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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: May ::
New Shakespeare 'Works
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0309  Thursday, 3 May 2007

[1] 	From: 	Sean King <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 00:53:41 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

[2] 	From: 	Jeffrey Jordan <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 01:35:33 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

[3] 	From: 	William Proctor Williams <
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	Date: 	Friday, 20 Apr 2007 09:51:23 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Sean King <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 00:53:41 -0400
Subject: 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

 >[the not-vindictive Lady Macbeth]

The article attributed the "vindictive" business to the London Times -- 
so it presumably refers to a London Sunday Times story which has this to 
say:

======
Even minor changes in punctuation can change the meaning of key scenes. 
In the usual version of the play, Lady Macbeth appears to reassure her 
husband that there is nothing to fear and that he will get away with the 
murder of Duncan, the king of Scotland.

In the new edition, a question mark removes the Machiavellian 
undercurrent, so that she is simply asking him: what do we fear?
======

(The RSC Shakespeare blog provides a link to the article if anyone wants 
to see the whole thing. Generally, the blog seems to be linking to, and 
commenting on, much or all of the press commentary on this new edition.)

Anyway, perhaps when you have your "Machiavellian undercurrent" removed 
you become "less vindictive"? I suppose that could happen! ;-) Best not 
to look at these journalistic glosses too closely, maybe...

One could *just* mention that the punctuation business isn't the novelty 
that the writer seems to think it is, and that Arden, for one, had kept 
the F question mark; *although* (as editors will note) a question mark 
could *stand for* an exclamation point; and that no matter how you 
punctuate Lady M goes on to say "But screw your courage...and we'll not 
fail"-it's true that exactly how that's to be taken (reassuring? not? 
Machiavellian? vindictive?  polyphiloprogenitive? bodacious? juvescent?) 
does depend a bit on how the previous words are read; and that some 
editors in their commentary notes have given a few ways in which they 
*may* be read (Arden again -- IIRC-has a few readings tried out by one 
Mrs Siddons)...

...or that the same article tells us of something called "the Quarto" 
which, we learn, was "made up of pirated versions of S's plays"...

But it would be much better not to mention any of that.

...I guess it's not as bad as the one trumpeting the "sexy Shakespeare", 
or whatever it was they said... (One of the editors had made a point of 
the comparative frankness of the notes in this edition -- so really, the 
headline wrote itself.)

(Butterflies, to the wheel! I'm ashamed of myself. ;-)

S.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jeffrey Jordan <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 01:35:33 -0500
Subject: 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

Replying to Tad Davis

 >... (How could I not love an edition where old Hamlet's "pollax"
 >remains the pole-axe of an impatient king, banged against the ice
 >in frustration?)

Remains?  The word is not "pole-axe" in any of the original printings, 
Q1, Q2, or F1.  It's identically "pollax" in all three, except 
capitalized in F1.

The "pole-axe" editorial interpretation was advanced by Alexander Pope 
in 1723, and was influential because of Pope's fame.  However, Pope's 
ideas about Hamlet are no longer influential, and the editorial changes 
Pope tried to make to Shakespeare's text (as best we have it) have all 
been discarded now, or at least called into serious question.

What does seem to be clear enough is that "pollax" is a phonetic 
spelling of "Polacks."  Why that exact spelling was chosen is a matter 
of interpretation.  The fact of the spelling being identical in all the 
original texts is good evidence that it's Shakespeare's own desired 
spelling.  But factually, it is not "pole-axe."

The word "poll" means "head."  So, the direct interpretation of "pollax" 
would be that wordplay is intended with "head-ax," i.e. the 
executioner's axe.  That interpretation can be read directly from the 
word, "pollax," with no spelling change.  It gives the undertone that 
King Hamlet killed the Poles in question, like an executioner, or 
alternatively, that he seriously threatened to.  Rather than being 
"impatient," King Hamlet was seriously threatening to chop their heads 
off, like an executioner with a "head-axe."

And of course the "head-axe" / "executioner's axe" concept is highly 
relevant to the play, since it's how Claudius intends to have Hamlet 
killed in England, and it's how R & G actually die.  But the "pole- axe" 
editorial interpretation has no relevance to other events of the play.

That being said, I'm very interested in the RSC edition, and thanks to 
Mr Davis et al for the links and info.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		William Proctor Williams <
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Date: 		Friday, 20 Apr 2007 09:51:23 -0400
Subject: 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

An edition which tries "to reconstruct the text as it entered the 
printshop." is not doing much which is different from what textual 
criticism has been doing for over 100 years.  I assume that what this 
edition is trying to do is to reconstruct the text as it +exited+ the 
printshop.

William Proctor Williams

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