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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
First Folio Function
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0956  Friday, 20 May 2005

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 May 2005 12:14:27 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0944 First Folio Function

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 May 2005 14:35:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0944 First Folio Function

[3]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 May 2005 09:27:55 +1000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0944 First Folio Function


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 May 2005 12:14:27 -0500
Subject: 16.0944 First Folio Function
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0944 First Folio Function

Kim Carrell writes

"Why do modern editions continue to set Mercutio's "Queen Mab" speech as
verse when both the Folio and Q2 show it is prose until the line

"'This is the hag, when Maides lie on their backs'".

One possible reason is that a very large percentage of it scans very
smoothly as iambic pentameter. Of course, not all of it does.

We thus have a conundrum (not to be confused with --never mind), or even
a crux, which allows three possibilities.

1 -- The compositors screwed up and set most of it as prose when it
should all have been set as verse.

2 -- The modern editors are screwing up and that the mixture of prose
and verse, as seen in the early editions, is precisely what WS had in mind.

3 -- Something else that I haven't thought of or worked out yet.

What the scholar would do, if the matter was important, would be to
consult those editors that have discussed the question -- as in the
notes to the more scholarly editions, but also in journal articles.
What have the experts concluded? On what grounds.

Peripherally, it strikes me as the sort of passage -- intense and
image-laden -- that WS, especially in his early days, is mostly like to
have written in verse.

Also peripherally, my experience in performing S has led me to conclude
that a fair number of actors have tin ears when it comes to verse, so
that they either jog along (didah, didah, didah, etc) or they obliterate
it -- a sad loss. This may occur partly as result of the anxiety,
amounting sometimes to terror, that otherwise capable actors sometimes
feel in speaking the words of the Immortal Bard.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 May 2005 14:35:24 -0400
Subject: 16.0944 First Folio Function
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0944 First Folio Function

 >Dramatically it is much more
 >effective and tragic if Mercutio is wounded in the course of his and
 >Tybalt's macho posturing which Romeo breaks up - and Mercutio's "...why
 >the devle came you betweene us? I was hurt under your arme" becomes much
 >more poignant.

I have often seen it played something like this, with the
Mercutio/Tybalt duel more of a gentlemanly match, a la Hamlet/Laertes,
while the Romeo/Tybalt fight is more violent, with death as the intended
outcome.  In fact, the banter preceding the duel suggests that sword
fights are fairly common, but there is no hint that they usually end
with a corpse.  The characters' reactions to the death of Tybalt
suggests that it is highly unusual.  But, isn't still appropriate to
have a stage direction?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Friday, 20 May 2005 09:27:55 +1000
Subject: 16.0944 First Folio Function
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0944 First Folio Function

Kim Carrell asks 'Why do modern editions continue to set Mercutio's
"Queen Mab" speech as verse when both the Folio and Q2 show it is prose
until the line "This is the hag, when Maides lie on their backs"?'.  The
answer, of course, is that they print it as verse because it's verse, as
anyone who can hear the metre of iambic pentameter can testify.  To
believe that it was written as prose we must also hold that it is a mere
coincidence that it can be divided up into 37 consecutive metrically
well-formed and largely end-stopped pentameters: this is more
coincidence than my credulity can cope with.

Why the compositors of Q2 and F1 set it as prose is no doubt an
interesting question, but it is one for bibliographers, not for critics,
actors and other readers of Shakespeare: there has been much research,
beginning with Charlton Hinman, into the methodical vandalism of
Shakespeare's compositors.

Peter Groves
School of English etc.
Monash University

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