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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: May ::
Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0275  Friday, 9 May 2008

From:		John Drakakis <
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Date:		Friday, 9 May 2008 15:53:45 +0100
Subject: 19.0269 Meta-Comment on Intentions Roundtable
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0269 Meta-Comment on Intentions Roundtable

I wonder if I may reply both to Larry Weiss and Joe Egert in this 
contribution to the round-table discussion.

Joe Egert first: the question of what does an editor do is germane to 
the question of 'intention' insofar as much editing assumes that the 
business of preparing a text is to get as close to what the writer 
wrote. This has sometimes melted into "what the writer 'intended'" and I 
think that my responses to Larry Weiss, and separately to Gabriel Egan, 
will elaborate on this a little. Editors try to make sense of texts; 
but, also, in the case of early modern texts, they engage in a series of 
operations of modernization that disclose assumptions about the 
publishing industry, the predilections of the editor, etc.

Let me now respond to Larry Weiss. Rather like Larry Weiss's account of 
the Folio reading of 'mistris' at _The Taming of The Shrew_ 1.2., and I 
am sorry that I missed it in earlier postings. It has a special 
relevance here since it invites us to speculate on what may have been 
contained in a hypothetical manuscript, and what may have happened when 
the line was spoken on the stage. To take the speculation about the 
manuscript first: The Folio spelling is 'mistris', and this is the only 
text of the play that we have. But I am minded of the spelling 
'Maisters' in _The Merchant of Venice_ 4.1.51 in the phrase 'Maisters of 
passion', that in Q2 (1619) and F (1623) is emended to 'Masters of 
passion'. The four relevant lines in Q1 read:

			And others when the bagpipe sings ith nose,
			cannot containe their vrine for affection.
			Maisters of passion swayes it to the moode
			of what it likes or loathes,
							(4.1.49-52)

Q2 reads as follows:

			And others when the Bagpipe sings i'th nose,
			Cannot containe their vrine for affection.
			Masters of passion swayes it to the mood
			Of what it likes or loathes:

F reads:

			And others, when the bag-pipe sings i'th nose,
			Cannot containe their Vrine for affection.
			Masters of passion swayes it to the moode
			Of what it likes or loaths,

(Throughout, I have silently emended long 's', but in all other respects 
these are the variants between the 3 texts). The absence of initial 
capitalization in the 2nd and 4th lines of Q1 can be attributed to type 
shortages of Roman caps, and there is other evidence (both of upper case 
W and lower case w on sig. G3v). All three reproduce the same error of 
punctuation after 'affection'. But Q2 and F emend the spelling 
'Maisters' to 'Masters'. The spelling 'Maisters' for 'Masters' is not 
uncommon; indeed, if I recall, the spelling occurs in Spenser's _The 
Faerie Queene_ along with 'Maistres' where the context clearly gives the 
modern 'Masters'. What then, was the spelling in the manuscript of the 
word that F sets as 'mistris' and Theobald alters to 'Masters'? Could it 
have been 'maistris' or even 'maistrisse'? If so, then F's 'mistris' may 
constitute evidence of a theatrical intention (and even of Shakespeare's 
'intention' when he wrote this scene) to keep the frame Induction on the 
stage throughout and to refer to its presence as an onstage audience. I 
am, of course, resisting the temptation simply to say that the F reading 
is an error that an editor is at liberty to correct, since both 
'Masters' and 'mistris' make sense even though we are on a weaker wicket 
if we ascribe authorial meaning to the reading. The same is not the case 
in the example from _The Merchant_ where emendation is necessary. In 
this case, 'Masters' does not make sense, nor, except in a very minimal 
way does 'mistris'. In my forthcoming edition of the play, I have 
emended to 'maistrice' since I think it makes sense to conflate the 
sense of 'master/mistress' ('affection' being in this case gendered 
feminine, but having mastery over 'passion' behaves in an androgynous 
way). In the case that Weiss cites, the question of 'intention' is not 
necessarily confined to the writing subject Shakespeare, and even if we 
could prove that it was, we would also have to demonstrate its 
provenance, i.e., did it come purely from the dramatist's imagination or 
was it the product of a certain knowledge that Lord Strange's Men would 
stage the play in one way rather than another? Either way, this kind of 
example mounts a very serious challenge to the 'unique' authority of the 
'author' Shakespeare  and enjoins us as modern readers to distinguish 
between a 'meaning' that may or may not be adequately 'authorised' and a 
process of 'making sense of' that is properly the purview of reading.

Many thanks to Larry Weiss for raising this example.

Cheers,
John Drakakis


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