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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: May ::
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         Subj:   SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0330  Tuesday, 8 May 2007

[Editor's Note: I have many more submission in my mailbox, but I need to 
prepare for my graduate class tonight, so this will be the last mailing 
today. -HMC]

[1] 	From: 	NM Coonradt <
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 	Date: 	Thursday, 03 May 2007 19:41:25 +0000
 	Subj: 	SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'

[2] 	From: 	Peter Groves <
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 	Date: 	Friday, 4 May 2007 08:24:58 +1000
 	Subj: 	RE: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

[3] 	From: 	Tad Davis <
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 	Date: 	Thursday, 3 May 2007 20:27:54 -0400
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'

[4] 	From: 	Sean King <
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 	Date: 	Friday, 4 May 2007 01:30:29 -0400
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'

[5] 	From: 	Tony Burton <
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 	Date: 	Saturday, 5 May 2007 20:11:00 -0400
 	Subj: 	Re: SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'; pole-axe, pollax


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		NM Coonradt <
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Date: 		Thursday, 03 May 2007 19:41:25 +0000
Subject: New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'

I was unable to access the information supposedly linked at the RSC 
site/blog; however, I wanted to comment on the Macbeths and the issue of 
punctuation in the various editions/productions.

I conducted a linguistic analysis of the Macbeths, based on Bakhtin's 
theory of heteroglossia, specifically to explore how and why it is that we 
see Lady M as "masculine" or "domineering"  (*Machiavellian* was the term 
used in the post).  Perhaps "controlling" is a good fit.  What I 
discovered by looking at monologic and dialogic moments-- specifically 
within the scene discussed 1.7.59, and Macbeth's "If we should fail? 
followed by his wife's "We fail[?, !, .]"-- I came to the conclusion that 
regardless of which punctuation one uses, Lady M's subsequent line pins 
the blame for any problems or shortcomings-- potential failure of their 
plot-- on her husband. Consider that emphasis could readily, via the 
reader or actor's voice inflexion, render a variety of meanings in spite 
of the punctuation.  Lady M might emphasize the "We" and even if there 
followed a question mark, the way she says it might underscore a sarcasm 
in the "We" as if to imply that there really is no "We" about it but that 
such failure could only be Macbeth's as a result of his shortcomings, his 
failing to "screw his courage to the sticking place."

Remember this exchange follows her shocking and execrable claim that she 
would gladly dash her suckling infant's brains out, had she sworn to do 
so.  She is calling him on his "oath" and his manliness to follow 
through-- after all, he is a sanguinary warrior by profession, how much 
easier for him to do this bloody deed!  Some critics have taken issue with 
this, including Coleridge.  Kenneth Muir, editor of _The Arden 
Shakespeare_ (1987), notes Coleridge's contention that this is not 
something Lady Macbeth *would* do, but rather that it indicates how much 
she values an oath. "[H]er purpose in this allusion," argued Coleridge, 
"shows that she considered no tie so tender as that which connected her 
with her babe. (op.cit., II. 271)" (42, note 57).  Yet in light of her 
suggestion about the oath to kill Duncan, each act breaches nature through 
gruesome murder and we should find both disturbing, especially given that 
she seems to value an oath more than the life the deed promises to 
extinguish.

My linguistic analysis revealed that Lady Macbeth *always* uses language 
to close semantic space ever tightening the noose around her husband's 
neck, even when she appears linguistically to be open to views differing 
from her own. So, whether one calls her Machiavellian, or something else, 
the case for a "less vindictive" Lady M seems a flimsy one, regardless of 
the punctuation.

NM Coonradt
PhD Candidate/Teaching Fellow
University of Denver, CO

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Groves <
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Date: 		Friday, 4 May 2007 08:24:58 +1000
Subject: 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	RE: SHK 18.0294 New Shakespeare 'Works'

I've only had a brief look at the new edition, but I was disappointed to 
see that it perpetuates the absurd modern habit (begun in Brooke's New 
Oxford [1990], and copied by Braunmuller [New Cambridge, 1997] and Miola 
[Norton, 2004]) of printing the first part of Macbeth's haranguing of the 
murderers (3.1) as an arbitrary descent into prose. It's true that F1 
prints this passage as vers libre, but it is almost 200 years since Rowe 
showed that the mislineation was a garbling of18 lines of energetic blank 
verse, and 50 years since Hinman showed us how such mislineations could 
happen in F. Is it asking too much to expect those who edit Shakespeare to 
be able to distinguish verse from prose?

Peter Groves
Monash University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tad Davis <
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Date: 		Thursday, 3 May 2007 20:27:54 -0400
Subject: 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'

Jeffrey Jordan wrote: "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."

You're right: in my haste to get the message out, I chose the wrong word. 
It's not that "pollax" REMAINS a pole-axe, but that it BECOMES one in this 
edition.

It's not clear to me at all that the word is referring to "Polacks."  The 
reasons are as follows:

[1] Old Hamlet is described as frowning "in an angry parle," not fighting 
a pitched battle on the ice. Are there other cases where "parle" means 
"battle"? And if he were fighting a battle, wouldn't his beaver be down, 
making his expression a moot point? (Of course there are wilder flights of 
fancy in Shakespeare's imagery, but it  seems a greater than usual stretch 
in this instance.)

[2] Old Hamlet's behavior is being explicitly compared to that of the 
ghost on the battlements: stalking the watch, carrying a truncheon; and 
maybe, just maybe, striking the battlement with said truncheon in 
frustration at his inability to communicate. In just such a way, Horatio 
could be saying, in the middle of an angry negotiation, I saw him frown 
and strike his pole-axe on the ice.

Explaining what the words "the sledded" mean in this context is a 
problem; but not as big a problem as explaining how the experience of  the 
stalking ghost reminds Horatio of a battle. There are problems with either 
interpretation.

Tad Davis

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[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Sean King <
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Date: 		Friday, 4 May 2007 01:30:29 -0400
Subject: 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'

Replying to Jeffrey Jordan <
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[...]

>>... (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,

Well, *Pope* had "Polack" (sing.) -- or so say the Arden2 and the 
Variorum. *Rowe's* supposed to have given us "Pole-axe" (and actually 
would simply have been hyphenating his copytext [F4: Poleaxe] )

At any rate, Bate gives his rationale for his reading in his "Case for the 
Folio" at the edition's website.

...and, the "Case" (well worth reading, btw) also discusses *this*: "his 
nose was as sharp as a pen on a table of green fields" (H5: F "and" 
emended to "on"-"Table" stays at "table"; not "babbl'd", and not "talk'd" 
either.)

*That's* fairly sensational-though the Table's been defended before, I'd 
think the folks piqued by Lady Macbeth's question mark would've 
highlighted this nose-thumbing at The Greatest Emendation Of All Time... 
;-) (The NY Daily News: "RSC TO THEOBALD: DROP DEAD"...  The NY Post: 
"Tibbald's A Dunce, Sez Shakespeare Big"... or-still the Post-"Brit Loser 
Confuses Kids: 'Bring Back "Babbled!"', Sobs Tearful Tiffany"...)

(Sa-ay, looking at the blog, the May 3rd entry has the London Review of 
Books discussing just this crux in its review... *real* stodgy headline, 
though! ;-)

------
Replying to William Proctor Williams

>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.

Their point is that they're not conflating-"the text" here is the First 
Folio, and they're editing *that*. That is to say, their copytext for 
*every* play in the Folio is the Folio text, even in cases where many 
recent editors have preferred the quarto. Lines and scenes occurring only 
in a quarto are not "grafted" in, but are placed in an appendix.

I've just been off reading the latest blog entry, where Bate discusses the 
banned-from-the-stage "blasphemous oaths" which are toned down in the 
Folio. (The zoundses and such in our editions generally hail from the 
quartos.) Bates says as how he thought of bringing 'em in, in spite of the 
Folio-as-copy-text rule (presumably because they're What Shakespeare 
Really Wrote, or that not doing so results in very unfamiliar readings, or 
maybe he just likes blaspheming and cursing!  ;-) But then he says if he'd 
done that, he'd have been "a conflationist like his predecessors."

There could be some merit in saying "not doing much different", 
nonetheless; at least if one took the view that Folio anti-conflationists 
are being a *wee* bit conflationist every time they take account of a 
quarto reading-which has to happen, after all.

My personal take: this new edition (as these new textualist productions 
generally) feels like a curious mix of a modified diplomatic reprint and a 
critical text-cranky of me, I guess,

S.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Tony Burton <
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Date: 		Saturday, 5 May 2007 20:11:00 -0400
Subject: 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'; pole-axe, pollax
Comment: 	Re: SHK 18.0309 New Shakespeare 'Works'; pole-axe, pollax

I believe Jeffrey Jordan has gone astray in a portion of his reply to Tad 
Davis that seeks to explain the word "pole-axe."  As Jordan points out, 
the texts all give pollax and the capitalized "P" of F1 (together with the 
later introduction of Poland as the location of Fortinbras's campaign) 
leaves me strongly in favor of reading the word as a reference to the 
natives of Poland.  According to R.E. Oakeshott, an authority on medieval 
arms, the pole-ax which appeared in about the fifteenth century is no more 
than an axe on a pole, and probably a direct descendant of the Vikings old 
hewing-spear.  It is not a beheading tool.  The OED gives credit to the 
idea that "poll-" refers to head and that possibly "pole-axe" may be an 
axe meant to strike the head, but its somewhat doubtful manner reveals its 
own lack of confidence;  it also goes on to suggest that the word might 
refer to the shape of the axe (see below), and acknowledges further that 
in some other languages the equivalent term refers specifically to a pole 
weapon.  Many of us on this list have remarked that the OED contains many 
errors of both fact and inference when it comes to words of doubtful 
meaning; authorities like Oakeshott are more convincing to me in cases 
where specialized knowledge of a particular field of study is required.

If one wishes to play with the idea that "poll"="head", other 
considerations make it quite difficult to equate "pole-axe" with a 
headsman's axe.  In the language of tool-making, "poll" had a special 
meaning in connection with axes, adzes, and similar tools.  The portion of 
the axe with the cutting edge, that made the "bite" into the wood (or 
adversary), was called the "bit;" the other (rearward) side was the head 
or "poll", usually consisting of a weighted extension beyond the shaft to 
add momentum to the cutting, but in the case of adzes in particular, the 
other side, the "poll" was often shaped into a tool-a punch, a caulking 
tool, or a nail driving tool.  Some axes and adzes were made with no extra 
weight, extension, or tool and with no protrusion at all behind the place 
where the haft entered its socket.  They were described as being 
poll-less.  In keeping with ancient usage, the lumberjack's contemporary 
axe, with two sharp edges, is still called a double-bitted axe.  So, the 
association of "poll" with axes is a special one referring to the design 
rather than the use of the tool.  Admittedly, the information on polled 
tools comes from Eric Sloane's works on early American tools, the scope of 
which does not antecede the late 17th century, and I have not made any 
special examination of English tool-making..  Although the patterns and 
terminology seem to have been old when they were used by American 
settlers, it is not quite safe to cite Sloane as authority for usage 
during the sixteenth to early seventeenth century in England; nevertheless 
I find it hard to imagine that English settlers would have adopted 
headsman's terminology for everyday toolmaking, in jocular substitution 
for whatever terms were used in their homeland.

This is not to deny that Shakespeare-with his unmatched ear for verbal 
echoes and talent for employing them thematically-might have been thinking 
of the "poll-" from  Act I when in Act V he described royal commission for 
Hamlet to be beheaded.  That remains always and improvably an intriguing 
notion, and perhaps the reason why the commission called expressly for 
Hamlet to be beheaded (although his status as prince would account for it 
just as well).  But when all is said and done, Shakespeare's "pollax" is 
almost surely not intended to describe a weapon designed for beheading.

Tony

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