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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: June ::
SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0332  Wednesday, 4 June 2008

[1] From:       Gabriel Egan <
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     Date:       Tuesday, 3 Jun 2008 19:53:42 +0100
     Subj:       Re: SHK 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

[2] From:       Duncan Salkeld <
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     Date:       Tuesday, 03 Jun 2008 20:10:29 +0000 (GMT)
     Subj:       Re: SHK 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

[3] From:       Larry Weiss <
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     Date:       Wednesday, 04 Jun 2008 00:41:36 -0400
     Subj:       Re: SHK 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

[4] From:       Terence Hawkes <
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     Date:       Wednesday, 4 Jun 2008 12:39:27 +0100
     Subj:       SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:          Gabriel Egan <
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Date:          Tuesday, 3 Jun 2008 19:53:42 +0100
Subject: 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:       Re: SHK 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

It would be helpful to the debate on intentions if Hardy were to introduce a 
random corruption into the postings, say every 500th alphanumeric character 
being picked by random selection. (A script to do this automatically wouldn't be 
hard to write.) This would allow readers of the postings to see how authors of 
philosophically and theoretically complex arguments react when their own words 
are mangled.

Since what is sauce for the authorial goose ought to remain sauce for the 
critical gander, this procedure ought to help separate the intellectually 
coherent arguments (those requiring no special pleading about one's own 
intentions as distinct from literary author's intentions) from the arguments 
that cannot be self-reflexively applied and hence ought not to command our 
attention.

Gabriel Egan

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:          Duncan Salkeld <
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Date:          Tuesday, 03 Jun 2008 20:10:29 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:       Re: SHK 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

I do genuinely take Alan Horn's point about inadvertent meaning, and it is one 
raised at length by Hershel Parker in his response to Knapp and Michaels (see 
Mitchell, 1985, 72-9). Knapp and Michaels might well reply (though I will not 
speak for them) that one could not begin to interpret the 'Indian/Iudean' crux 
as constituting 'alternatives' without, as they put it, 'interpreting it as what 
we believe its author meant' (p. 102). In any case, they would hold, I think, 
that unintended acts are not non-intended acts. Alan Horn seems to agree and so 
re-phrases his point: 'here is an example of a meaning coming into being without 
any intentions relevant to its production behind it'. He means, I think, that 
either 'Indian' or 'Iudean' was not what the author intended, nor what the 
compositor intended though we know what both mean. But for Knapp and Michaels, 
intentionality is always 'relevant' (they might say 'simply necessary') even in 
cases of inadvertent meaning. For them, the fact that someone wrote or set 
'Iudean' when they intended to write or set 'Indian' does not nullify their 
intention. I recommend the replies to Knapp and Michaels, and their replies, 
collected in Mitchell's small book to interested parties. I grant that Searle 
(1995) certainly intends his criticism of Knapp and Michaels as a demonstrable 
refutation of their position.

Steve Urkowitz makes an intriguing suggestion -- that someone (i.e. Shakespeare) 
intentionally re-worked 'windy' moments into the later (Folio) versions of his 
early histories. Discussing an example from 3H6 (2.1.79-88, Randall ed.), he 
comments 'The later-printed version does not have the lines about the rose'. 
Looking the example up, I noticed that the later version does have lines closely 
approximating those allegedly lost in the later version. In 1.2.32-4, Richard 
declares, 'I cannot rest / Vntill the White Rose that I weare, be dy'de / Euen 
in the luke-warme blood of Henries heart'. These lines have apparently been 
transposed in the early imprint from one point in 1.2 to a later point in the 
same scene, and such transpositions are, in my view, most plausibly a sign of 
lapsed memory. This doesn't alter the very interesting nature of the Folio 
pattern to which he draws attention.

A last observation: David Schalkwyk finishes by suggesting that intention is no 
problem so long as it's not 'privileged' as 'the determining and authoritative 
cause of what's going on in his texts'. This leaves open the possibility that, 
on the odd occasion, we might privilege (after all, something has to be 
'privileged' at any one time) intention as 'a determining and authoritative cause'.

Duncan Salkeld

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Larry Weiss <
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Date:         Wednesday, 04 Jun 2008 00:41:36 -0400
Subject: 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
Comment:      Re: SHK 19.0328 SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

Our distinguished moderator's lead note this week requests knowledgeable 
SHAKSPEReans to address the intention question from the point of view of (1) 
modern psychology, which is much concerned with issues of whether and to what 
extent people may be said to "intend" their conduct and how we can tell if they 
do, and (2) pedagogy when faced with the difficulty of teaching literature 
without reference to the author's intentions (and perhaps even without regarding 
the language as having intrinsic meaning). I second that request as I have long 
shared the impression that both the disciplines of clinical psychology and 
practical pedagogy can offer useful insights that could helpfully inform the 
theoretical discussion. Since "intent" is a recurrent issue in legal disputes, 
especially criminal prosecutions and questions of contract and statutory 
interpretation (which bear some analogs to literary criticism), the lawyers 
among us might also have something to contribute. But it is not the purpose of 
this present note to suggest such an expansion of the inquiry.

Rather, I suggest that a refinement, narrowing or bifurcation of the question 
may be in order. Some of the Roundtable posts to date have focused on 
"intention" as it affects critical issues and others as it relates to textual 
matters. It seems to me that these are very different inquiries, and 
observations pertinent to one of them may have little or no relevance to the 
other. In critical matters, we may ask what the author "intended" by his words; 
that is, what he expected the audience or readers to understand from them, or, 
on an even grander scale, how he wanted them to feel or react in response to 
them. The patent difficulty of providing sure answers to such questions in all 
but the most obvious cases (that is, in all cases in which the question is 
interesting) is daunting; and it is not unreasonable to suggest that it is not a 
legitimate or useful exercise to make the attempt.

In textual matters, however, the question is not what the author intended by his 
words, but what words he intended. An editor cannot evade this question and 
still call herself an editor rather than, say, a reviser or adapter. (A helpful 
and readable discussion of some of an editor's problems can be found in Stanley 
Wells's little book "Re-editing Shakespeare for the Modern Reader" [Clarendon 
1984].)  For example, an editor must choose either "Indian" or "Judean"; she 
cannot evade that issue by leaving a blank space or substituting some other 
trisyllabic word that encompasses both concepts (say "alien").

The editor must make a textual choice every time she is faced with variant 
versions and cruces, and sometimes just when the text contains odd terminology 
that doesn't sound right. To the extent that the editor relies on 
bibliographical evidence, such as apparent eyeskips, font confusion, slug 
shortages, tendencies of the compositors, etc., the inquiry does not involve 
authorial intention. But editors frequently resort to other guides which do 
involve conclusions or assumptions about the author's intent. The maxim 
"difficilior lectio," for example, presumes that an author prefers to use the 
less immediately comprehensible choice of language, hardly an intuitive 
conclusion. Other guides also make assumptions about the author's likely 
intention as to the choice of words. Resort may be had to metrical 
considerations -- for example, "Judean" fits the iambic meter while "Indian" 
does not -- but this assumes that Shakespeare wanted to be metrically pure at 
this point in the play although he did not at other points. Resort to frequency 
of word usage, stylistic habits, consistency of the language with other speeches 
by the same character, context and even conclusions as to which language better 
sorts with what the author was trying to get across, increasingly import 
authorial intention into the textual issue. These types of guides may be 
referred to as "critical contamination" of the textual inquiry, which converts 
it from a pure bibliographical exercise to a hybrid of textual study and 
critical analysis.

Critical contamination is inevitable whenever an editor makes a choice, even if 
the choice is to retain an apparently incorrect copytext reading, except when 
the choice is based on purely bibliographical considerations. And, as I have 
already noted, an editor does not have the freedom to evade making a choice as a 
critical analyst does. Unless the editor abdicates her role entirely and 
reproduces a diplomatic copy of the copytext, the author's intention as to what 
words he used (if not as to what the words mean) are consulted, however 
indirectly. To take the example from the Taming of the Shrew which I cited in an 
earlier post to this Roundtable: F1 has Grumio say: "Help, mistris, help, my 
master is mad." Theobald emended "mistris" to "masters" evidently because it 
made no sense to him as there are no female characters on the main stage. I 
propose to restore the copytext because I believe the speech makes sense as a 
plea to the page in the induction who has been dressed as a lady to deceive Sly. 
However, it is not necessary to reach that conclusion to opt for retention of 
the copytext. It is possible, although to my mind less likely, that Grumio is 
addressing one of the male characters in the main action, just as Petruchio 
later persuades Kate to address old Vincentio as "young budding virgin." Or 
maybe Grumio was calling for the aid of a protector saint; or maybe there is 
some other answer. Bate and Rasmussen retained F1 in the RSC edition probably 
because they almost always followed F1; and they do not comment on the crux. 
Paul Werstine and Barbara Mowat also did not adopt Theobald's emendation for the 
Folger paperback, and I am under the impression that they did not really 
consider the question (it is not noted in the facing page commentary) and one of 
those editors could not recall the matter when I asked about it. In other words, 
while any solution other than slavish following of the copytext, involves some 
explicit or implicit conclusion about what language the author intended to 
write, it is not necessary to draw a conclusion as to what the author expected 
the audience to understand by that language.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:          Terence Hawkes <
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Date:          Wednesday, 4 Jun 2008 12:39:27 +0100
Subject:       SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions

The trouble with certain arguments concerning Shakespeare Intentions is that 
they sometimes take place in a vacuum: an air-less, friction-free environment in 
which a scholar confronts a play's words in a void, all empty of space and time. 
But, of course,  this never happens. All encounters with Shakespeare's words 
occur between human beings in history. They occupy  a particular place and  they 
happen at a specific time. It cannot be otherwise. Duncan Salkeld's notion that 
'Shakespeare's intentions can sometimes be known, if hazily' may seem offer some 
consolation, but as David Schalkwyk argues,  it pins down more than it 
liberates. In effect it genuinely deprives the encounter with Shakespeare 
because it empties it of wider and more serious considerations. The plays still 
represent much larger issues with which Shakespeare's own intentions could 
hardly engage.

Let me refer once again to the British Council production of 'Love's Labour's 
Lost', set in Afghanistan and translated into the Dari language. This played to 
packed audiences in war-time Kabul in 2005. The plot was recast to feature 
Afghan characters. The local provisions of Muslim patterns of behavior scarcely 
applied. The feminine actors didn't use veils or the burqua and they flirted 
roundly with their colleagues. Some of the intentions of this production aren't 
hard to discern. It says 'mimic our civilization'. I think of a wonderful 
painting by the 19th century Thomas Jones Barker, who depicted Queen Victoria in 
full fig in the Audience Chamber at Windsor Castle,  presenting a Bible to an 
admiring, goggle-eyed black dignitary, with the title 'The Secret of England's 
Greatness'.

Let's be clear. The agency which generated the secret of English-speaking 
Greatness nowadays includes Shakespeare. Its larger message, even in the case of 
'Love's Labour's Lost', is clear. Sadly, it's  part of Shakespeare, and it 
doesn't help to ignore it.

Terence Hawkes

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