The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0323 Sunday, 1 June 2008
 From: Steve Urkowitz <
Date: Thursday, 29 May 2008 10:49 am
Subj: Re: SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
 From: Duncan Salkeld <
Date: Friday, 30 May 2008 17:18:51 +0000 (GMT)
Subj: Re: SHK 19.0321 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
From: Steve Urkowitz <
Date: Thursday, 29 May 2008 10:49 am
Subject: Re: SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Time for me to step in to swing wildly at various pitches being thrown around
this Intentionality ball-field.
First, in my vulgar Bronx way, many years ago I argued that Shakespeare intended
to write what we find in Q1 KING LEAR and that he also intended to write what we
see in the F version of that play. My book, SHAKESPEARE'S REVISION OF KING LEAR
and subsequent articles and presentations on HAMLET, ROMEO AND JULIET, THE MERRY
WIVES OF WINDSOR, HENRY V, RICHARD III, and HENRY VI PARTS 2 AND 3, present
intentional arguments that run something like this: "Here are five (or maybe
fifteen) examples of a kind of textual variant between Q1 and F LEAR or Q1 and
Q2 and F HAMLET etc., that would produce noticeable blips on an alert theatrical
observer's radar if the versions were to be played one after the other on a
stage. Although any one or two of such blipping variants might be generated
accidentally or by other agents, the "so-muchness" or "so-many-ness" and
especially the "so-goodness" of the patterns of variants lead me to conclude
that they result from an author's intervention in his composition.
When SHAKESPEARE'S REVISION OF KING LEAR came out, almost all reviewers found
that the marshaling of lots of evidence and my arguments were indeed convincing.
Some critics felt, however, that specific instances of patterns I cited were
instead more likely to have resulted from non-authorial interventions or
accidents. The passage most often cited by those critics is the dialog between
Kent and a Gentleman in LEAR 3.1. which I show is one of many "interrupted
speeches" that appear in the Folio but not found in the Q1 version. I feel the
strength of my argument is that (at least in my part of the Bronx) purposeful
patterns of repeated variation in elegant linguistic designs really do signal
some kind of intention. Shakespeare's intention. Since then, though, my basic
claims and especially my citation of what I see as authorially-introduced and
intended _patterns_ have been dismissed or ignored. Or most often a particular
instance of a general pattern might be noted while the generality is passed over
silently. Ah, well. I keep on writing.
Let me bring to this roundtable discussion two of what I feel are interesting
sets of textual variants that lead me to believe that Shakespeare himself
intentionally altered the early printed versions of HENRY VI PARTS 2 AND 3 to
generate what we see in the Folio text of those plays. (Other similar patterns
of intentional authorial revision may be found in my essays "'If I Mistake in
Those Foundations Which I Build Upon': Peter Alexander's Textual Analysis of
HENRY VI PARTS 2 AND 3," ELR 18 , 230-56, and "'Brother, can you spare a
paradigm?' Textual Generosity and the Printing of Shakespeare's Multiple-Text
Plays by Contemporary Editors," CRITICAL SURVEY 7 (1995) 292-8.)
When Richard of Gloucester learns of the death of his father Richard of York, in
the 1595 version of 3H6 a six-line passage gives the actor playing Richard of
Gloucester a vivid action and strong emotions to play:
I cannot weepe, for all my breasts moisture
Scarse serves to quench my furnace burning hart:
I cannot joie till this white rose be dide
Even in the hart bloud of the house of Lancaster.
Richard, I bare thy name, and Ile revenge thy death,
Or die my selfe in seeking of revenge.
As a dramatic script, we should assume that the author's intention behind the
words "this white rose" was for the actor to hold up or point to a physical
object. And when the actor says "Richard, I bare thy name, and I'll revenge . .
. " the author intended that the actor address the imagined soul or offstage
dead body of his father while verbally and likely with a robust gesture swearing
himself to enact some later revenge.
The later-printed version does not have the lines about the rose. Instead of
"this white rose" and the actions attendant on indicating it, the later-printed
Folio text contains lines which hold two patterns of iterated imagery found only
in a number of other passages also unique to the Folio versions of both HENRY VI
PART 2 and PART 3. The F-only lines are indicated by capitals.
I cannot weepe: for all my bodies moysture
Scarse serves to quench my Furnace-burning hart:
NOR CAN MY TONGUE UNLOADE MY HEARTS GREAT BURTHEN,
FOR SELFE-SAME WINDE THAT I WOULD SPEAKE WITHALL,
IS KINDLING COALES THAT FIRES ALL MY BREST,
AND BURNES ME UP WITH FLAMES, THAT TEARS WOULD QUENCH,
TO'WEEPE, IS TO MAKE LESSE THE DEPTH OF GREEFE:
TEARES THEN FOR BABES; BLOWES, AND REVENGE FOR MEE.
Richard, I beare thy name, Ile venge thy death,
Or dye renowned by attempting it.
Here the instruction to the actor is first to enact a kind of "inexpressibility
topos" about his inner feelings, and then to vow to take revenge. In this
version, first he directs attention to his inner self rather than to the
physical rose and then, as in the earlier-printed text, he addresses his
father's spirit. The portrayal of Richard of Gloucester being unable or
unwilling to reveal what he feels or thinks appears earlier in 2H6, (TLN 2111)
as an aside undercutting his surface-allegiance to his brother: "I heare, yet
say not much, but thinke the more." And similarly a speech unique to the Folio
has Richard report his inner thoughts at TLN 2157-9.
The capitalized passage also offers one of the many (ten or a dozen) images of
"wind" as a destructive or unpredictable force found in these plays, all unique
to the Folio. For these iterated imagistic patterns to appear in only one or the
other version indicates either that some agent put them in on purpose or took
'em out, equally on purpose. The wind images appear in a variety of characters'
(1) Richard of York: "all my followers to the eager foe / Turne back, and flye,
like Ships before the Winde (TLN 461-2).
(2) King Henry:
. . . like a Mighty Sea,
Forc'd by the Tide, to combat with the Winde:
Now swayes it that was, like the selfe-same Sea,
Forc'd to retyre by furie of the Winde.
Sometime, the Flood Prevailes; and than the Winde:
(3) the father who has killed his son in battle:
. . . see, see, what showres arise,
Blowne with the windie Tempest of my heart,
Upon thy wounds, that killes mine Eye, and Heart.
(4) King Henry:
. . . Looke, as I blow this Feather from my Face,
And as the Ayre blowes it to me againe,
Obeying with my winde when I do blow,
And yeelding to another, when it blowes,
Colmmanded alwayes by the greater gust:
Such is the lightnesse of you, common men.
(4) The King of France:
With patience calme the Storme,
While we bethinke a meanes to breake it off.
(5) Queen Margaret, referring to Warwick,
. . . now begins a second Storme to rise,
For this is hee that moves both Winde and Tyde.
(6) Edward, when captured by Warwick,
What Fates impose, that men must needs abide;
It boots not to resist both winde and tide.
(7) Edward, threatening Warwick:
Sayle how thou canst,
Have Winde and Tyde thy friend,
This Hand, fast wound about thy coale-blacke hayre,
Shall, whiles thy Head is warme, and new cut off,
Write in the dust this Sentence with thy blood,
Wind-changing Warwicke now can change no more.
(8) Warwick, dying, imagines himself as a cedar tree which
. . . kept low Shrubs from Winters pow'rfull Winde.
(9) Margaret, addressing her army,
We will not from the Helme, to sit and weepe,
But keepe our Course (though the rough Winde say no)
From Shelves and rocks, that threaten us with Wrack . . .
Of course, if we follow the narratives of memorial reconstruction championed by
the Oxford editors, these iterated images could have been first inscribed in a
manuscript drafted by Shakespeare which served as the basis for the text printed
in the Folio and then were subsequently cut out by him and so did not appear in
the 1594-5 versions, or they could have been cut out by some censor or book
keeper. Or as many have argued, they were all memorially excised by actors, or
intentionally excised by a timid acting company afraid of offending someone high
in the local political-economy of windiness.
But to my vulgar sense of how human beings function today when they write,
revise, edit, or otherwise cut literary writings, I am happier imagining that
Shakespeare was responsible for the versions underlying the first-printed texts
and that he intentionally added these two patterned clusters as he worked
through the earlier manuscripts along his merry way to crafting the versions
underlying the Folio texts.
Theatrical authors inscribe writings so that actors will say their words on a
stage with actions appropriate to making the audiences believe the fictional
creatures behave like the "real" people standing around them in the theatre. I
can't believe that anyone other than Shakespeare generated the intentions we
find coded in the earliest printed versions and the different intentions found
in the later printed texts. Nor can I believe that other folks stripped out the
wind images, or the inexpressibility imagery.
Like my friend Lemuel Gulliver, in print and in discussions I've laid out these
ideas and evidence to support them. Like Brother Lemuel, I am dismayed that
current belief and practice does not yet reflect the bright light I've shone on
But then I gather up my quartos and folios, find a few more signs of hope, and I
press on. Evidence, like exuberance, is beauty.
Presentist and Proud! Intensely Intentionalist! Vaingloriously Vulgar!
Urquartowitz of the Bronx
From: Duncan Salkeld <
Date: Friday, 30 May 2008 17:18:51 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 19.0321 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment: Re: SHK 19.0321 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Alan Horn very kindly credits me with 'an important point' in my RT contribution
but goes on to propose that the 'Indian/Iudean' crux in Othello (5.2.346) offers
an example of intentionless meaning. He writes that 'one of the two alternate
meanings of this part of Othello's penultimate speech not only does not reflect
Shakespeare's intentions, but reflects no human intentions at all.' For this to
be true, the marks that make up these possibilities would have had to find their
way into the early texts without any human agency involved. But since the
example is probably a case of compositorial 'turned letter' ('Iu' for 'In') or
perhaps a scribal/printing house misreading (see Michael Neill 's 2006 Oxford
edition, pp. 464-5), it is hard to see how 'no human intentions at all' lie
behind it. Indeed such a suggestion seems incomprehensible. The most one could
claim in this and similar instances is that one of the alternatives was not
He is right to see a certain circularity in Knapp and Michaels' argument that
meaning is always "the author's intended meaning." But this is the circularity
of an axiom or first-base assumption. K & M don't so much argue for this
assumption (because they assume it) as argue against attempts at rejecting it --
hence their example of the 'wave poem'. They hold that an apparent poem,
produced in the sand accidentally by a wave, would not even constitute language,
since language (as Wittgenstein, Rush Rhys, Donald Davidson and others have
argued) is fundamentally interpersonal and shared.
Martin Mueller helpfully recommends working from 'obvious' rather than 'hard'
cases. But because intentions are often habitual, many of them are just too
obvious to be worth spelling out. When I cycle to work, I intend to continue
riding until I arrive at my destination. Along the way, I intend to give
appropriate signals to other vehicles and stop at traffic lights. But mentioning
these intentions is by and large worthless so long as it is understood that I am
a competent cyclist and in relative possession of my senses. We often know (or
presuppose) Shakespeare's intentions in a similarly trivial way. Writing Romeo
and Juliet, Shakespeare intended to compose a play (in the dramatic genre as he
understood it); he intended to adapt a poetic source; and, among so many other
aims, he intended, as usual, to convey conflicts of attitude, desire, belief and
action and entertain an audience. But knowing these very basic intentions adds
little to our understanding of the way in which he carried them out.
Mueller also sensibly regards authorial intention as belonging in the realms of
the probable, plausible and 'underspecified' (a useful category, as Alan Dessen
observes). Donald Davidson has done more than any other contemporary philosopher
to show why Mueller's claim about 'the very large body of agreement that makes
interesting disagreement possible in the first place' is essential. My
concluding comments were intended to make a very similar point. As Davidson also
shows, we only understand failures of communication such as malapropisms against
a general backdrop of shared understanding or successful communicability.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
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