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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Understudies
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0838  Sunday, 16 December 2007

[1] 	From:	Bob Grumman <
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	Date:	Thursday, 13 Dec 2007 17:36:17 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0831 Understudies

[2] 	From:	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date:	Saturday, 15 Dec 2007 15:02:28 -0000
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0831 Understudies


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Bob Grumman <
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Date:		Thursday, 13 Dec 2007 17:36:17 -0500
Subject: 18.0831 Understudies
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0831 Understudies

The interesting post against memorial reconstruction from Steve Urkowitz 
got me wondering where publishers got the plays they pirated if not from 
actors? We know they pirated some plays-Condell and Heminges implied 
they did, and Heywood somewhere complains about a play or plays of his 
being pirated (I think). Sure, revision went on, but it's my impression 
that some of the plays considered by some to have been memorial 
reconstructions seem much better written in some sections than others 
which certainly makes an attempt at memorial reconstruction that leaves 
gaps more plausible than some kind of selective revision. But I'm way 
short of knowledgeable about this.

--Bob Grumman

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Gabriel Egan <
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 >
Date:		Saturday, 15 Dec 2007 15:02:28 -0000
Subject: 18.0831 Understudies
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0831 Understudies

Bill Godshalk asks:

 >If actors retained their "parts," wouldn't "memorial
 >reconstruction" be a rather easy task? Get the actors'
 >parts, and have a scribe reconstruct the script. If only
 >a few actors had their parts, then these "parts" should
 >be memorially reconstructed almost perfectly,
 >not just with greater fidelity.

Leaving aside the question of whether the reconstruction were legitimate 
or surreptitious, the mechanics of this aren't straightforward. Assuming 
one 'part' per character (rather than one per actor), what Bill imagines 
would involve sequential transcription from dozens of rolls held open 
simultaneously, which isn't easily done. Working independently, Adrian 
Kiernander and Michael Neill decided that this wouldn't be the best way 
to proceed. Instead, say Kiernander and Neill, it were better to have 
the actors recite their parts in turn and take down this aural event as 
writing.

Replying to Bill Godshalk, Steve Urkowitz comments:

 >After decades of febrile imaginings of sleazy black-
 >market printings of stolen / reconstructed scripts,
 >Peter Blayney showed that play-texts generally weren't worth
 >the trouble and the trade in play scripts was more likely
 >above-board.

Blayney's conclusion that plays were relatively unappealing to 
publishers is vigorously contested by Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser 
in last year's Shakespeare Quarterly. The editors of Shakespeare 
Quarterly allowed Blayney a reply in the same issue of the journal in 
which he conceded part of their argument. The remaining disagreements 
are about what exactly is being counted (should certain genres be 
excluded?) and how (does a collected plays edition count as one thing or 
many?) Blayney's polemical 1997 essay, to which Steve alludes, served an 
important function in overturning assumptions about surreptitious 
printing, but in the light of Farmer and Lesser's mountainous evidence 
its conclusions seem overstated.

References

Adrian Kiernander "'Betwixt' and 'between': Variant readings in the 
Folio and first quarto versions of _Richard III_ and W. W. Greg's 
concept of memorial reconstruction" in Lloyd Davis (ed) _Shakespeare 
Matters: History, Teaching, Performance_ (Newark: University of Delaware 
Press, 2003)

Michael Neill (ed) _Othello_ The Oxford Shakespeare, 2006, pp. 425-6.

Alan B. Farmer and Zachary Lesser "The popularity of playbooks 
revisited" Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2005) pp. 1-32.

Peter W. M. Blayney "The alleged popularity of playbooks" Shakespeare 
Quarterly 56 (2005) pp. 33-50

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