The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0531 Thursday, 16 August 2007
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Thursday, August 16, 2007
Subject: TLS Shakespeare Issue
Last week, Julia Crockett announced that this week's TLS would be a
Shakespeare issue. The TLS website provides enticing details, including
Alan Jenkins's "Note from the Editor":
"In an important sense Shakespeare did not live in his life, if by life
we mean circumstantial existence." Barbara Everett, in the latest of a
distinguished series of essays on Shakespeare in this paper, shows why
biography, attached of necessity to the social, the superficial, can
tell us so little about the "provincial nobody" who was also one of the
greatest of "those whose work is not superficial"; and why, even in the
age of television and celebrity, we should be content to look for
Shakespeare's face in the Droeshout engraving and the Stratford bust
(and even more in the poems and plays) rather than searching for a more
glamorous or sexy image.
The true biography of "gentle Shakespeare" might well be the story of
his mind, but the life he did live was that of a highly successful
playwright and actor-manager; his great poetry was written for the stage
-- even if not in the Stratford of his upbringing, the place to which he
eventually returned and which is now the home of Shakespeare study and
performance. Earlier this year Jonathan Bate, one of the editors of The
RSC Shakespeare, explained to TLS readers why he had based this new
edition on the First Folio of 1623. There have been many editions of
performance texts before this, as Peter Holland, who now reviews Bate's,
reminds us; The RSC Shakespeare, while it makes some radical and
original choices, presenting a Shakespeare who is, precisely, sexy and
even "raunchy", does not engage directly with "the multiple discoveries
that the directors, actors and designers" of the "magnificent" Royal
Shakespeare Company have made about the plays since its inception. The
TLS this week will speak to anyone who cares about Shakespeare, about
poetry, drama, and human creativity, whether they are in Stratford or
far beyond -- if not "beyond beyond".
Peter Holland begins his review, labeled online as "Sexy Shakespeare,"
with the following:
In 1887, Henry Irving began collaborating with his friend Frank Marshall
on an edition of Shakespeare. The aim was to bring the plays to the
general reader, then still a creature in no immediate danger of
extinction, in a way that combined the latest scholarship of F. J.
Furnivall in England and H. H. Furness in America with some sense of the
plays in performance. Published in eight volumes over the next three
years, The Henry Irving Shakespeare included illustrations by Gordon
Browne which, while not representing performance directly, suggested
current styles of stage costume, and notes by Irving on cuts in the
text, both those used by professional commercial companies like his own
and those that would make public readings or amateur productions
practicable. The final volume to appear contained a general introduction
and a biography of Shakespeare written by Edward Dowden, the foremost
critic of the age.
There had been many editions of performance texts before this, including
John Philip Kemble's acting editions and those by Charles Kean who
proudly recorded the historical authenticity and antiquarian sources of
his productions and ensured that his name on the title page was followed
by his FSA, as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Earlier, there
were the editions published by John Bell, starting in 1773, of the plays
"as they are now performed at the Theatres Royal in London", based on
the prompt-books for the plays in the repertory and with suggestions by
Francis Gentleman for the right way to adapt the plays not currently
being performed. Though Kemble's and Kean's names were very visible in
their texts and though Bell's text emphasized its connection with the
London stages, none was quite so emphatic in their linking of actor and
author as The Henry Irving Shakespeare, and, as far as I know, there was
no successor in quite that style. There is no Olivier Shakespeare or
Gielgud Shakespeare, nor did Lilian Baylis edit an Old Vic Shakespeare.
Now there is a Complete Works edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric
Rasmussen, already widely known as The RSC Shakespeare, a handsome piece
of book-making, for all that the cover design suggests the future
marketing of matching curtains. The publicity for the volume has
trumpeted the fact that, for the first time ever, it is the First Folio
(F1 as scholars call it) of 1623 that provides the basis for the text.
This is, in effect, an edition of F1, a modernized, corrected and
annotated version of that text, with Bate in overall charge, Rasmussen
tightly controlling the textual matters, and Heloise Senechal
supervising the commentary.
I eagerly await the issue's arrival in my mailbox.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
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