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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
The Texts of Othello
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0560  Friday, 25 March 2005

From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Mar 2005 00:52:38 -0000
Subject:        The Texts of Othello

Whilst idly perusing the blurb for the forthcoming Oxford Shakespeare
edition of "Othello", I noticed the following passage: "Michael Neill
argues however, that, in the case of /Othello/, variation is much less
likely to be the result of changed authorial intentions than of
theatrical cutting and the peculiar circumstances of textual
transmission.  While the Folio is generally the more reliable of the
rival versions, the Quarto's origin in a text that has been modified for
performance text make it indispensable..."

It is always unwise to extrapolate from a blurb (whose author is not
under oath), but this seems to me to accord less with the account of the
text given in the Textual Companion, and to more closely resemble the
version given by Pervez Rizvi some years ago (available in the
"Submitted Papers" section of the SHAKSPER website).

Pervez demonstrated (I almost wrote 'proved conclusively'!) that the
Folio text derived from a transcript of what we are not now allowed to
call Shakespeare's 'foul papers'.  He showed that it was the Quarto text
that was the version revised for the stage.  (Although I would argue
that the fact that the revision consists almost entirely of cutting -
unlike the otherwise comparable cases of Hamlet and King Lear - suggests
that the revision, and possibly the 'fair copy' itself, was by someone
other than Shakespeare.) Earlier scholarship had argued the opposite,
and Honigmann produced an unbelievably convoluted theory of the text -
although he did perform the service of demonstrating (or proving
conclusively) that the transcript behind the Folio text was by Ralph
Crane (which I shall pursue in a separate thread).

John Briggs

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