Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: June ::
SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0344  Wednesday, 11 June 2008

From:       Cary DiPietro <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Wednesday, 11 Jun 2008 19:33:09 -0400
Subject:    SHAKSPER Roundtable: Shakespeare's Intentions


This week's leading essay comes from Cary Mazer who revisits the question of 
authorial intention in theatrical production, turning from Alan Dessen's 
discussion of original staging in the Elizabethan/Jacobean theatre to address 
subsequent performances. Mazer brings his particular interest in 
twentieth-century and contemporary theatre, as well as his wide experience as a 
dramaturg and theatre historian, to bear upon his discussion of the relationship 
between intention, theatre practice and the writing of performance history. I'm 
particularly pleased by the result; Mazer's earlier work on the Edwardian 
theatre and such figures as Herbert Beerbohm Tree, William Poel and Harley 
Granville-Barker (see _Shakespeare Refashioned_, 1981) was among those that 
sparked my first interest in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century 
theatre. The use of Tree, in particular, is both warmly familiar and compelling; 
as Mazer notes, Tree is a figure whose writing on the theatre seems especially 
antiquated, even though his claims to authorial intention are not dissimilar to 
those of more contemporary theatre figures. Mazer's argument that such claims by 
theatre practitioners should be regarded as "gifts from the gods of theatre 
history" is a wonderfully productive utilization of the "practical 
intentionalism" we find commonly expressed on SHAKSPER by theatre practitioners 
and Shakespeare enthusiasts. We might agree with David Schalkwyk, writing in the 
last digest, that by "appealing to the agent of the text as its ultimate 
authority, you are really trying to impose the reading that you have gleaned by 
paying attention to a selection of privileged EXTERNAL factors as that of a 
now-privileged author(izor) of the text." How easily this view might be applied 
to figures such as Tree, marketing his large-scale productions of Shakespeare to 
an increasingly diverse, cosmopolitan audience at the turn of the twentieth 
century. Mazer retains this argument, invoking Terence Hawkes as well, but takes 
it one step further to show how such claims to intention are evidence of 
shifting aesthetic paradigms, and rather than adopt a condescending attitude 
towards them, we can productively harness them as historians of performance.

The remainder of the digest for this installment of the Roundtable is 
comparatively shorter than the last, with only four further contributions. Both 
Duncan Salkeld and Terence Hawkes continue to develop points raised in and by 
their earlier leading essays. In his contribution, Larry Weiss suggests the need 
for a qualitative distinction between critical and textual intention: he notes 
the difference between what an author intended by his words and what words an 
author intended to write. I'm disappointed to see that no one has responded to 
this point, either to refute or endorse it, especially given the fact that so 
much of our discussion of intention has revolved around textual matters. Perhaps 
the reproduction of his contribution here will provide impetus to potential 
respondents.

Finally, Gabriel Egan has contributed a general response to the discussion. I 
have to admit that I'm somewhat baffled by his comments, especially in the 
second half of his contribution, and I was hoping that by posting his 
contribution to the Roundtable someone else would able to shed some light on it. 
It strikes me as very pointed criticism of the discussion generally, and my 
involuntary inclination is to read it as a criticism of, in the first instance, 
my own synoptic writing in these prefaces or, with a little hypothesizing, the 
writing of a another contributor. In private correspondence, Egan has assured me 
that his response is not directed at anyone in particular, and that it is not 
particularly critical of any position, but is, rather, a general observation 
about the application of arguments about intention to one's own writing. My 
willingness to accept Egan's claim about the intention of his writing, which is 
otherwise out of joint with the intention I read into it, is further impeded by 
his use of irony (surely he's not serious about introducing random corruptions), 
and the tone of sarcasm I inevitably hear in my head as I produce the voice 
"speaking" his words. Is my own reading here "mangling" (to use Egan's word) or 
distorting his contribution, or is this an example of a "misfire," a term used 
by Schalkwyk in the last installment?

It is, clearly enough, a test case in the problem of intention, and not in any 
facile way. The first assumption of Egan's writing is that there is a correct or 
un-"mangled" authorial arrangement or formulation of "words" that can be known 
and ought to be the goal of critical understanding and reflection, precisely 
because these "words" are the bearers of philosophically and theoretically 
sophisticated arguments. An observation for Weiss:  Egan suggests a random 
*textual* corruption, but he's clearly collapsing the distinction between the 
arrangement or appearance of words in a text and the *critical* meanings they 
bear (unless, of course, he's drawing an *analogy* between textual corruption 
and critical misunderstanding or misprision, which still collapses the 
difference, in any case). The second assumption is that Egan understands what 
those meanings are, and that he has some privileged or unmediated access to 
those meanings, presumably, as intended by their authors, or else he wouldn't be 
able to make this critical observation. Though it might be easy to mistake 
Egan's criticism for arrogance, and that it may be, his writing is nevertheless 
governed by the conventions of a professional discourse. As professional 
scholars -- "critical ganders" to the "authorial goose" as Egan calls us 
(something should be said here about the troublingly gendered nature of this 
metaphor) -- and as teachers, our task is to pronounce critically on the work of 
our peers and our students. "Professing" to know in this way is, obviously 
enough, a function of authority rather than merely one of an unmediated and 
objective understanding; and though the implicit power relations of this 
discursive system of "knowledge" serve inevitably to aggrandize the authority of 
the individual critic, they are also means to practical scholarly and pedagogic 
ends. Can we not argue, then, that producing knowledge in this way by claiming 
with certainty the meaning of an arrangement of "words" has some necessary and 
obvious practical benefits at an institutional or professional level? And is 
this not comparable--if not *identical*--to claiming to know the intentions of 
the author? Are these the "odd occasions" of which Salkeld writes below, those 
instances when, he suggests, "we might privilege . . . intention as 'a 
determining and authoritative cause'?"

This brings me to the issue of the next installment's topic. We've seen 
theoretical questions about intention given wide scope in the Roundtable so far, 
and we've also seen these questions brought to bear upon critical practices such 
as textual editing and theatre history. We have yet to apply those questions to 
literary criticism as a profession, beyond invoking Wimsatt and Beardsley's 
"intentional fallacy," or to the teaching of literature to secondary or 
post-secondary students. By "literary criticism" I mean the study or criticism 
of English literature as a unique form of creative expression characterized by 
distinctive metrical, rhyme and rhetorical patterns, a study distinct from 
historical contextualization or philosophical, theoretical abstraction. The kind 
of critical "close-reading" pioneered by the new criticism when English as a 
discipline was professionalized remains the staple diet of the high school 
curriculum and competes on undergraduate syllabi with the more fashionable 
historicist and theoretical approaches to literature; this is the reason for my 
pairing of literary criticism and pedagogy as coterminous professional 
practices. Unfortunately, no one has answered my call for a leading contribution 
on the topic, but it's an important one, and I'm not content to see it pass by 
unaddressed. So I'm going to try a different approach: rather than soliciting a 
leading contribution, I invite participants to write shorter, even anecdotal, 
contributions that address the issue, in one way or another, of Shakespeare's 
intentions and the professing of English. I'll give it about a week. Hopefully, 
enough responses will come in and I'll be able to group them into some kind of 
dialogue. If not, then we'll move on to the final leading essay by Hugh Grady. 
Let me put it to you as a challenge:  can you define or describe a 
methodological approach to literary criticism (and some definition of or 
elaboration upon that term seems necessary) that has practical  pedagogical 
applications and does not have some recourse, on some level, to authorial 
intention? Or, alternatively, can you describe or explain why claims to know or 
assumptions about an author's intentions, even discrete ones, are professionally 
desirable, necessary or inevitable?

_________________________________

""Two Cheers for the Intentional Fallacy:  Intention, Theatre Practice, and 
Performance History"

Several contributors to Cary DiPietro's forum have addressed the issue of 
Shakespeare's intentions in relation to literary theory, textual editing, and 
original theatrical practice. I wish to sidestep these issues here (though I 
have my opinions on some of them, which I voice in the essay from which Alan 
Dessen has so graciously quoted in his contribution to this forum). I am instead 
interested in how and why working theatre artists invoke authorial intention. 
And I am even more interested in the uses to which these invocations of 
authorial intention can be put by historians of Shakespearean "subsequent 
performance" -i.e. performances after 1660 based on Shakespeare scripts. I start 
with two exemplary cases.

In his essay "The Living Shakespeare:  A Defense of Modern Taste," the Edwardian 
actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree invokes authorial intentionality in defense 
of the elaborate scenic pictorialism he employed in staging Shakespeare's plays. 
William Poel and other advocates of the Elizabethan Revival movement had invoked 
intentionality as the cornerstone of their principal argument:  that the plays 
should be staged on replicas of Shakespeare's own theatres, using the stage 
conventions and scenographic language of the time. Tree uses Poel's own argument 
about intentionality to reach a very different conclusion. "[T]he entire 
business of the stage," Tree (or his ghost writer) states axiomatically, "is -- 
Illusion." And that impulse towards theatrical illusion -- the more complete the 
better -- can be found in Shakespeare's documented intentions:

[. . .] the best means of justifying the modern method of putting Shakespeare 
upon the stage, and the public's liking of that method, is to demonstrate that 
in principle at least it departs in no way from the manner in which the 
dramatist himself indicated that his works should be presented. Let us call 
Shakespeare himself as a witness on this issue, and show that he not only 
foresaw, but desired, the system of production that is now in public favour. 
Surely no complaint can be raised against those who seek, in putting an author's 
work upon the stage, to carry out the author's wishes in the matter; and it is 
better to follow those directions than to listen to the critics of three hundred 
years later, who clamour for a system exactly opposite to the one which the 
author distinctly advocated  In spite of what has been said to the contrary, I 
adhere to my reading of the prelude to _Henry V_, and contend that in those most 
beautiful lines Shakespeare regretted the deficiencies of the stage of his day, 
for it is reasonable to suppose that in writing those lines he not mean the 
opposite of what he said, as we are ingeniously told he did. Here is will be 
seen what store Shakespeare sets on illusion for the theatre, and how he 
implores the spectator to supply by means of his imagination the deficiencies of 
the stage.

Tree then summons more evidence of Shakespeare's intentions in favor of 
pictorially representational theatre:  the elaborate stage directions in _Henry 
VIII_ (and the fact that a stage effect led to the fire that destroyed the 
theatre); the semiotic function (though of course he doesn't call it that) of 
costumes and props; and the foolishness of the presentationalism of the 
working-class actors performing _Pyramus and Thisbe_, which he credits to their 
failure to be sufficiently illusionistic, rather than their misplaced desire to 
be so. Tree ends his essay with a fantasy vision:  he imagines lingering on the 
stage of His Majesty's Theatre after a performance of _A Midsummer Night's 
Dream_, the magic of the fairies still permeating the boards, and overhearing an 
argument between the shades of Samuel Johnson and David Garrick about whether 
acting and decor improve one's aesthetic pleasure of the plays. The ghost of 
Shakespeare then appears, and settles the argument by asking Garrick to recite 
the prologue the _Henry V_.

It is easy to dismiss the logic of Tree's argument, just as it easy to dismiss 
the aesthetic of over-produced "upholstered" Shakespeare he was championing, 
with its "accurate" scenic details, crowd scenes, lengthy scene-changes, and 
extended curtain tableaux. After all, despite his gloating in the 
"after-thought" he appends to the 1913 reprint of the essay in _Thoughts and 
After-Thoughts_ (in which he claims that the Elizabethanism of Poel and the 
scenic "Modernism" of Granville Barker have already proven themselves to be 
little more than passing fads), Tree proved to be on the wrong side of history. 
And it also abundantly clear what Tree's motivation is for invoking 
Shakespearean intentionality:  he is exploiting the cultural capital of 
Shakespeare-a claim to what W.B. Worthen has called "authority"-as a weapon in a 
cultural war about theatre aesthetics that Tree was waging with his 
contemporaries, being fought on the battlefield of Shakespeare production as 
much as it was being fought over issues of dramatic repertoire (society comedy 
and historical romance on the one hand and the Ibsenite  "New Drama" on the 
other). One can, like Ric Knowles, "read" the "material theatre" in Tree's 
essay, for Tree is not only arguing for a particular aesthetic of performance, 
but is struggling to reassert the dominance of an entire managerial system in 
order to protect his market share of theatrical real estate and theatre audiences.

Tree's institutional and commercial motivations for invoking intentionality 
were, and are, obvious. But here is another case, from much late in the century. 
Peter Brook does not, on the surface, defend his approach to staging a 
particular Shakespeare play by arguing for Shakespearean intentionality. "When I 
hear a director speaking glibly of serving the author, of letting a place speak 
for itself," Brook writes, "my suspicions are aroused, because this is the 
hardest job of all. If you just let a play speak, it may not make a sound. If 
what you want is for the play to be heard, then you must conjure sound from it." 
But though Brook is skeptical about merely "serving the author," the sounds he 
is conjuring are, ostensibly, the author's and not his. He has frequently stated 
that the goal of actors and directors is to "find" the "hidden" or "secret" 
play, as though that secret play was there, hidden by the author, waiting to be 
excavated, rather than something in the play shaped by the sensibilities and 
perceptions of the prospector doing the excavating. Brook acknowledges that he 
shaped his productions of _King Lear_ and _A Midsummer Night's Dream_ around Jan 
Kott's readings of those plays. But even here, he seems to be suggesting that 
Kott had simply found the universal essence of _King Lear_ in identifying the 
Beckettian sensibility of the play, which has made the play so relevant to a 
mid-century cold-war world. He doesn't seem to recognize (or at least he doesn't 
acknowledge) that Kott may have identified this sensibility because he is 
*reading* the play through the Beckettian eyes of a mid-century eastern 
European; that the things that make the play compelling to mid-century audiences 
is not that the world has become a place where its inhabitants can finally 
recognize the play that Shakespeare wrote, but that we perceive the play the way 
we do because of we are, inescapably, inhabitants of our world. Brook's ethos as 
director, and his much-vaunted working methods, depend upon sustaining the 
belief that directors are not inventors but excavators of authorial intention; 
and his guru-like status in the company -- much derided, but ultimately lauded, 
by journalist David Selbourne in his skeptical and oppositional account of the 
rehearsals for _A Midsummer Night's Dream_ -- derives from his tacit definition 
of the role of the director as the person who can lead his or her collaborators 
to discover the secret play, hidden by the playwright, waiting to be discovered 
and theatrically energized.

Worthen has taught us read overt or covert assertions of Shakespearean 
intentionality as assertions of authority. I see the assertions of authorial 
intentionality among theatre practitioners as something much more pervasive, not 
so much an assertion of Shakespearean, and therefore cultural, authority but 
rather simply a habit of mind. I have recently argued (in the essay that Alan 
Dessen cites) that theatre artists at work in rehearsal gradually, over the 
course of rehearsals, grant themselves less and less credit for ingenuity; that 
what may start as an interpretation slowly takes on a sense of inevitability, as 
more and more decisions are made, based not on conscious interpretive 
intervention, but as a result of the cumulative weight of the decisions already 
made; that the moment by moment "choices" offered by the script don't result in 
a decision tree with a geometrically increasing number of branches, but fewer 
and fewer conscious choices, a progressive surrender to the rehearsal process's 
own inescapable momentum. It is this sense of inevitability that becomes 
increasingly identified, over the course of rehearsals, as authorial intention, 
a sense that the real -- the hidden -- play is being discovered, rather than 
that the production is only one possible iteration that can be crafted from the 
playscript. Authorial intention, the attempt to hitch the performance to the 
authority of Shakespeare, is less a claim being made to audiences and critics 
than it is a form of self-comforting, a security blanket, a transitional object, 
as it were, that theatre people use to reassure themselves that their weeks of 
hard work have yielded something theatrically viable and legitimate, and not a 
theatrical disaster.

I saw this tendency at work in a conversation I had in 1988 with actor Tony 
Church, over a light dinner in the pasta bar of Royal Festival Hall between a 
matinee of _The Winter's Tale_ and an evening performance of _The Tempest_ at 
the National Theatre, in which Church was playing Antigonus and Gonzalo. Church 
loves performance history; he loves talking about different ways of playing 
certain lines, moments, characterizations, and relationships, in productions he 
has seen, watched from the wings, or performed in, including different 
productions in which has played the same role (as he has as Polonius and 
Antigonus). And in our conversation he made frequent comparisons between this 
production of _The Winter's Tale_ and others he had been in, seen, or read 
about. And yet:  I commented on a wonderful moment that Tim Pigott-Smith had 
invented in 2.1, not long after the spider-in-the-cup speech:  on "O, I am 
out!," he glanced at the cup he was holding, was flooded with horror, and dashed 
the cup to the floor, as though he, in that moment, had actually drunk and seen 
the spider. "Yes," Church enthused, "that was wonderful. He found it!  That had 
to be what Shakespeare intended!"

It is as easy to ridicule Beerbohm Tree's self-serving misreading of the Chorus 
to _Henry V_ as it is to ridicule his "veritable Hebrews" populating the ghetto 
scenes in _The Merchant of Venice_ or the live rabbits hopping about the woods 
near Athens in _A Midsummer Night's Dream_. It is no less easy to ridicule the 
similar claims to authorial intentionality in Peter Brook, or Tony Church's 
claim that Pigott-Smith was so in tune with the character charted in the script 
that he discovered an unscripted piece of stage business that Shakespeare had 
intended all along. It is equally tempting merely to identify the fallacy of 
such claims to intentionality, and their attendant claims to "authority," and 
consequently to dismiss them.

I am suggesting that we eschew condescension and instead celebrate such claims 
to authorial intentional as gifts from the gods of theatre history. Several 
contributors to this forum have cited or quoted Terence Hawkes's formulation: 
that it is not a matter of what Shakespeare means, but what we mean by 
Shakespeare. The persistence of the intentional fallacy among theatre 
practitioners gives the historian of subsequent performance an opportunity to 
take this one significant step farther:  the goal of the performance historian, 
I'd like to suggest, is to ask not *what* a particular theatre artist, in a 
particular time and place, *means* by Shakespeare, but *how* that artist means 
by Shakespeare, i.e., what the artist understands about how Shakespeare's 
scripts generate meaning and effect in performance. It is relatively easy to 
understand, say, why Jan Kott found the meanings he did in _King Lear_, and why 
Peter Brook could feel that, in following Kott's reading, he had in fact 
discovered the play that Shakespeare had hidden within his script. It is much 
more challenging, and more historically valuable, to be able to discern what 
aesthetic paradigms -- what understandings of character, subjectivity, 
biography, behavior, motivation, and passion; what understandings about dramatic 
structure and action; what conventions of theatrical space and fictional place; 
what definitions of community and society, and understandings about socially and 
political meaning and how these can be generated; and what understandings about 
the relation of script to performance -- are at work in the mind and artistic 
sensibility of a theatre artist, working in a particular time and place.

One would think that artists who proudly announce that their interpretations are 
departing from the received meanings of the script, and that the theatrical 
means they are employing are consciously different from the theatrical 
conventions employed by Shakespeare encoded within the scripts, would make ideal 
subjects for historic analysis, for their theatrical assumptions are hurled like 
a gauntlet, for all to see. But I maintain that self-abnegating artists, whose 
only claim is that they are seeking to discover the playwright's intentions, 
have much more to reveal to us about the tacit assumptions of the theatre of 
their day, about both what they meant by Shakespeare, and *how* they felt 
Shakespeare *means*. For it is this very confidence that betrays them most, that 
reveals to us their assumptions about theatre that are decidedly not 
Shakespearean at all. This is relatively easy to see when an artist is working 
outside of our paradigm:  Tree's claim that Shakespeare would have wanted his 
plays produced as they were at His Majesty's theatre (and that his ghost would 
haunt the boards of the theatre to reassure the actor manager about this) is, 
from our vantage a century later, preposterous. It is much more difficult to 
understand and to dissect the aesthetic paradigms that are at work of theatre 
practitioners whose sensibilities are closer to out own. Notwithstanding, that 
must be our goal, as performance historians.

I close with an example of this, from present day Shakespearean "Original 
Practices," the more contemporary manifestation of the movement begun by Poel, 
and one that similarly bases its case on intentionality. In his book on the 
various branches of the Original Practices movement, Don Weingust describes one 
of the experimental seasons that Patrick Tucker conducted with his Original 
Shakespeare Company at the reconstructed (a.k.a. "Shakespeare's") Globe. 
Weingust describes how actors in that company, seeking to replicate 
Shakespearean performance (and therefore intentionality) by reproducing 
Shakespearean rehearsal processes (or the lack of them), learn their roles from 
sides without ever having read the whole play, and perform with minimal 
rehearsal. In a footnote, Weingust reports on his interview with the actor who 
played Salisbury in _King John_ who, at the first performance, was surprised to 
discover that the King addresses him with the familiar "you" and not the formal 
"thou." The actor took this as a sign of disrespect, and found that it fueled 
his anger at the King. It is important to note that the actor-who could have 
stated his case in early modern characterological terms, i.e. from within a 
definition of character based on a "self-fashioned" subjectivity based on social 
rank-instead took it "personally," letting his reaction flow organically from a 
subject position based on a stable, coherent identity and interiority. The 
success of the moment in performance, while triggered by early modern 
performance- and rehearsal-practices, was, for the actor, completely, 
un-self-consciously, contemporary. The actor relied on an organic, 
in-the-moment, reaction, more akin to twentieth- and twentieth-century 
Stanislavskian practices, and William Gillette's proto-Stanislavskian concept of 
"the illusion of the first time," than to the early modern acting practices that 
Tucker's company believed that they were rediscovering. In his excitement about 
having discovered Shakespeare's intentions, the actor revealed something much 
more interesting about himself, and about the theatre of his time.

What it finally comes down to, then, is less a matter of what we mean by 
Shakespeare, but what theatrical practitioners mean when they claim that they 
identified something as "Shakespeare's intentions." Rather than pointing out the 
fallacy of their claims and mocking them for it, let us instead politely thank 
them for showing us their cards, even as they blithely continue to play the game.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:          Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
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 <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
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 <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
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 <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
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

Works Cited

Brook, Peter. _The Empty Space_. New York:  Touchstone, 1996. (Originally 
published 1968.)

Knowles, Ric. _Reading the Material Theatre_. Cambridge:  Cambridge University 
Press, 2004.

Mazer, Cary. "The Intentional-Fallacy Fallacy," in _Staging Shakespeare: 
Essays in Honor of Alan C. Dessen_, ed. Lena Cowan Orlin and Miranda 
Johnson-Haddad (Newark:  University of Delaware Press, 2007), pp. 99-113.

Mazer, Cary. _Shakespeare Refashioned:  Elizabethan Plays on Edwardian Stages_. 
Ann Arbor, MI:  UMI Research Press, 1981.

Tree, Herbert Beerbohm. _Thoughts and After-Thoughts_. London:  Cassell, 1913.

Weingust, Don. _Acting from Shakespeare's First Folio:  Theory, Text and 
Performance_. London:  Routledge, 2006

Worthen, W.B., _Shakespeare and the Authority of Performance_. Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1997.

_______________________________________________________________
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.