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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: May ::
Arden3 Sir Thomas More

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0083  Thursday, 19 May 2011

From:         John Briggs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         May 17, 2011 2:29:43 PM EDT
Subject:     Arden3 Sir Thomas More

"More matter for a May morning!"

Following the controversial Double Falsehood, the latest Arden3 edition is John Jowett's Sir Thomas More. In truth, he probably has more claim to it than anyone whose name appears on the title page - and there are more of those than I can easily list here. It is only included in the Arden series at all because one of the scribes ("Hand D") is supposed (on dubious grounds) to be Shakespeare, with the corollary that the re-written part of one scene (Scene 6, lines 1-165) was written (or re-written) by Shakespeare. This seems a rather slight foundation for a volume of xx+522 pages - rather a lot for remarkably little (if any) Shakespeare. After all, don't 165 lines (and rather undistinguished lines at that) amount to the difference between the Quarto and Folio texts of Hamlet, King Lear, or Othello, and so could easily be thrown away on the whim of an editor?

I suppose I could be accused of hypocrisy, as I am one of the ones who complain about the attention given to Shakespeare rather than to his contemporaries, but I would rather that Sir Thomas More was edited for its own merits (if any) than for the doubtful connection to Shakespeare. The play, of course, never got to the stage, remaining instead on the "too difficult" pile, despite someone throwing teams of playwrights at the project.

John Jowett has carefully edited the play from the messy manuscript, using different typographical conventions to distinguish the various contributions, additions and deletions. I wish I could say more about this, but I am completely baffled by Jowett's explanation, and the example he gives on pp.127-9. As far as I can tell, Shakespeare (or whoever) wrote lines 6.124-130 as (modernised):

"...Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet. To kneel to be forgiven
Is safer wars than ever you can make
Whose discipline is riot.
In, in, to your obedience! Why, even your hurly
Cannot proceed but by obedience.
What rebel captain,..."

Hand C (don't ask!) was baffled by a lack of punctuation, and the interlinear additions, strangled syntax, and woolly thought processes. He altered this to:

"Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet, to kneel to be forgiven.
Tell me but this: what rebel captain,"

But Jowett prints this as (with my conventions replacing his):

"Lift up for peace, and your unreverent knees,
Make them your feet. [To kneel to be forgiven
Is safer wars than ever you can make
Whose discipline is riot.
In, in, to your obedience! Why, even your hurly
Cannot proceed but by obedience.]
{Tell me but this:} What rebel captain,"

Where [] represents a deletion by Hand C, and {} an insertion by Hand C. Do you see my perplexity? I can't for the life of me decode this to get what either Hand C or Hand D/Shakespeare actually wrote. Can anyone help explain it?

John Briggs


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