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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0095 Thursday, 4 March 2010
[Editor's Note: As I still struggle to find the most efficient ways to edit submissions with Word for Mac and without macros, I need to make clear submission policies that I have stated in the past. First, if you are responded to what someone else has said, PLEASE clearly indicate what is yours and what belongs to the person you are quoting. I did my best trying to figure out what was what below, but I am not omniscient, despite what some might think, nor do I have all of the time in the world. I am committed to making SHAKSPER digests as accurate as I can for subscribers and for future readers of the archives, but I need help from submitters. Second, when discussions become two or three people talking with each other, I encourage that those discussions be taken off-line, unless there is evidence that more readers are interested in the exchanges than just the participants. Also, I shall be making an announcement soon in which I will be requesting technical assistance; I am committed to the listserv format, but I will be asking if anyone might be able to help me with server issues and with redesigning the web site. -HMCook]
 From: John Briggs <
 From: John Briggs <
Gabriel Egan wrote:
>Francis Meres ranked Shakespeare among the literary greats in 'Palladis
I wasn't disputing that Shakespeare's plays are literature, or that *some* at the time saw that they were. But theirs was not a majority view. Francis Meres is better regarded as a journalist than a literary scholar. Had it not been for his mention of Shakespeare, Meres and his unreadable book (which is distinctly strange!) would be justly forgotten today.
>The sententiae in the 1603 bad quarto of Hamlet are highlighted to show the
Hmm, there quite a bit to unpack here! If "Q2 [...] was meant to look like Q1" (it is mostly the nearly-identical title page) that was more likely because of the Stationers' Register entry -- it was purporting to be the same work for registration and censorship purposes. (Actually, I think that what John Roberts initially registered was the Ur-Hamlet -- most likely an old Queen's Company play -- and he or someone else only later got hold of the copy for Q1. There is no reason to suppose that John Roberts wasn't involved in the production of Q1 -- after all, he later printed Q2.) Q1 is a Bad Quarto by any definition (and a report of the F text) -- there is no reason to regard Q2 as "literary" rather than "theatrical". (Shakespeare wrote long plays: get over it!)
Justin Alexander wrote:
>John Briggs wrote: "I have to say that Justin Alexander clearly has a
Well, at least you haven't lowered the tone by introducing any new facts into the discussion! Shall we look at this supposed context? The elided words are: "took an interest in publishing his poetry and not his plays, therefore he". They add nothing of substance to the quote, which in any case is your characterisation of *my* position! In what way is that obfuscating "the entire point of the conversation"? Does one of us not know what we are arguing about?
>John Briggs wrote: "The point I am making (and which he is pretending not to
Well, there plenty of *negative* evidence, as I keep pointing out. I point out for the plays the diffent from the case of the Narrative Poems (and possibly the Sonnets). I point out the complete absence of authorial involvement in the publication of the Quartos. (There is no substantive difference from the publication of the Folio -- and we know Shakespeare wasn't involved with that: he had been dead for seven years!) I compare it with the case of Ben Jonson being involved with the publication of *his* plays. (You have to wonder why Ben Jonson wasn't drafted in to help with the publication of the Folio: perhaps it was thought that he might re-written the plays! Perhaps he would have expected to be paid: Ralph Crane could be put down to company expenses.)
John Briggs wrote: "Of course, Shakespeare was passionate about his plays: he
Another claim for which you have no evidence at all.
Well, I cheerfully admit that I have no direct evidence that Shakespeare was passionate about his plays: I thought that was self-evident! But I am happy to concede the point if it makes you feel any better. It is also self-evident (as indicated above) that Shakespeare took no interest in the publication of his plays. Many of his plays (and not just the Quartos) are printed from unrevised drafts. A random selection (weighted towards early plays) was printed in his lifetime, with no effort (other than by the printer) to regularise the text.
>John Briggs wrote: "He regarded performance as more important."
Something else that should be self-evident. And if he *did* consider them literature, why didn't he publish them? You know, in careful texts with signed dedications -- just like Literature, in other words?
>John Briggs wrote: "In the circumstances, it is risible for Alexander to
How is it a misrepresentation? I have quoted you directly! And if you did mean that "his plays were published in both good and bad versions throughout his lifetime", then that is so bland as to be meaningless. Or nearly meaningless: it isn't even true. None of the plays published in his lifetime (or afterwards, for that matter) was treated with the same care as the Narrative Poems (or the Sonnets, for that matter.) The "Bad Quartos" are a red herring: there were only five of them, and two (Merry Wives of Windsor and Hamlet) were replaced by Good Quartos. The "Good Quartos" should be included in your "bad versions": there were no "good versions".
You may have mentioned that exactly half the plays in the First Folio had been published as Quartos. But this is a statistic which is so unhelpful as to be meaningless. It can't be used to argue anything, particularly when you look at the list of plays concerned.
>But the exact same thing can be said of his poetry.
No, it couldn't. It really couldn't.
>Drawing two different conclusions from the exact same set of data is
Actually, the data on plays published in quarto versus published in the folio are amenable to just that! I haven't bothered, but you are welcome to try.
>John Briggs wrote: "Of course Shakespeare wrote his own dedications to
You've now hoisted yourself with your own petard: "publication" can include circulation in manuscript -- before the invention of printing that was the only form of publication. But the dedication is an open letter to the patron: it has no meaning outside the context of publication (whether in print or in manuscript.) But, congratulations: you now have your own place in literary history -- you are certainly the first person to suggest that the dedications weren't intended for publication.
>Which is, of course, my point: You have weaved an entertaining narrative, but
Nonsense. There is no suggestion that it is "likely that it is not."
>That is the beauty (and the curse) of such empty theorizing.
I don't do Theory. If you intended "theorizing" as an insult, you succeeded.
>John Briggs wrote: "... the convention was that patrons rewarded the author
Well, it is evidenced from England and elsewhere at a later date. I'm not absolutely sure whether it is evidenced from Shakespeare's time -- but if it isn't, then you are the first to doubt it.
>But even if it's true (and it may well be so), your theory would appear to be
Quite the opposite. I am saying that Literature was work for which there was little financial reward (then or now!) with or without publication. He wouldn't have done it unless he believed in it. But he certainly wasn't encouraged by his experience to persist with narrative poems!
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