I said before, we may be at a dead end here, or at least in
"agree to disagree" territory. These aren't smoking-gun/videotape
questions, but rather weight-of-evidence questions. Weighing evidence
depends on human perceptions and opinions. Of course many a genuine
criminal has gone free because there was that bit of "reasonable doubt".
And because the argument can't be clinched doesn't mean the premise
isn't true.

Let's pretend for a moment that Brian Vickers' Shakespeare Co-Author had
never been written. [Sorry, Brian!]  I welcomed it because I had long
felt that much good attribution work had been neglected and disrespected
by too many, and that the subject was in need of a fierce champion who
would make the case forcefully. But much of the evidence and many of the
arguments were already out there. Brian Vickers gathered and redeployed
it [while adding some of his own] but if his sometimes no-holds-barred
approach turns you off, don't take it out on the evidence. Go to Cyrus
Hoy's "Fletcher and his Collaborators" in SB; MacDonald P. Jackson's
Studies in Attribution:
Middleton and Shakespeare and David J. Lakes's The Canon of Thomas
Middleton's Plays.  These... well... calmer works are masterpieces of
good attributionism. But even these have had some of their conclusions
questioned, refined or overturned. It's a groping towards the truth, a
process [as is proper], a never-ending voyage of discovery etc etc [cue
music]...   Sean Lawrence deplores the "dogmas" of the pro-attribution
party, wishing that their theses be advanced more modestly, written in
the conditional. I don't disagree, and most of the good attribution
arguments I am familiar with tend to do this. Speaking only for myself,
the bickering here seems to me to derive from the SEEMING attitude of
some that they "just can't believe" or "that kind of evidence is no
good".  We say "here's the evidence!" and they say "that's not
evidence!"  Brian Vickers tends to states his case very emphatically. I
think the attributionist cabal may have hired him as a hit man because
their work didn't get no respect. But seriously folks...

I myself find the arguments of Vickers and his predecessors generally
convincing. It's the overall weight of the arguments that does it for
me.  Because individual points can be [perhaps justly] called in
question does not mean the conclusions are wrong. H. Dugdale Sykes took
much flak from M.  St. Claire Byrne, G. E. Bentley and others for his
slipshod methodology but it has turned out he was often correct [e.g. on
Ford in Spanish Gipsy]. He DID see something-- he just didn't always
make his arguments well. But he also saw Massinger in Two Noble Kinsmen
and Henry VIII and time has not been kind to these impressions of his...

Impressions! The very word is like a bell to toll me back to Jim
Carroll!  He "can see just by reading the play that a different writer
is at work in the first two acts of Pericles."  And "the first act of
Titus seems to be entirely from Shakespeare's mind when I read it."  And
"...Acts 1 and 2 of Pericles don't seem to be very much like
Shakespeare, while Act 1 of Titus seems to be very much like
Shakespeare".  I sympathize and partly agree. I place a fair amount
faith in my own impressions. My impressions tell me that the Countess
scenes in Edward III are by Shakespeare in spite of Ward Elliott's
linguistic evidence that they're not, and told me that Elegy by WS was
not in spite of what seemed to be a lot of linguistic evidence that it
was.  But if someone wants to disagree with me all they have to do is
say that it seems the other way round to them and then where are we?  My
impression is that William Haughton is one of the authors of the
pseudo-Shakespearean Merry Devil of Edmonton [you heard it here first
folks!] but it's going to take more than my gut feeling to convince
anyone.  "Intuitions, convictions, and subjective judgments generally,
carry no weight as evidence." - S. Schoenbaum, Internal Evidence, p
187.   During the 18th and 19th century Titus Andronicus SEEMED to most
critics and scholars to contain no Shakespeare at all!  Pericles SEEMS
to the recent Arden editors to be all by Shakespeare. [And this is what
the external evidence of the t.p. says as well.]  Though he didn't
directly answer the question, I get the impression that Jim Carroll does
not accept the presence of Middleton in Timon or Fletcher in Henry VIII,
and his reason is it seems to him that Heminges and Cundale would not
have bothered to include them if they didn't know then to be 100%
Shakespeare?  Maybe it only seemed to H&C that they were pure
Shakespeare...

Graham Hall and others are correct that the sample size and its margin
of error, and the very nature of these arguments and evidence admit of
no certainty. So does that mean that we should not ask the questions and
make the arguments?  The external evidence of title pages and prefatory
matter is of paramount importance and can't be neglected. But it is not
infallible. The Honest Whore Pt 1 was printed as by Thomas Dekker, but
we know from Henslowe's Diary that it was written by Dekker AND Thomas
Middleton. Sir Henry Herbert recorded in his office-book a license for
The Late Murther of the Son upon the Mother, or Keep the Widow Waking
"by Mr.  Forde [&] Webster", but we know from the lawsuit over the play
that it was written by Ford and Webster AND Dekker AND Wm Rowley
[Sisson, Lost Plays].

I don't think Hemming and Cundall felt the same way about the contents
of the Folio that Jim Carroll does. I think there are parts of some
plays in it that don't seem very much like Shakespeare to me. I have
read studies suggesting alternate authors for these parts and found them
more convincing than not. Some others are not convinced. I am prepared
to be unconvinced by arguments to the contrary, but none of the contrary
arguments I've seen do I find convincing. When you're done reading
Grebanier, read Lake's Canon of Thomas Middleton's plays.

A few quibbles and other comments...

- Of the 11 authors Brian Vickers lists as being involved in the
Beaumont and Fletcher Folio of 1647, Shakespeare does not belong. He did
collaborate with Fletcher on [at least] Two Noble Kinsmen but that play
was not in F1647 [nor was H8 or Cardenio]. However, Cyril Tourneur, not
listed, does belong on the list as he almost certainly [note the almost]
wrote the 1st act [what is it with 1st acts?] of the Honest Man's
Fortune which IS in F1647-- just ask MacDonald Jackson.

- Marlowe's reviser in Jew of Malta is more likely to be Thomas Dekker
than Thomas Heywood, in spite of the fact that Heywood wrote the
prologue and epilogue and brought it to press. See the article in [I
think] Notes & Queries by David Lake [sorry I don't have the exact ref.]

- Most writers are right sometimes and wrong others. This goes for
Malone, Fleay, Sykes, Chambers, Bentley, Schoenbaum, Metz, Bate,
Vickers, you, me, ad inf.. Oliphant's The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher
was unfairly dismissed by Bentley and others and is defended by Brian
Vickers [and Hrothgar de Paris] but it contains its share of
insupportable eccentricities. For example, Oliphant quotes somewhere
between neutrally and approvingly j. M. Robertson's and William Wells
theories on the genesis of "Shakespeare's" Julius Caesar. Wells, you
will recall was perceptive enough [it seems to me, I believe] the hand
of Thomas Middleton in Timon of Athens, and Robertson was among the
early partisans of Peele in Titus. Robertson thinks [deep breath] that
Julius Caesar was originated, apparently by Marlowe, before 1590 and  in
1595 or soon after a revision was made in which apparently Drayton as
well as Chapman shared and that at that point the play ended with the
present 3rd act which had been the 5th act of the original, and that a
sequel was then written which Shakespeare [who had been concerned in the
earlier revision] revised in or before 1607 and that afterwards the two
plays were compressed into one by Jonson. Wells has it begun by Marlowe
in 1589, a revision begun by Shakespeare in 1609 but not finished, and
then Beaumont was called in, given a copy of North's Plutarch plus
Marlowe's play and Shakespeare's fragment and the result is the play we
have in F1. My impression is that Caesar was killed not by Brutus et al,
but by another assassin sent by the great grandson of Jugurtha who hid
behind the grassy knoll and shot a poisoned blowdart under the arms of
the conspirators and into Caesar's heart. And I can show you the
cryptogram that proves it...    That Oliphant took this stuff seriously
is not to his credit, but it doesn't mean that that all he wrote is to
be dismissed, Each thesis or argument must be evaluated on its own
merits.

- I am not wedded to the strict COLLABORATOR view of the multi-author
Shakespeare plays. Clearly [all right, it's seems] Fletcher and
Shakespeare Collaborated on 3 plays. I'm willing to concede the
possibility the others in question are collaborations, but I also think
it's quite possible that in Titus and Pericles that Shakespeare was
completing a play that had been abandoned by the other writer, and that
in Timon which does seem unfinished it's not very clear what went on.
In 1 Henry VI [which by the way is not handled in Vickers' book] I think
it was originally written by Nashe and others for the Rose in
COMPETITION to WS's two-part Contention plays, that Heminge et al
brought it with them when the ex-Strange's contingent joined the
Chamberlains and that Shakespeare THEN revised it to serve as a prequel
to his other Henry VI plays. Just my impression...

Regards,
Bill Lloyd

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