The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0118 Monday, 6 March 2006
Date: Friday, 3 Mar 2006 15:44:08 -0500
Subject: 17.0106 Arden3 Hamlet
Comment: RE: SHK 17.0106 Arden3 Hamlet
First, let me absolve John Briggs. I share his dismay at the pricing of
the second volume of the Arden 3 Hamlet and his lament that the first
volume will not include a reduced facsimile of Q1 as other "bad quartos"
have been provided for other plays-which is an admirable thing for Arden
3 to do. But he did not echo my further misgivings about Arden 3, and I
don't share his feeling that Jenkins' 1982 edition gives us a "text
already out of date."
John-Paul Spiro seems to share my high opinion of Jenkins' edition,
although I can't imagine that many of his "everyday readers" really want
"to make their own choices" from among the three early texts of Hamlet.
Most readers do indeed want "someone else to do the work"; and this is
what editors do-or should do, or used to do; and Mr. Spiro and I agree
that Jenkins did it about as well as it gets done.
An edition of a literary work is something different from an archive of
its earliest texts. David Kastan, one of the Arden 3 general editors,
once told me (and for publication) that the goal of the series was to
present the work in its full literary context, which means, I think,
that the notes and introductions (which John Briggs seems to dismiss as
tangential), are quite significant to the worth of an edition.
I value such things as the Bertram and Kliman Three Text Hamlet, and
Kliman's Enfolded Hamlet, and Tronch-Perez's Synoptic Hamlet, and Rene
Weiss's and Norton's facing page Lears (which, however. clearly
demonstrate that perhaps 95% of these "two different plays" are
identical). But I don't consider them editions of the play, much less
authoritative editions, as Paul Doniger suggests. They give us the raw
materials for an edition, and as such, they are very valuable, as are
the Arden 3 facsimile bad quartos, and Hinman's facsimile First Folio,
and so on. But they don't attempt to provide for "a generation [and
especially a new generation] of students, scholars, readers, and
playgoers" (stolen from Al Magary) a version of the work that is
sufficiently rich and reliable to aspire to being authoritative or
definitive. This is what Arden 2, and even Arden 1, aspired to; this is
what Jenkins at least came within shouting distance of achieving.
To what degree and how the editor should make his reader aware of
differences between the text of early versions is an open question. I
have no real objection to the Arden 2's using reduced italic type under
the main text, or to Riverside's relegating textual notes to an appendix
after the play. Most readers most of the time aren't interested, and
those who are can inform themselves. I share Tad Davis's sense that the
Folger editions have become intrusive and confusing with their system of
typographical indicators; I tend to feel the same about Norton and
indented passages. If a reader does want more or less continual
information about this sort of thing, Bertram and Kliman et al. are
where to go.
Al Magary-whose postings on Shaksper I admire, but now, I guess, not
unreservedly-condemns me to wandering lonely on the moor in foul
weather. He says that Arden 3 is a product of its times. Just so; and
lamentably just so. Al finds Q1 "playable"; of course it is, since it
is about 1500 lines shorter than the more authoritative versions. And
since both of these versions (Q2 and F) are far too long for what we
suppose of Elizabethan performance, does not this suggest that Hamlet is
not properly considered as just a play-script, but is perhaps a literary
artifact? Al also quotes with seeming approval Marjorie Garber's
characterization of Q1 "To be or not to be" as "authentic," but is the
passage not clearly a less than minimally successful attempt to recall
the version we know from Q2 and F? Al, is a dry house worth it?
Finally, Gabriel Egan consoles my expectation that the Jenkins edition
will be withdrawn when the Arden 3 Hamlet appears with the good news
that it will still be in the libraries. I had of course been fearful
lest the Arden 3 editors track down and pulp all surviving copies of
Jenkins. For this relief, much thanks.
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