The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0918 Tuesday, 17 October 2006
Date: Monday, 16 Oct 2006 18:44:26 -0400
Subject: 17.0908 Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars
Comment: Re: SHK 17.0908 Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars
Gerald Downs's lengthy post ostensibly commenting on Ron Rosenbaum's
discussion of the "Lear" revision theory-while actually using the
Rosenbaum book as a jumping off point to expound his own point of
view-is unfair to Rosenbaum.
For example, Downs begins by taking Rosenbaum to task for implying (but
not saying) that Blayney's rejection of the memorial reconstruction
theory of Q1 was expressed in Volume 1 of Blayney's work, when in fact
it was intended to be developed in the abortive Volume 2 and has come
down to us by oral transmission. Oh come on! Rosenbaum got it right;
Downs is quibbling for the sake of giving himself an excuse to express
an opinion on the underlying textual question.
Even worse, Downs calls it an "error" for Rosenbaum to "cite two Knowles
articles without comment on the Variorum editor's serious misstatement
(repeated four years later) of Howard-Hill's 1986 contentions, which
showed that all the readings in F supposedly deriving from Q1 could as
well have been derived from Q2 . . .(1997, 75; 2001, 269)." Again: Oh,
come on! Rosenbaum. And he did a damned good job of it, making these
issues accessible to "general readers" wrote a book for general
consumption, not a detailed exegesis for the reference of academic
specialists without losing most of the nuances that make it fascinating
for the adepts. That could not have been easy to do.
This is not to say that there are no mistakes in Rosenbaum's book.
There are a few lulus. For example, unless Rosenbaum is privy to a
secret kept from the rest of us for half a century, it was Frank
Mankiewicz, not John Houseman, who directed the 1953 film of "Julius
Caesar" starring Brando, Mason and Geilgud.
Later, in an obvious typo, the book dates Samuel Johnson's edition of
Shakespeare as 1715, instead of 1765.
Rosenbaum also misquotes Greene's "Groatsworth of Wit"-"plumed in,"
instead of "beautified with" our feathers. Perhaps Rosenbaum feels that
"beautified" is a vile word.
Rosenbaum also says that Lewis Theobald claimed to have a manuscript of
"Cardenio" before him when he composed "Double Falsehood." In fact, he
claimed to have three separate manuscripts of "Cardenio." Perhaps this
is in the nature of a Downsian quibble, but a claim to three separate
manuscripts is as impressive as the thirteenth stroke of the clock, so
it is probably worth mentioning.
These errors are more to be laid at the feet of the proofreaders and
fact checkers. They do not detract materially from the usefulness of
this book, which I highly recommend.
If Gerald Downs wants to start a discussion about the current state of
scholarship on the Lear revision theory, I don't think anyone would
object; but let it stand on its own feet, not as a cavil about
Rosenbaum's book in which it is only one of more than a dozen issues
discussed, and in which it is accurately described.
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