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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: December ::
Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2293  Friday, 5 December 2003

[1]     From:   Gordon Jones <
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        Date:   Thursday, 4 Dec 2003 10:59:53 -0330 (NST)
        Subj:   Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 04 Dec 2003 13:23:19 -0500
        Subj:   Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

[3]     From:   Mac Jackson <
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        Date:   Friday, 5 Dec 2003 14:50:35 +1300
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

[4]     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 04 Dec 2003 21:02:07 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

[5]     From:   Daniel H Spector <
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        Date:   Thursday, 04 Dec 2003 22:34:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gordon Jones <
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Date:           Thursday, 4 Dec 2003 10:59:53 -0330 (NST)
Subject:        Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

An important new book for anyone working in Shakespeare and
Elizabethan/Jacobean drama - Lukas Erne, Shakespeare as Literary
Dramatist (CUP, 2003). In essence, he argues that short Q texts are
theatrical versions, while F long texts (except Errors and Macbeth) are
literary texts, never performed (or performable) in full, deliberately
composed as reading texts.  Shakespeare (and others, especially Jonson)
were writing for both page and stage. Erne also proposes that
Shakespeare was not indifferent to publication of his plays.

Q publication is taken to be authorised and part of marketing strategy.
No memorial reconstruction or reported texts.  No stolen and
surreptitious copies, except for the 1619 Pavier Quartos.  Oxford
editors Wells and Taylor mistaken in their editorial premises in re
performance texts.

"... many of Shakespeare's [and others'] plays existed in two
significantly different forms ... On the one hand, Shakespeare produced
'authorial manuscripts,' instances of what Webster called the 'poem' and
what some title pages refer to as 'the true original copy.' On the other
hand, there were manuscripts that had undergone the company's
preparation for actual performance, what Webster calls 'the play,' or,
in other words, the text 'as it has been sundry times performed.'
Whereas texts in the former category were of a length which the actors
found impossible to reconcile with the requirements of performance, the
latter had been reduced to what was compatible with the 'two hours'
traffic of our stage.' Contrary to the theatrical scripts, the raison
d'etre of the long 'poems'. was basically literary." (Erne, 192)

The argument entails revision of the standard assumption that playtexts
were universally regarded (pace Thomas Bodley) as sub-literary.

An interesting corollary of the argument is that some of Shakespeare's
plays may have circulated in manuscript prior to printing.

We may have to revise some of our lecture notes.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 04 Dec 2003 13:23:19 -0500
Subject:        Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

Seb Perry writes:

>I was wondering whether any members of the list have read Lukas Erne's
>very recent publication, _Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist_ (Cambridge,
>2003), and what their reaction to it is. I've not seen very much coverage
>of it so far, other than a review in the TLS, but it seems to me that if
>Erne's claims are correct - e.g. that the King's Men had a coherent
>strategy for putting Shakespeare's plays into print, and that Sh. wrote his
>longer plays with a reading public very much in mind - then the
>implications for scholarship are mind-boggling. Does anyone have any
>thoughts on this?

I have Erne's book on order. So I don't know his arguments, but in the
past I've made the point over this list that a culture of books/reading
had been brewing for nearly a hundred years in England when Shakespeare
started to write his plays.

Further, if Ben Jonson thought of his plays as "Works," there's no
reason to suppose that Shakespeare could not have thought in the same
way. The fact that he seems not to have been directly involved in
publishing the First Folio does not mean that he was not indirectly
involved. We simply don't know enough about what happened to make a
judgment. Somebody revised _King Lear_ for some reason -- that's for
sure.

One great drawback of too many performance critics is their steadfast
refusal to consider Shakespeare's subtlety.  If I were to point to the
central weakness of performance critics, it's that too many of them
skate on the surface of the plays.

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mac Jackson <
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Date:           Friday, 5 Dec 2003 14:50:35 +1300
Subject: 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

I have just finished reading Lukas Erne's _Shakespeare as Literary
Dramatist_ and agree with Seb Perry that it is among the most
significant works of Shakespearean scholarship in recent years. I think
it will take everybody a while to evaluate Erne's arguments, but if they
are judged persuasive, the book must have a profound effect on
Shakespearean textual study and on the editing of Shakespeare's plays.

Mac Jackson
University of Auckland

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Thursday, 04 Dec 2003 21:02:07 -0600
Subject: 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

Seb Perry wrote:

>I was wondering whether any members of the list have read Lukas Erne's
>very recent publication, _Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist_ (Cambridge,
>2003), and what their reaction to it is. I've not seen very much
>coverage of it so far, other than a review in the TLS, but it seems to
>me that if Erne's claims are correct - e.g. that the King's Men had a
>coherent strategy for putting Shakespeare's plays into print, and that
>Sh. wrote his longer plays with a reading public very much in mind -
>then the implications for scholarship are mind-boggling. Does anyone
>have any thoughts on this?

I don't know that I would use the word "mind-boggling", but I think Erne
makes some good arguments on some significant issues.  He does a good
job of challenging a couple of ideas that have become almost axiomatic
in recent years:  1) that playing companies were uniformly opposed to
having their plays appear in print, and did whatever they could to
prevent it; and 2) that plays were written only to be performed, and
that playwrights (in particular Shakespeare) paid little or no attention
to how they were printed. Both of these have been challenged recently
(notably by Peter Blayney and Richard Dutton respectively), but Erne
brings together a lot of evidence and arguments in one place.  For
example, I liked his discussion of the publication patterns of Moliere's
plays, which shows that the acting company generally had those plays
printed not long after their debuts, while they were still being
performed, and that publication did not hurt attendance and may have
helped it.  Some of Erne's arguments are stronger than others, but in
general I think he does a welcome service to scholarship by questioning
some common assumptions and making people think about things in
different ways.

Dave Kathman

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[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel H Spector <
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Date:           Thursday, 04 Dec 2003 22:34:39 -0500
Subject: 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.22878 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

I've browsed through Erne's book, but haven't read it cover to cover.
Richard Dutton wrote an essay called "The Birth of the Author" on the
same topic. It's in a book called _Texts and Cultural Change in Early
Modern England_, ed. by Cedric C. Brown and Arthur F. Marotti. I just
picked this book up for some research. The implications these men make
are indeed provocative. But as a performance scholar who regularly works
with actors on these texts, I must say that each play, regardless for
whom it was written, is eminently "actable" and stageworthy. While both
Erne and Dutton make interesting cases, if highly circumstantial, I am
left with a typical problem (re: provocative studies): I feel that
neither Erne nor Dutton really satisfies the theoretical or practical
implications of their work.

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