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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
Date of King John
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0235  Friday, 4 February 2005

[1]     From:   Bob Grumman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Feb 2005 10:08:41 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

[2]     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 03 Feb 2005 13:49:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Feb 2005 22:59:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

[4]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Feb 2005 09:13:20 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

[5]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Feb 2005 09:56:28 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0208 Date of King John


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Grumman <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Feb 2005 10:08:41 -0500
Subject: 16.0225 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

Michael Egan writes,

 >Braunmuller (ed.): King John (OUP 1998) notes that F1 'shows
 >comparatively little evidence of theatre use.'

It seems to me that anyone arguing that King John was not performed
would have to say why it wouldn't have been.  The history plays seem to
have been money-makers and this one was complete, and as good as the
tripe it would have been competing with.

--Bob G.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 03 Feb 2005 13:49:45 -0500
Subject: 16.0225 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

I have another question for Michael Egan. Paul Werstine has warned us
against jumping to conclusions about the provenance of printed texts,
especially foul papers. And William Long, summing up his long and
detailed work on early modern playbooks, described what he sees as the
duties of a bookkeeper:  (1) The bookkeeper does not regularize the
playbook. (2) He only addresses specific problems in specific places.
(3) Usually he adds only one word in the margins, e.g., offstage noises.
(4) He rarely writes in entrances, only when they are unusual. (5) In
the margin, he notes upcoming problems. (6) He notes large properties
(e.g., a bed), when not carried on by the players. (7) He marks in the
initials or names of minor actors. Long then gave a list of what we
should not expect: (1) The bookkeeper does not clarify the number of
attendants. (2) He does not list actors' properties in the playbook. (3)
He does not write in directions for getting properties offstage. (4) He
does not write in exits, except in unusual cases. (5) He does not
regularize speech headings.

Given Werstine's warning and Long's description of the duties of a
bookkeeper, can we with confidence say that KJ was not acted before 1623?

And, of course, there's always the possibility that KJ was set from
Shakespeare's foul papers because, for one reason or another,  a fair
copy was not available to the F compositors.

Bill Godshalk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Feb 2005 22:59:34 -0500
Subject: 16.0225 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

The fact that the Folio text of *Jn* was set up from some other source
than a prompt-book does not by itself prove that the play was never
performed, Still, an attractive hypothesis is that Shakespeare drafted
the play for the season of '92-93 (maybe on the basis of a plot of *TR*
either acquired from the Queen's Men or compiled from the recollections
of somebody familiar with that play, since the two works treat similar
events in very different ways), the plan was interrupted by the plague
and the closing of the theaters, and by the time the theaters reopened
he had a new and better history, *R2*, to offer instead.

David Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Feb 2005 09:13:20 EST
Subject: 16.0225 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0225 Date of King John

Unless I am misreading him, Michael Egan seems to be claiming that
because the F1623 text of *King John* shows no marks of being set up
from copy prepared for use in the theatre that therefore it was "never
staged in its author's lifetime". This does not follow-- it only shows
what kind of copy the printers had. It is notoriously difficult to say
with certainty the kind of copy used for most plays, though reasonable
arguments can be made. But, say, a transcript of a transcript of foul
papers might look much like a transcript of a transcript of an allowed
booke, depending on which features the scribes chose to alter or
preserve. There are F1 texts that do not show clear evidence of use in
the theatre for which we have performance records, e.g. *Twelfth Night*
or *Winter's Tale*.

Egan cites Beaurline's and Honigmann's editions on the state of the text
but not on stage history. Beaurline [p.3] points out that although it
had not yet been printed Frances Meres in 1598 mentioned *King John* as
one of Shakespeare's tragedies, and Munday and Chettle allude to it in
*Death of Robert Earl of Huntington*, also 1598; and that in 1669 it was
allotted to the restoration King's company as among plays "formerly
acted at the Blackfriars". Honigmann's Arden II edition [introduction p.
lxxiii] points out apparent references to Shakespeare's play in poems of
1602 and 1610, as well as the Munday/Chettle play. And Eugene Waith's
1989 Oxford edition [pp.79-82] cites four more pre-1616 apparent
references to it, concluding that they "appear to confirm that it was
performed in the 1590s and perhaps in the early seventeenth century."

The mention of *King John* by Meres seems especially telling. He lists a
dozen or so plays, all core Shakespeare 1592-98, including two other
plays (*Errors*, *Two Gentlemen*] that would not see publication until
1623. It can be difficult to identify with certainty an allusion or
borrowing, so it may be possible to challenge one or more of the
literary references. But from the sheer quantity of the evidence it
would appear that *King John* was indeed performed, and that our lack of
any definite records of performances only means that those records have
perished-- as have most theatrical records of the period. The state of
the 1623 text is not a good clue to its stage history.

Bill Lloyd

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Feb 2005 09:56:28 EST
Subject: 16.0208 Date of King John
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0208 Date of King John

Dear Friends,

Thanks to Michael Egan for his take on Eric Sams' N&Q piece.

Has anyone read and assessed Brian Vickers' essay on George Peele,
Troublesome Reign, and King John in Words That Count (Rosemont) 2004,
pp.78-116). I'd be glad to hear any appreciations of this piece.

Thank you.

Steve Sohmer

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