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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0603  Thursday, 31 March 2005

From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Thursday, 31 Mar 2005 01:10:53 +0100
Subject: 16.0592 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0592 Ralph Crane: Accidental Editor

To attempt to answer some of the points raised by Kathy Dent:

1.  What I am doing is trying to answer the question "What was Ralph
Crane doing, and what did he think he was doing?"  Mainly because nobody
else seems to be answering it!

2.  Because we know so little about "theatrical manuscripts", I am not
making any assumptions that all "literary manuscripts" are anything of
the sort.  After all, printed plays are all in some sense "literary"
productions, but we seem happy to accept that some, at least, of them
accurately represent the theatrical texts.  (I am conscious that I am
rather unwarily introducing the problematic terms "foul papers", "fair
copy" and "King's Men's archive": ideas which Paul Werstine has shown
Sir Walter Greg - probably the first to have attempted to divide the
"literary" from the "theatrical" - to have conjured more or less out of
thin air, but we can perhaps return to reconsider those.)

3.  As we don't know why Ralph Crane employed his notorious "massed
entries", we cannot say that they are a "literary" device.  Expurgation
is also a characteristic of Crane's texts, and that certainly isn't a
"literary" one - nor likely to have been picked up from Ben Jonson!

4.  I haven't read James Hirsch's paper, but I would suggest that he is
arguing exactly the wrong way around.  Why should act divisions have
become an attribute of texts produced for literary consumption?  None
(or almost none!) of the quarto texts have act divisions, and they are
surely just as literary as the First Folio!  If act divisions became
more fashionable after c.1610, it was surely for theatrical reasons.
That act divisions (but what about scene divisions?) were imposed on
some First Folio texts, or some First Folio plays (not the same thing),
that didn't originally possess them is undeniable, but the challenge is
to determine which ones, when, and why.

5.  I would agree that Ralph Crane's influence in the First Folio could
well be more extensive than previously thought (that was the whole
thrust of my title) - and I didn't suggest that it was other than
malign, although not necessarily in the way that Hirsch might seem to
suggest.

6.  Crane's transcripts are the core of the First Folio in the sense
that the first four plays are "The Tempest", "Two Gentlemen of Verona",
"The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Measure for Measure" - all from Crane
transcripts.  This suggests to me that the printer would have been
overjoyed if all his copy had been Crane transcripts - as presumably
would the publishers, providing, of course, that someone else was paying
for the transcribing.  It didn't work out like that, of course.  "The
Winter's Tale" completes the comedies, and here Crane may have been late
with his copy.  It follows "Twelfth Night", another transcript.

The histories have a pre-determined sequence, of course.  But the first
five seem to have been expurgated, and four of them are divided into
scenes as well as acts.  "King John" and "Henry IV, Part II" seem to
have been set from transcripts.  Any pattern seems to break down by the
time we get to the tragedies (with four plays without act divisions),
but "Cymbeline" ends the whole sequence.

7.  "Cymbeline" seems to be now generally accepted as a Crane
transcript. "Twelfth Night" and "Henry IV, Part II" are generally
accepted as being transcripts by someone!

8.  As Crane was a scrivener, I would suggest that if he had a greater
role in the preparation of the First Folio, it would involve
transcription.  And expurgation suggests to me a theatrical purpose.

John Briggs

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