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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
Renaming Shakespeare's Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1941  Monday, 6 October 2003

[1]     From:   Brad Berens <
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        Date:   Friday, 03 Oct 2003 06:52:37 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1935 Renaming Shakespeare's Plays

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Oct 2003 16:04:10 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1926 Renaming Shakespeare's Plays

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 Oct 2003 11:59:51 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 14.1935 Renaming Shakespeare's Plays


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brad Berens <
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Date:           Friday, 03 Oct 2003 06:52:37 -0700
Subject: 14.1935 Renaming Shakespeare's Plays
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1935 Renaming Shakespeare's Plays

Hi everybody,

I had the great privilege to hold and peruse King Charles I's copy of F2
(the second folio) some years back, when it was in its usual home in the
Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

The handwriting is very continental and instantly legible.  Bridget
Wright (one of the talented and generous Royal librarians) wondered if
Charles's descent from the Scottish side might not have something to do
with this; and brought up the interesting question, "who was Charles's
tutor?"  His hand is nothing like Elizabethan secretary.

Here are the annotated titles:

Next to: Much Ado About Nothing he writes "Bennedik & Betrice"

Next to: Midsummer Night's Dream he writes "Piramus & Thisby"

Next to: As You Like It he writes "Rosalinde"   [Note: with the long s]

Next to: All's Well That Ends Well he writes "Mn. Paroles"

Next to Twelfh Night he writes "Maluolio"

In no case are these necessarily titles: they may merely be the writer's
record of which characters he liked the best.  A further annotation that
slightly supports this caveat is that on the page called "The Names of
the Principall Actors in all these Playes" next to "Joseph Taylor" is
written "acted the part of Hamlet," which (optimistically) also suggests
that the writer might have seen Taylor perform.  Andy Gurr might have
something to say about that.

There are other annotations, page numbers that make reference easier,
and copy-editing corrections throughout the volume, all in what looks to
be the same writer's hand.  For example: on page 262, Twelft Night
(Norton 2.4.72), in the second column, the writer corrects a misprint:

"Clo. Duk. No the melancholly..."

With the "Clo." in cursive next to the strike.

I'm saying "the writer" because it is not at all clear that the person
who made the annotations was necessarily King Charles I.  What follows
my signature is an excerpt from an interesting lecture on this very
subject by T. A. Birrell that the Royal Library later published as a
pamphlet.

I hope this proves helpful.

        Sincerely,
        Brad
______________________________
From: T. A. Birrell

English monarches and their books: from Henry VII to Charles II.  The
British Library.  The Panizzi Lectures.  1986.

It is now the appropriate moment to discuss Charles I's copy of the
Second Folio of Shakespeare, 1632, in the Royal Library at Windsor
Castle.  It is a book more often talked about than seen.  In the Table
of Contents, against Much Ado about Nothing, Charles has written
'Benedick and Beatrice'; against As You Like It, 'Rosalind'; against
Midsummer Night's Dream, 'Pyramus and Thisbe'; and against Twelfth
Night, 'Malvolio'.  It has often been suggested that Charles had simply
jotted down the names of his favourite characters in the play, or the
names of what he considered to be the principal characters.  But from
what we now know of his manuscript additions to other volumes, we can
see that he was doing something quite different.  He was correcting and
improving Shakespeare.  Instead of Shakespeare's fanciful airy-fairy
titles like Much Ado about Nothing, and so on, Charles had substituted
sensible and practical ones.  'Malvolio' for Twelfth Night clearly
reveals Charles's focus of moral interest.

What is the history of Charles I's copy of Shakespeare's Second Folio?
In a sense, every book belong to Charles I is not just a book, it is a
relic of a martyr, and so there are many books around with bogus claims
to Charles's ownership.  But this volume is quite authentic, the
handwriting is perfectly genuine, there is no problem on that score.  It
belonged to Sir Thomas Herbert, and then via Dr. Richard Mead and Antony
Askew, to George Steevens the Shakespeare scholar.  It was acquired by
King George III at the Steevens sale on 13 May 1800.  A previous owner
had confused Sir Thomas Herbert with Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the
Revels, and George III has corrected the error in his own hand

 

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