Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: May ::
SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0276  Friday, 9 May 2008

From:		John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Friday, 9 May 2008 16:42:59 +0100
Subject: 19.0257 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.0257 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

Larry Weiss's and Gabriel Egan's postings came in together; I think they 
require to be addressed separately. I have addressed Weiss's 
contribution to the debate, and I now turn to Egan's.

In my original contribution, there were a few typographical errors. Four 
of them are obvious, one of which involves the omission of the word 
'text' towards the end of the posting. Also, the part of the sentence 
for which Egan rightly takes me to task should read: "published in 
quarto in 1600 printed by James Roberts, not Valentine Simmes." I did 
not mean to suggest that there had been some dispute over who printed Q1 
of _The Merchant of Venice_ nor did I wish to suggest that Roberts and 
Simmes were the publishers as well as the printers of _The Merchant_ and 
_Much Ado_ respectively. I merely wished to point out that some of the 
peculiarities concerning speech-prefixes were not confined to one 
printer. One more erratum, in the best tradition of Archbishop Spooner, 
when I referred to Bruce King, I really meant Bruce Smith. My apologies.

At one of the points to which Egan refers in my contribution, I was 
concerned to raise the question of 'intention' in relation to the 
variations of speech-prefix that appear in Q1 _Much Ado_ at 4.2. and to 
suggest that different printing houses encountered various problems with 
them which they addressed in their own way. I was concerned to draw 
attention to the way in which McEachern had dealt with the issue in her 
recent edition of _Much Ado_. In quoting part of the note on p. 278 of 
McEachern's addition, I inadvertently omitted the brackets around the 
clause "(and hence puzzled over by a compositor)", and I also printed 
'the' for 'a'. Such are the pitfalls of writing at speed, although I 
don't think that these minor inaccuracies affect the substance of the 
point I was making.

My concern was not to drag McEachern into a slanging match about who is 
the more virtuous editor, nor am I interested in subjecting her edition 
to the yardstick of bibliographical fashion. It contains plenty of 
material for which we should be grateful. I stick to my position that as 
footnotes go, the one to which I was referring is 'exemplary'. Since 
Egan seems to have got himself stuck in only one side of a binary, let 
me go through McEachern's suggestions:

1. that the appearance of the actors' names (or "intended actors") names 
betray the marks of the play's composition
2. "perhaps that the copy-text that served as the basis for Q was a 
promptbook used in the theatre"
3. and that it was this that was (." . . hence puzzled over by a 
compositor")

There is a difference between 1 and 2, and 3 adds another dimension. 
McEachern does not tell us what it was precisely that the compositor who 
set these pages may have 'puzzled over'. Were the characters' names 
scored out and the actors' names inserted? Was the copy 'foul papers' or 
a promptbook? What was the agency involved here? Was it Shakespeare who 
intended that Kemp and Cowley should play the parts of Dogberry and 
Verges, and if so do we not need (and this was my point) to modify the 
rather crude model of intentionality that has hitherto accounted for 
dramatic composition?

I do not have a copy of Greg's _The Shakespeare First Folio_ to hand, 
but I do have his comments on _Much Ado_ in _The Editorial Problem in 
Shakespeare_. There he says -- and I shall do my best to transcribe it 
accurately -- that Much Ado was one of three plays that show evidence 
"that a playhouse manuscript existed and was consulted" (p. 121). He 
goes on:

<PROSEQUOTE>
At one point in the quarto of Much Ado the names of the actors Kemp and 
Cowley appear as prefixes for Dogberry and Verges, whence it has been 
assumed that the text was set up from a prompt copy. But Shakespeare 
must obviously have written the parts with particular actors in mind, 
and nothing is more likely than that he should have used their names. 
[Gregg appends a lengthy footnote that details all of the confusions.] 
Everything points to the copy having been foul papers that lacked final 
revision. The stage directions are obviously the author's, casual and 
often inadequate, [fn. See appendix (p.178)] and there is much 
inconsistency in designating the speakers." (pp.121-2) (my italics)
</PROSEQUOTE>

Greg challenges the consistency of Dover Wilson's explanation of what he 
took to be authorial anomalies in Q, while at the same time claiming 
that the play was printed directly from "the prompt-book".(p. 122). I 
will, of course, check the later Greg text, but I am not aware that he 
changed his position on this play substantially.

I have no desire to challenge the 'subtlety' of Greg's account of these 
matters, but all we can accuse McEachern of is conflating an existing 
explanation in an attempt to produce a succinct footnote. Like many 
eminent editors before her, she is perhaps a little too respectful of 
editorial tradition. I notice that Egan does not pick her up on her use 
of the term 'copy-text' in this footnote. He does, later, direct us to 
Gregg's 'The Rationale of Copy-Text' (reprinted in J. C. Maxwell's 
edition of _The Collected Papers of Sir Walter W. Greg_), but he is 
silent on those parts of the essay relevant to this discussion and on 
the extent to which that fascinating essay is littered with odd 
slippages between 'author' and 'writer'. Let's see what Eagan has to say 
about the ideological investment in the following quotation from this 
very influential (but now largely superseded) essay:

<PROSEQUOTE>
It is therefore the modern editorial practice to choose whatever extant 
text may be supposed to represent most nearly what the author wrote and 
to follow it with the least possible alteration. [So far, so good] But 
here we need to draw a distinction between the significant, or as I 
shall call them 'substantive', readings of the text, those namely that 
affect the author's meaning or the essence of his expression, and 
others, such in general as spelling, punctuation, word-division, and the 
like, affecting mainly its formal presentation, which may be regarded as 
the accidents, or as I shall call them 'accidentals' of the text. (my 
italics) (p. 376)
</PROSEQUOTE>

We need to register here the slippage from 'what the author wrote' (what 
I understand by the term 'agency') to the larger question of readings 
"that affect the author's meaning or the essence of his expression" (by 
which I understand 'authority'). I feel certain that we shall come back 
to this at some point in our discussion, and not, I hope, in relation to 
whether or not Greg departed radically from McKerrow, since such matters 
are not strictly relevant.

But let me turn to an area of Egan's response on which we appear to 
agree: that involving a radical revision of, -- to use a 
short-hand-romantic notions of creativity. Our agreement is, 
regrettably, short-lived, since he thinks that "actors' names in 
speech-prefixes" (and I would take it further to include the instability 
of speech-prefixes tout court) are 'trivial'. I want to argue that they 
lead us into very complex questions, only some of which are relevant to 
our discussion of 'intention'. But was does the complexity to which Egan 
would direct us involve? That "the dramatist intends some others, the 
performers, to complete the meaning of the script by performing it".  I 
resist the temptation to take a sledgehammer of theory to crack this 
poor defenseless nut. Like Gregg before him, thought with something less 
than Greg's eloquence, Egan has "the meaning of the script" very firmly 
in mind; and, in seeking to point out the mote that may or may not be in 
McEachern's eye, he overlooks the beam that is in his own. The issue is 
who's meaning, and was it, or was it not 'intended'. I insist that this 
is not a mere scholastic point, since we now have access to very 
detailed theories and accounts of what an 'author' is and how meaning is 
produced, and we should be very careful how we proceed. Pedestrian 
common sense will simply not do here.

Egan accuses McEachern of not being up to date in her bibliographical 
thinking, but I wonder how 'up to date' he is himself? Lest he takes 
this opportunity to tell us, perhaps I should point out to him that that 
was a rhetorical question. But I ask it because his crude account of 
theatrical transaction and of the problem of 'intention' cannot really 
be allowed to stand after Barthes' 'The Death of The Author' and 
Foucault's 'What is an Author'. I will not tax the patience of members 
of the list by rehearsing some of these arguments, except to say that 
they imply a very clear distinction between 'agency' and 'intention' 
that Egan either simply fails to understand, or is reluctant to engage 
with. What distinction would he make between 'meaning production' and 
'sense making' and how might these categories impinge upon our theme for 
this discussion? One of the questions I am asking is: what do we 
understand by 'intention' and how do we project that understanding onto 
texts whose 'intentions' (and I use these scare quotes deliberately) we 
may only, if at all, be in a position to read symptomatically? And 
moreover, since this leads to other questions, what are the forces that 
over-determine these 'intentions'? I have in mind here questions of 
genre, language itself, and everything that might come under the heading 
of 'motivation'. And how does the establishment of authorial meaning 
differ from the readerly practice of sense-making? I only raised the 
textual bibliographical issues insofar as they impinge on these 
questions, and I do not think that we should be diverted into areas that 
might be more appropriately treated in another round-table discussion.

Finally, the trouble with Egan's 'concrete example' is that it is just 
that: inert, thoughtless, and absolutely a-historical. He is not a 16th 
century dramatist, nor by any stretch of the imagination can he 
transform himself into an Elizabethan compositor. Leaving that 
'complexity' aside, even at the most basic of levels, he confuses agency 
with authority, and he won't get out of this bind so long as he persists 
in regarding writing as an entirely instrumental mode of access to some 
Platonic realm of ideas. In spite of his concern with practical material 
matters of printing, there is a very clear Platonic strain in Greg's 
thinking, and in the bibliographical thinking of many of his 
contemporaries, including Bowers. It is no accident that D. F. 
McKenzie's ground-breaking article of 1969 should have been entitled 
'Printers of the Mind'. What gives the game away for Egan is his 
possessiveness: the 'accidentals' of his writing are 'his'. I would be 
very interested to be a fly on the wall of a conversation between Egan 
and God!

Cheers,
John Drakakis

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.