2004

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2105  Tuesday, 14 December 2004

From:           Kathy Dent <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 13 Dec 2004 21:13:21 +0000
Subject: 15.2089 Macbeth Characters
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2089 Macbeth Characters

John Reed

"Suppose we start with some simplifying assumptions: The F text
accurately reproduces the original script (or whatever term we might
like to use for it): there are no missing pages, everything on the
handwritten pages from the source got printed, and nothing got added
during the chain of transmission (by scribes, compositors, or whoever)."

These are dangerous assumptions, but perhaps most dangerous is the
assumption that speech prefixes were or should have been standardised in
Renaissance play books.  They weren't.  The Folio Macbeth doesn't cause
serious problems, though, because the stage directions are a pretty
reliable guide to who is on stage.  There seem to be 38 speaking parts
in Macbeth (assuming that when 'Lords' speak there are two of them) -
though I am happy to accept that there is a bit of variability in speech
prefixes, such as Lady, Lad or La all standing for Lady Macbeth.  I
can't find any occasion, however, where these minor variations create
any confusion about who is speaking.  The book _Shakespeare's Speech
Headings_ edited by George Walton Williams contains some fascinating
articles in this field of research, though nothing specifically on
Macbeth.  Also of interest is the work of William B Long on manuscript
playbooks: his article '"Precious Few" - English Manuscript Playbooks'
in David Scott Kastan's _A Companion to Shakespeare_ contains an very
revealing description of how the playbooks were constructed, how the
pages were folded and how speech prefixes were written on to the page
(he suggests that the scribe would have written the main body of the
text and then added speech prefixes afterwards, p.416).

Kathy Dent

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