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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0592  Wednesday, 30 March 2005

[1]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Mar 2005 20:08:27 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0580 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor

[2]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Mar 2005 23:19:00 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0559 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Mar 2005 20:08:27 +0100
Subject: 16.0580 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0580 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor

Bill Godshalk wrote [regarding "The Winter's Tale"]:

 > If all the individual rolls/roles were available to the company,
 > wouldn't they be able to put on the show without the "allowed book"?
 > The signature of the Master of the Revels or his underling would --
 > wouldn't it? -- be a formality that might be waived, especially if
 > the Master had a record of the allowance.

That isn't the point at issue.  We have two facts, and I am attempting
to apply Occam's Razor to explanations for them:

1) In (we believe) December 1622 (or shortly thereafter) the First Folio
text of "The Winter's Tale" was set from what we believe to be a
transcript by Ralph Crane of what, for the sake of argument, we may
refer to as Shakespeare's 'Foul Papers' of the play.

2) In August 1623, the "allowed book" for this play "was missing".  It
is (reasonably) assumed that this "allowed book" (the playbook) was the
'Fair Copy' made by Shakespeare (or someone else) in late 1610 or 1611.

Now, it seems to me (as to others before me) that there are two likely
explanations which fit these two facts:

a) That, at some date, the transcript by Ralph Crane had replaced the
1611 'Fair Copy' as the allowed book, but that it was missing in August
1623 because it was either still with the printer, or had been mislaid
by him.

b) That Ralph Crane had had to make a fresh transcript (in playbook
form) from the 'Foul Papers' precisely because the playbook (the
"allowed book") was missing (for reasons which we might debate further)
and not available for even the King's Men's scrivener to transcribe, and
that it was thus his transcript (being the property of the King's Men,
having been transcribed by their scrivener) which formed the basis of
the performances in August 1623 and subsequently.  I would suggest that
this is the simpler explanation, and that it has implications for other
Folio texts.

(There are those who believe that Ralph Crane made *two* copies: one as
the playbook, and one as printer's copy - but I don't believe in
multiplying entities beyond necessity!)

John Briggs

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Mar 2005 23:19:00 +0100
Subject: 16.0559 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0559 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor

I am interested to hear of John Briggs's theory that Ralph Crane's role
was 'to make new playbooks'.  Given that what we know of Crane's scribal
habits is mostly based on transcriptions for reading - evidence that
could hardly be used to support any theory about theatrical practices -
I presume that he is basing his argument on Crane's work on the playbook
of Sir John van Olden Barnavelt, first performed by the King's Men in
August 1619.  But how does this lead to the idea that Crane was involved
in 'a general programme of updating playbooks'?  Surely Crane's
so-called 'massed entries' cannot be evidence of theatrical practices,
but are rather more symptomatic of his having picked up some of Jonson's
literary habits (together with his distinctive elisions).

In 2002, James Hirsch ('Act Divisions in the Shakespeare First Folio' -
Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America) argued that whatever
act divisions exist in the First Folio are there because they had become
an attribute of play texts produced for literary consumption and that it
therefore became necessary to impose arbitrary act divisions (based on
quantity of text rather than on dramatic structure) on plays that had
been written and performed without any prior requirement for this.
Hirsch argues that Crane's editorial influence in the First Folio
extends far beyond what has conventionally been held - but this
influence could be perceived as malign, in that the arbitrary division
of the text has created confusion and misunderstanding concerning the
original dramatic structure of the many of the plays.

Is there any evidence to bear out John Briggs's assertion that 'Crane's
transcripts are the core of the First Folio'?  Other than Honigmann's
work to establish Othello as one of Crane's transcriptions, no other
plays have convincingly been added to Trevor Howard-Hill's original list
of five comedies (The Tempest, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merry Wives
of Windsor, Measure for Measure and The Winter's Tale), though attempts
have been made on Cymbeline, Twelfth Night and 2 Henry IV.

It seems to me that Crane might well have been responsible for carving
up some of the texts in preparation for publication (is that what
editors do?), but this does prove transcription, and nor does it suggest
he played a significant role in the playhouse.

Kathy Dent

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