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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Teeth or Arms? A Titus Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0395  Wednesday, 11 February 2004

[1]     From:   James Doyle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Feb 2004 17:03:36 -0000
        Subj:   Teeth or Arms? A Titus Question

[2]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Feb 2004 20:01:55 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0370 Teeth or Arms? A Titus Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Doyle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 10 Feb 2004 17:03:36 -0000
Subject:        Teeth or Arms? A Titus Question

According to Riverside,

Q1 has:
And Lavinia, thou shalt be employed
Bear thou my hand, sweet wench, between thine arms

Folio has:
And Lavinia, thou shalt be employed in these Armes
Beare thou my hand sweet wench betweene thy teeth

My Norton facsimile of the Folio has a slight difference:

And Lavinia thou shalt be employed in these things:
Beare thou my hand sweet wench betweene thy teeth

Quarto scans better, and has slightly less of the grand guignol about it
(whether that's a good thing or not I'm not sure).

James

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Feb 2004 20:01:55 -0000
Subject: 15.0370 Teeth or Arms? A Titus Question
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0370 Teeth or Arms? A Titus Question

 >I have two different versions of Shakespeare (the Oxford and
 >the Modern Library).  In Titus Andronicus, Act III, Scene i,
 >line 280-282, Titus instructs Lavinia to carry off his
 >severed hand.  In the Oxford, he tells her to carry it off
 >between her arms, in the other, he tells her to carry it off
 >in her mouth.
 >
 >But I'm curious as to where the "arms" reading comes from
 >since my version doesn't have a note on this.

The textual problem begins with the previous line.  The Quarto reads:

And Lauinia thou shalt be imployde in these Armes,
Beare thou my hand sweet wench betweene thy teeth.

The first line here does not make sense, and the Folio modifies the
first line to end 'in these things'.

What happens next depends upon editorial hypotheses about how this error
in Q came about, and the editors of the Oxford collected plays (not the
Oxford single-volume text, edited by Eugene Waith) build upon Wright's
suggestion that 'the Author, or some other corrector, to soften what
must have been ludicrous in representation, wrote "Armes" above "teeth"
as a substitute for the latter'. The hypothesis then is that the Folio
editors, believing 'Armes' to be nonsense, as indeed it is, produced
their modification, which itself produces a hypermetric line. Subsequent
editors then further modified the first line to 'shalt be imployed in
this', or, in Riverside, and Oxford , for example, simply to 'employed'.
  (Others have preferred 'employed in this'). The Textual Companion to
Oxford points out that while other editors have been persuaded that
'Armes' appeared by mistake in the first of these lines they have not
accepted the second part of Wright's hypothesis that 'armes' was
intended as a substitute for 'teeth' - and they are the first to do so.

Jonathan Bate (Arden 3) accepts the modification of the first line, but
refuses 'arms' for 'teeth', arguing that 'the emblem of the hand between
the teeth is perfectly appropriate: it accentuates Lavinia's role as the
handmaid of Revenge'.  Waith (Oxford single-volume) comments: 'Condemned
as ludicrous by some critics, this piece of business poses a serious
problem for the director . . . It is undoubtedly authentic, however, and
no more grotesque than Lavinia's writing in the sand'.

It is a fine example of the way in which editorial decisions inevitably
depend upon hypotheses that owe something to the construction of
plausible hypotheses about what, in the original copy, might account for
what is clearly an error, but at the same time derive from extra-textual
assumptions (in this case, what is acceptable as a 'metrical' line, and
what is plausible as dramatic action).  Oxford has the merit of going
the whole way with its assumption about the way 'armes' came to be in
the text .  But even if one accepts that the erasure of 'teeth' and
substitution of 'armes' is what was present in the hypothetical MS from
which Q was set, it doesn't, of course, tell us on what authority that
substitution was made - so it is perfectly logical, as the majority of
editors do, in one way or another, to accept the explanation for error,
but maintain that 'teeth' is the original and preferable reading.
Waith's 'authentic' is a particularly good example of an editorial
coercion - it was certainly *there* in the original copy - but is not
necessarily therefore 'authentic', if it were actually corrected.

And, of course, as with all such editorial decisions, there is no right
answer (or, to allude to another thread, no 'definitive' text).

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