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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: December ::
Shakespeare's Literary "Intentions"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0626  Sunday, 27 December 2009

From:       Steve Roth <
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 >
Date:       Friday, 18 Dec 2009 11:09:29 -0800
Subject:    Shakespeare's Literary "Intentions"

John Briggs:

     >Lukas Erne put the silver spike to it quite decidedly a couple of 
years
     >back:

     >... Shakespeare showed no interest whatsoever in the publication 
of his plays. ...

This assertion seems to be the primary argument for the non-literary 
position. Absence of evidence. Such absence can be convincing, of 
course. But in an field where absence of evidence is more the rule than 
the exception, it becomes far less so. (i.e., We have no evidence that 
Shakespeare of Stratford had a library!)

 >All evidence of revision in Shakespeare's plays points to theatrical 
intentions.

With apologies to the new bibliographers and their descendants, the 
"evidence" of revision is so variously construed (by equally 
well-"considered" scholars) as to be utterly inconclusive. (Look in 
particular at William Long's work on the handful of extant playhouse 
manuscripts, and many of the bibliographers' surmises start to look far 
less convincing.)

     >*We* regard Shakespeare's plays as literature  --  the question 
is, did he?

This we can say with complete certainty: Shakespeare knew that his plays 
were being read, and that they were being read by his best customers 
(the inns-of-court men, courtiers, aristocrats, and nobles who could 
afford 1. the good seats, and 2. to buy books): denizens of the 
galleries at the Globe, the stage seats at the Blackfriars, and the 
performances at court. (As Erne points out, prior to 1603, every one of 
his plays that was not somehow constrained -- by a competing/preceding 
stationer's registration or the like -- was in fact published, generally 
within a year or two of staging.)

This does not of course definitively prove who Shakespeare was thinking 
of when he composed. Each can draw his/her own conclusions from it. But 
we know what he knew when he was writing.

Erne offers a whole raft of other evidence that you gloss over.

     >There is not a scrap of evidence to support that point

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who's an ardent 
anti-Stratfordian. A rough re-creation:

"There's not a scrap of evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the 
plays."

"Well, we have 29 extant editions of Shakespeare's plays (not counting 
poems and etc.) that were published during his lifetime with his name on 
them as author."

"Yeah, but even establishment scholars think some of those weren't 
written by Shakespeare."

"Well yeah... (Unscrupulous publishers were capitalizing on his famous 
name.)"

"See!? There's not a *scrap* of evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford 
wrote the plays."

 >You have a gift (nay, a genius) for the non sequitur  :-)

I take that as a compliment. <g>

Steve

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