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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: May ::
SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0257  Monday, 5 May 2008

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Friday, 02 May 2008 13:11:08 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0250 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

[2] 	From:	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date:	Saturday, 3 May 2008 11:52:05 +0100
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0250 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Friday, 02 May 2008 13:11:08 -0400
Subject: 19.0250 Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0250 Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions

At the end of his very thoughtful and thought-provoking introduction to 
the question of authorial intention in textual issues, John Drakakis 
seems to invite SHAKSPERians to suggest canonical passages which 
exemplify or illuminate the issue:

 >We have enough material within the Shakespeare oeuvre
 >to provide us with a variety of examples that we can
 >profitably discuss, and that may, I think, lead us to
 >conclusions that we might not have expected when we
 >started to think about this topic.

There is one in particular (which I have mentioned here before but which 
did not on those occasions excite responses) which I think epitomizes 
the question on several levels. In Act I, scene ii, of The Taming of the 
Shrew, Petruchio bids Grumio to knock at Baptista's door and Grumio 
misunderstands or pretends to misunderstand the demand, resulting in his 
being beaten. Grumio's reaction is given in most editions as "Help, 
masters, help!  My master is mad." The folio, however, has the line as 
"Helpe mistris helpe, my master is mad." The emendation of "mistris" to 
"masters" was first made by Lewis Theobald, presumably as there are no 
female characters on stage who Grumio might be addressing, and his 
revision has generally been followed since (the Werstine-Mowat Folger 
edition and the the Bate-Rasmussen "RSC" edition, which makes a point of 
following F1 almost religiously, are notable exceptions). Theobald's 
emendation is neither particularly funny nor thematic; in fact, it 
strikes me as rather awkward, with the repetition of "master" serving no 
poetic function. Nor does the emendation seem compelled by a likely 
misreading of the MS.

However, there is a way in which we can understand the F1 line which 
does no violence to the absence a female characters on the main stage 
and which heightens the comedy and, at the same time, serves a thematic 
function. If Grumio is addressing himself to the page in the Sly frame, 
who is present either aloft or at the side of the stage dressed as a 
lady, the line is an hilariously funny meta-theatrical dropping to the 
fourth wall. It also serves to remind the audience that they are 
watching a play within a play, not to be taken seriously on its own 
level. I don't want to over argue the point, but a moment such as this 
mitigates the harshness of the catastrophe perceived by modern 
audiences, especially if the Sly epilogue in "A Shrew" was originally 
part of the text.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Gabriel Egan <
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Date:		Saturday, 3 May 2008 11:52:05 +0100
Subject: 19.0250 Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0250 Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions

John Drakakis is quite right to argue that notions of intention are 
complexly invoked in acts of editing, but in trying to show this I think 
his Roundtable posting actually understates the problems.

Drakakis praises Claire McEachern's Arden3 Much Ado About Nothing, at 
the point at which it reads "The original SPs throughout this scene, 
which denote actors' (or intended actors') names, betray the marks of 
the play's composition, and perhaps [that] the copy-text that served as 
the basis for Q was a promptbook used in the theatre [(] and hence 
puzzled over by the [a] compositor [)] ." (p. 278)

(The square brackets indicate bits of McEachern left out of the 
quotation by Drakakis; the final 'the' is his too.)

Drakakis writes of this that:

 >McEachern's footnote is exemplary in
 >that it directs our attention to a number
 >of possible explanations.

Well, only if the "number" is one: the explanation that the names come 
from the promptbook. (She is not suggesting, as I think Drakakis might 
be misreading, that the puzzling compositors introduced the actors' names.)

Earlier in her introduction (p. 129) McEachern argued precisely the 
opposite from the same evidence, citing favourably F. P. Wilson's 
dismissal of the argument that the use of actors' names indicates 
promptbook copy for a printing and supporting Wilson's assertion that it 
must indicate authorial copy. Wilson was writing in 1942, well before 
Greg's famous disquisition on the topic in The Shakespeare First Folio 
(1955). It's a particular weakness of McEachern's edition (picked up in 
reviews) that she's nowhere near up-to-date on textual criticism. Greg's 
account of the phenomenon is more subtle than he is usually given credit 
for, and makes the distinction between actors' names standing in for 
characters' names and actors' names supplementing characters' names 
(that is, where both appear).

At the other end of the chain of transmission, Drakakis again misses 
some key distinctions.

He writes about

 >. . .  another play published in quarto in 1600 by
 >James Roberts, not Valentine Simmes, _The
 >Merchant of Venice_ . . .

This quarto will presumably be the basis for Drakakis's Arden3 edition, 
so the above statement reflects either important new knowledge (lightly 
glanced at), or Drakakis has misunderstood the conditions of textual 
production in the period, for the quarto title-page and the Stationers' 
Register entries concur: the publisher was Thomas Heyes.

This is germane to Drakakis's attempt to sophisticate our notions of 
intentionality, for the roles of bookseller, printer, and publisher were 
often played by the same men in various combinations within the 
Stationers' Company, and we need to be clear about who was doing what in 
each edition.

Thus, when Drakakis writes that

 >. . .  if indeed, the instability occurred at the
 >level of *composition*, then this seriously
 >complicates the business of agency and intention

and that

 >. . .  we need to revise radically our sense of
 >what writerly "creativity" involved . . .

we should all agree, but insist that the complexities go deeper than the 
trivial case of actors' names in speech prefixes.

With the printing of plays, two key areas of difficulty with 'intention' 
surely are:

* The dramatist intends some others, the performers, to complete the 
meaning of the script by performing it.

* Those writing for publication might well intend the printshop to 
complete the meaning by altering the accidentals (the punctuation and 
other matters not directly concerned with the choice of words), and so 
might leave the manuscript relatively incomplete in this regard.

A recognition of the first of these underlies the shift detectable in 
the Penguin and Oxford Shakespeare editions (and belatedly in the 
Arden's Third series) towards stage-centered editing. Assertion of the 
second point by Philip Gaskell in his _A New Introduction to 
Bibliography_ (1972) caused quite a stir. Whereas Greg's concern (in 
"The rationale of copy-text") was to get as close as possible to what 
would have stood in the author's manuscript if only we had it (and hence 
the authority of accidentals and of substantives had to be treated 
separately because each might be best represented in a different 
printing), Gaskell's retort was that we might very well know what would 
have been in the manuscript and consider it not fit to print.

The points of contention here are quite subtle, and I'm afraid it's a 
vulgarization of the whole debate for Drakakis to write:

 >W. W. Greg's "The Rationale of Copy-Text" urges
 >the editor to select a text that is the closest
 >to what the "author" is thought to have composed,
 >on the grounds that that will be the most "authentic."

At least, it is vulgar to leave it there and not pursue the real point 
of interest here, which is the idea of a split in authority. (If 
anything, Drakakis's account makes Greg sound like R. B. McKerrow, whose 
'best text' approach to editing Greg was, in this very essay, dissenting 
from.)

Let me give a concrete example of how this bears on intentionality. I no 
longer bother to put into my SHAKSPER posts the usual MLA-style 
typescript representation of an em-line dash (which is two hyphens with 
no space either side) because for some reason Hardy Cook replaces them 
with single hyphens, and to my eye this makes the kinds of sentence 
constructions I favour rather hard to read. Thus I now rephrase 
sentences to suit my anticipation of what will happen on the way to 
publication. Indeed, I don't only rephrase the already-written, I 
compose in anticipation of this limitation.  Who, then, 'intends' my 
alternative accidentals?  Hardy is the root cause of them, but he may 
well have a good (mechanical) reason. But are they mine nonetheless?

Gabriel Egan

[Editor's Note: See my explanation that follows. I have not included it 
here because the explanation does not properly belong in the Roundtable 
thread. -HMC]

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