The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0313 Saturday, 24 May 2008
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Saturday, May 24, 2008
Subject: Resent Digests
On Thursday, I made a minor technical change that I thought might improve how
some e-mail clients handled SHAKSPER digests. Instead, it created more problems
than it solved so I resent the previous messages, only to discover that I had
introduced formatting errors. Below is a copy of the latest Roundtable. If
anyone had problems reading the first set of messages or the resends, contact me.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0282 Tuesday, 13 May 2008
From: Cary DiPietro <
Date: Monday, 12 May 2008 21:02:20 -0400
Subject: SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
We begin this week with Alan Dessen writing in answer to the question of whether
we can determine or what we can determine about Shakespeare's intentions in the
theatre based on the scant material evidence that has descended to us about
rehearsal and staging practices; specifically, whether playwrights such as
Shakespeare relinquished all control over their dramatic manuscripts when they
turned them over to theatre companies, which is more or less the received view,
or, as Grace Ioppolo argues in her recent book (discussed here at length),
whether dramatists retained more significant control in the realization of their
manuscripts to performance, and whether such "intentions" -- playwright as
dramaturge -- might have been inscribed in the copy used for printing the
different quarto and Folio versions of some plays, possibly at different points
Although the topics are ostensibly different, there is a wonderful and obvious
continuity between this and the last leading contribution by John Drakakis
(originally, I had planned for one week on "intention and editing" followed by
this week's "intention and [some aspect of] the theatre"). What I find
especially interesting here is that many of the speculative questions about the
place of the author in the transition from authorial manuscript to theatrical
performance to printed text that Dessen raises, and which he admits are both
tantalizing and disappointingly elusive, are questions that must be addressed
and, in some cases, answered by the textual editor, especially when dealing with
such theatrically specific markers in the text as stage directions and speech
Curiously, the theatre as a space of textual determination is left out of
Drakakis's formula when he writes that "behind that posture of positivism [i.e.,
the editor's confident and absolute control over the marks on the page] lies a
series of assumptions about textual composition (writing), printing practice,
contemporary theories of reading, the role of 'art' in the society for which it
was produced, and the historical transformations of reception since." I assume
this omission is accidental, but it's nevertheless demonstrative of the problem
of determining textual authority vis-a-vis the playwright as an "author" figure,
and what has been, as Drakakis argues, the de facto assumption of authorial fair
copy as the editor's "ideal" text since, at least, the time of Greg.
This is, in fact, one of the points at issue in the subsequent exchange between
Drakakis and Gabriel Egan, who argues that Drakakis greatly understates the
problem of intentionality, if not "vulgarizes" it. It would be easy to
misinterpret the tone and meaning of Egan's retort here, as I think Drakakis
does in his response to the response. When he uses the term "vulgar", Egan uses
it in a sense borrowed from such coinages as "vulgar Marxism", to mean a
positivist determinism; that is, a simplistic cause-and-effect relationship
between a determining base, the author's intentions very strictly or
homogenously conceived (i.e., the meaning of the text), and the superstructure
of the printed play text. I don't think it's wholly fair to accuse Drakakis of a
positivist determinism in this way, of a "vulgar intentionalism," as it were,
because this was, after all, the main point of Drakakis's own contribution.
In any case, Egan draws attention to, among other things, Drakakis's attribution
of a "best text" approach to editing to Greg. This, Egan argues, belongs more
properly to R. B. McKerrow, specifically, to his 1935 _Prolegomena for the
Oxford Shakespeare_, in which McKerrow argues that the editor's text "should
approach as closely as the extant material allows to a fair copy, made by the
author himself, of his plays in the form which he intended finally to give them,
and . . . should not in any way be coloured by the preconceived ideas or
interpretations of later times" (6). Egan also argues the need to split or
differentiate between kinds of intentionality, for example, stage directions and
speech prefixes, which might be seen to be indicative of the author's intentions
for the text's realization in performance, versus the accidentals, left by the
writer (in the sense of the one who puts the marks on the page) to be more or
less determined by the printer. Egan's raising of stage-centered editorial
methodologies provides that useful link between the last installment and this one.
I've grouped the exchanges between Egan and Drakakis, following after Alan
Dessen's contribution. These have already been sent out as Roundtable digests,
but I'm reproducing them here for consistency's sake. There is a further
response by Egan which I'm saving for next week; after the fashion of a
nineteenth-century serialized novel, I'll leave you hanging until the next
installment. There is also a series of substantive exchanges between Larry Weiss
and John Drakakis centered upon a substantive example of emendation in _The
Taming of the Shrew_, with further questions posed by Joe Egert.
There is a further meta-thread on the Roundtable running concurrently on the
list, prompted by Egan's SHAKSPER example in his response to Drakakis. When I
suggested that we adopt MLA style in the Roundtable (assuming naively that,
because I force my students to use MLA style, I'm also competent), I was
unprepared for the numerous questions this would raise, some prompted by the
nature of electronic publication, and others by the particular nature of
SHAKSPER as non-traditional mode of discourse. To give you an example, in one of
John Drakakis's posts below, he quotes two long prose passages from Greg, and
he's obviously italicized key words or phrases therein because he's written at
the end of both, "(my italics)." But, alas, the italics are gone, so we can only
guess what key points he meant to emphasize. I've also gone over my own writing
in these prefatory comments to change "Alan", "John", "Gabriel", etc., to
"Dessen", "Drakakis" and "Egan", and so on, exchanging my usually casual,
familiar tone on the list for a more formal professionalism in the Roundtable.
But I'll retain my cosy familiarity with Hardy to thank him for explaining how
it is SHAKSPER digests end up looking the way they do, as I direct your
attention to the meta-thread.
Finally, it seemed a bit self-congratulatory to reproduce in this digest Hugh
Grady's compliment last week on the quality of the discussion so far (thanks,
Hugh), which is made all the better by this week's contribution from Alan Dessen
and the round of exchanges reproduced below. And it gets better: in the next
installment, we will have a double leading contribution on the topic of
intention and meaning; Duncan Salkeld and Terence Hawkes will offer contrasting,
if not exactly dialectical, positions. For those participants who have been, up
to this point, whetting their definitions of "intention" on the grindstone, now
would be a good time to jump into the fray.
"The intentions of the playwright"
As a theatre historian I am reluctant to venture into a discussion of "authorial
intention" or other matters theoretical (for me, here there be dragons). That is
not a value judgment (some of my best friends are theorists), but my mind just
does not work efficiently with terms and problems that tantalize others on
SHAKSPER. Rather, the three questions that have engaged me for roughly thirty
years are: 1) at those first performances of _Twelfth Night_ and _Hamlet_ what
did the original playgoers actually see; 2) how can we tell today (i.e., what
constitutes evidence); and, to borrow the persistent question from
undergraduates and other non-belligerents, 3) so what?
Question #2 has generated for me what seems a never-ending study of the stage
directions that have survived in the early manuscripts and printed editions, a
study enhanced by my colleague, the indefatigable Leslie Thomson, who compiled a
database of over 22,000 items from professional plays that formed the basis of
our 1999 dictionary. Cary DiPietro's invitation to contribute to this
Roundtable, however, has pulled me out of that comfort zone in italics and
forced me to look more widely at the playhouse evidence about the role of
*playwrights* (my term of choice, analogous to "shipwrights" and "wainwrights"
who construct their products, though the prevalent term in the period appears to
be "playmakers"). What follows is my own idiosyncratic formulation - so *caveat
To determine the contribution of a playwright to the staging of his play by an
Elizabethan or Jacobean theatre company is, as with many comparable problems, to
encounter a murky area where, in terms of actual evidence, the norm is silence -
and this situation is particularly true for the practices of Shakespeare and his
colleagues for most of his career, the Lord Chamberlain's and King's Men. What
has been the standard view is provided by Gerald Eades Bentley: "The dramatist
sold his manuscript to the acting company for which it had been prepared; after
that it was no more his than the cloak that he might have sold to the actors at
the same time" (82). For Bentley, examples of the sale of plays by third parties
"without reference to the author . . . further emphasize the playwright's lack
of control over his own compositions. Far from being a sacred holograph, a
dramatist's manuscript was often treated simply as another theatrical commodity,
like a cloth cloak or laced cuffs, 'things of small value'" (87). Neil Carson
concentrates on the 1602-03 period in Henslowe's records and concludes:
"Dramatists appear to have formed loose partnerships or syndicates which worked
together for short periods and then broke up and reformed into other alliances,"
so that "The impression one is left with is of the playwright as a relatively
independent agent who seems to have had considerable control over his own
methods of work and to have used that freedom to market his skills, alone or in
association with others, to his greatest advantage" (22-3).
In her 2006 book Grace Ioppolo challenges this widely accepted formulation on
the basis of what she teases out of her reading of the Henslowe-Alleyn papers,
surviving play manuscripts, and other documents (e.g., the late 1630s dispute
between playwright Richard Brome and the Salisbury Court Theatre). In her
formulation: "Dramatists could, then, take an extraordinary, and hands-on, role
in the staging of their plays, even in purchasing costumes" and therefore "did
not simply hand over a completed manuscript, and their authority, at the
playhouse door and disappear with no further contact with the company, its
actors, and the play itself." Rather, playwrights such as Daborne, Dekker, and
Jonson, "even if not exclusively attached to a particular company, appear to
have had nearly continuous contact with the companies for which they worked,"
for "the overwhelming evidence provided by the Henslowe and Alleyn archive
suggests that authors were not forced to surrender all authority in their plays
once the manuscripts were presented." She concludes that "the authors could be
consulted, or could interfere, when necessary . . . . In fact, acting companies
frequently sought the advice of authors when casting actors in their plays and
continued to turn to authors for other support during readings and rehearsal"
This argument warrants attention, though such terms as "overwhelming" and
"frequently" may be an overstatement (and other scholars who have pored over the
playhouse annotations that survive in a few manuscripts and printed texts do not
support some of Ioppolo's conclusions). Clearly those playwrights somehow
attached to a given company (e.g., Shakespeare, Heywood, Fletcher) *could* have
played a significant role in the process of turning an authorial manuscript into
a performed play. However, the unwelcome truth (to repeat my mantra) is that
despite the labors of generations of scholars, there is much of significance
that we do not and may never know about the script to stage process in this
period. As a result, both my work in reconstructing onstage business and that of
Ioppolo is replete with uses of "may have," "seems," and the three P's:
"probably," "presumably," and "perhaps."
Clearly, some playwrights *were* concerned with how their work was treated by
theatrical professionals. The poster child for a playwright seeking to ensure
that his "intentions" were realized is Ben Jonson, as witnessed by the
explanations provided by his various choric commentators, most notably Cordatus
and Mitis in _Every Man Out of His Humour_ (a play that apparently was a 1599
success for the Lord Chamberlain's Men), two figures who provide a running
commentary (at least in the post-performance extremely long "literary" version)
on the action and on satire in general. Jonson's fixation on how his plays were
treated in the theatre is one of the traits singled out in the attack on him in
_Satiromastix_ (1601). Here, as part of the punishment inflicted at the climax,
Horace-Jonson is required to swear that he "shall not sit in a Gallery, when
your Comedies and Enterludes haue entred their Actions, and there make vile and
bad faces at euerie lyne, to make Gentlemen haue an eye to you, and to make
Players afraide to take your part" (5.2.298-301). Jonson, moreover, provides
anecdotal evidence wherein he types himself as one who hovered over his plays in
performance. In the Induction to _Bartholomew Fair_ the Stage-keeper comments:
"But for the whole play, will you ha' the truth on't? (I am looking, lest the
poet hear me, or his man, Master Brome, behind the arras) it is like to be a
very conceited scurvy one, in plain English" (6-9). In _Cynthia's Revels_ one
child actor asks to speak with the author, but another responds: "wee are not so
officiously befriended by him, as to have his presence in the tiring-house, to
prompt vs aloud, stampe at the booke-holder, sweare for our properties, curse
the poore tire-man, raile the music out of tune, and sweat for euerie veniall
trespasse we commit, as some Authour would, if he had such fine engles as we"
Shakespeare, unlike Jonson, was an actor and company share-holder for most of
his career and therefore available to tweak his original manuscript during the
movement towards performance and provide his insight, if asked, into "intended"
meanings, stagings, whatever. Although what he actually contributed to the
post-manuscript part of the process remains a mystery, scholars with performance
interests over the years have sought to find "signals in the script" or other
markers (as in Ann Pasternak Slater's _Shakespeare the Director_). If the arrow
in the dying Clifford's neck turns up in a putative performance-related text,
the 1595 Octavo version of _3 Henry VI_, but not in the First Folio version
(2.6.0), are we to conclude that Shakespeare was on hand to supply this detail
from Holinshed that was not included in his submitted manuscript or was someone
else in the company also reading source material? To eliminate Shakespeare (or
Heywood or Fletcher) from further participation in the script to performance
process seems illogical, but to pin down what or how much they contributed is
daunting if not impossible.
One procedure often omitted from such discussions is the playreading. As Bentley
notes: "A normal part of the dramatist's preparation of his play for the acting
troupe was the reading of his manuscript to them for their approval," so that he
cites several allusions to this practice in Henslowe's papers: e.g., five
shillings "Lent at that time to the company for to spend at the reading of that
book at the Sun in New Fish Street"; two shillings "Laid out for the company
when they read the play of Jeffa for wine at the tavern." He points out further
that since "all the companies of the time were repertory companies, the
dramatist knew in advance a good deal about the kind of production his play
might get, and a skillful writer of experience could go far in adapting the
requirements of at least the major roles to the leading members listening to his
reading"; as a result, "a great advantage lay with the actor-dramatists like
Samuel and William Rowley, William Shakespeare, Thomas Heywood, and Nathan
Field, whose daily familiarity with the styles and talents of their fellows made
it easier for them to exploit special gifts and to anticipate difficulties" (76-7).
In her review of the sparse evidence for such playreadings (evidence that does
not include any examples linked to Shakespeare's company) Tiffany Stern observes
that such a reading "gave the playwright a chance to speak the text in the
manner in which he wished to hear it performed" (60). Here is an opportunity for
a strong-minded playwright such as Jonson to make his wishes known. But to
confront this playreading practice is to enter the misty realm of conjecture.
Would a playwright who was also an actor have been histrionic in his
presentation? E.g., Stern includes a passage from _Histriomastix_ (1599) where
Posthaste, a bumbling poet-playwright, "reads out his text highlighting the
passion so strongly that it overtakes him." Would a playreader such as Jonson or
Shakespeare have responded to questions or provided a running commentary? What
tantalizes me (and perhaps no one else) is: would such a reading of a manuscript
include a reading aloud of the stage directions? If so, would some of those
signals -- e.g., the "fictional" ones that appear to tell the story or slip into
a narrative mode -- be linked to the playwright's thinking ahead not only to the
eventual performance but also to this reading-audition-trial run? More
generally, if such a to-be-expected extra step between completed manuscript and
preparation for performance was anticipated, would some manuscript features be
conditioned by an author or authors taking into account that intermediate phase?
Would such an author-centered event have conveyed a sense of his "intentions" to
the players as auditors?
As will have become clear, I can offer many questions about the role of the
playwright in the script to stage process but few answers. The primary evidence
about the staging of plays in this period is provided by the extant stage
directions, even taking into account the many silences when we would expect
information and the many uses of coded terms that are difficult to interpret
today, as with the many "*as*" or "*as [if]*" signals: "*as in prison*"; "*as in
a garden*." My personal formulation is: in reading their playscripts today we
enter into the middle of a conversation - a discourse in a language we only
partly understand - between a playwright and his player-colleagues, a halfway
stage that was completed in a performance now lost to us. Although we will never
reconstitute that performance, we may be able to recover elements of that
theatrical vocabulary and hence better understand that conversation, whether the
pre-production concept of the playwright or the implementation by the players.
Nonetheless, we remain eavesdroppers.
I do not wish to conclude sounding like Prospero in his Epilogue ("And my ending
is despair"), so as a final gesture to the focus on "authorial intention" I will
invoke a recent essay by Cary Mazer ("The Intentional-Fallacy Fallacy") where
the author, drawing on his experience as a dramaturg, posits a crucial
distinction "between dramatic *content* and theatrical *materials*." In this
formulation, for the theatre artist "the *contents* of the dramatist's intention
are indecipherable, unknowable, or irrelevant; but the dramatist's artful
arrangement of the dramatic and theatrical materials - the playwright's
*craftsmanship* - is both discernible and knowable. With this distinction in
mind, the stage-centered Shakespeare scholar can avoid questions of authorship
and intentionality with regard to meaning, while at the same time embracing
intentionality with regard to craftsmanship." The term "craftsmanship" is used
"to cover questions about dramaturgical strategy -- the craft of dramatic
story-telling -- and about theatrical conventions, the period-specific machinery
of staging employed by the original theatrical collaborators in building the
theater piece from the script provided by the playwright." Mazer argues that
when "addressing questions of dramaturgical strategy, stage-centered scholars
practice the Intentional Fallacy with impunity: there must be a reason for the
playwright to have decided to delay this entrance, to introduce that character
into this scene, to narrate this offstage event rather than showing it happening
onstage, to have one character respond to an event with a lengthy speech and to
another with silence" (102-3). As examples he invokes Brutus hearing the news of
Portia's death not once but twice; Leontes' reunion with Perdita being placed
offstage; and Edgar, not Albany, being given the final speech in Folio _King Lear_.
From the perspective of a theatre historian, much has been irretrievably lost
about Shakespeare's role in the playhouse -- and his "intentions" -- but, even
as eavesdroppers, some elements on some level (e.g., in terms of "craftsmanship"
or "strategy") can still be recognized and, with effort, understood for our
profit and delight. The rest is silence.
From: Gabriel Egan <
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
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
>. . . 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?
From: John Drakakis <
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
[below], 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:
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. (121-2) (my italics)
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" (122). I will, of course, check the
later Greg text, but I am not aware that he changed his position on this play
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 Egan has to say about the ideological
investment in the following quotation from this very influential (but now
largely superseded) essay:
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.
(376) (my italics)
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, though 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 thatwas 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!
From: Larry Weiss <
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.
From: John Drakakis <
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 [posted in the in the
"Meta-Comment on Intentions Roundtable" begun Friday, May 02, 2008
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2008/0253.html] in this contribution to the
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
reminded 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,
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:
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 "authorized" and a process of
"making sense of" that is properly the purview of reading.
Many thanks to Larry Weiss for raising this example.
From: Joseph Egert <
Date: Sunday, 11 May 2008 16:28:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 19.0275 Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment: Re: SHK 19.0275 Roundtable Digest: Shakespeare's Intentions
John Drakakis writes:
>[...] 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).
What does Dr Drakakis believe Shakespeare wrote or intended to write?
"Maistrice"? And why does "mistris" make sense only "in a very minimal way"?
Bentley, Gerald Eades. _The Profession of Dramatist in Shakespeare's Time
1590-1642_. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1971.
Carson, Neil. "Collaborative Playwriting: The Chettle, Dekker, Heywood
Syndicate." _Theatre Research International_ 14 (1989): 13-23.
Dekker, Thomas, _Satiromastix_. In _The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker_, ed.
Fredson Bowers. 4 vols. Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 1953. 1:299-391.
Dessen, Alan C. and Leslie Thomson. _A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English
Drama, 1580-1642-. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.
Greg, Walter W., and J. C. Maxwell. _Collected Papers of W.W.Greg_. Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1966
Greg, W. W. _The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare; A Survey of the Foundations
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Jonson, Middleton, and Heywood: Authorship, authority and the playhouse_. London
and New York: Routledge, 2006.
Jonson, Ben. _Bartholomew Fair_, ed. E. A. Horsman. Revels Plays. London:
---. _Cynthia's Revels_. In _Ben Jonson_, ed. C. H. Herford and Percy and
Evelyn Simpson. 11 vols. London: Oxford UP, 1925-52. 4:1-184.
Mazer, Cary. "The Intentional-Fallacy Fallacy." In _Staging Shakespeare_, ed.
Lena Cowen Orlin and Miranda Johnson-Haddad. Newark: University of Delaware P,
McKerrow, Ronald B. _Prolegomena to the Oxford Shakespeare: A Study in
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Slater, Ann Pasternak. _Shakespeare the Director_. Brighton: Harvester Press, 1982.
Stern, Tiffany. _Rehearsal from Shakespeare to Sheridan_. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000.
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