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Shorthand

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0294  Tuesday, 10 July 2012

 

From:        Gerald E. Downs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         July 9, 2012 7:03:38 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand

 

Gabriel Egan advises:

 

> I’d be interested to hear Downs defend this claim:

 

>> . . .  Q1(c) at 3.6 has 'take vp thy master . . . Take

>> vp the King . . . '. F at line 102 has 'Take vp, take

>> vp . . .'; which Urkowitz describes as "unrelievedly urgent,

>> compelling, and threatening". That is, a Shakespearean

>> revision; who else could be so quick on the vp-take?

>> Well, Q1(uncorrected) has 'Take vp to keepe', an obvious

>> misreading (the compositor elsewhere proves to be

>> unconcerned with nonsense). F's reviser, without recourse

>> to the correction, sophisticated with a second 'take up';

>> nothing to do with the author, compelling or not.

 

> It’s not clear to me why F’s second “take vp” is

> attributed to the compositor by Downs.

 

Could be I wasn’t clear. I didn’t attribute the second “take up” to F’s compositor, but to F’s reviser (whoever the responsible party was at this point). Q2 also prints “take up to keep,” so the F compositor could have sophisticated that reading (which is not meaningful unless one is playing marbles or without them). One of the beauties of Q1 is that it preserves nonsense for analysis that doesn’t have to be nonsense.

 

I don’t know that the Q1 compositor misread the phrase or whether he followed someone who did. But as I say, the Q1 compositors were often content with terrible readings. “Take up the king” sounds correct; since that’s what the corrector came up with, presumably he’s right; but the important evidence is the error, compounded in F.

 

> Suppose we grant Gary Taylor’s claim that Shakespeare

> revised King Lear by annotating a copy of Q1 . . . and that

> F reflects the revised version.

 

That’s a two-parter. I grant that F revises Q1 anyhow; I credit Taylor for advancing that (following Stone, and possibly Blayney). The claim that Shakespeare revised Q1 itself sticks in a lot of craws that would otherwise swallow the revision rhetoric (Taylor wrote a whole article justifying his own brand of that).

 

Editors welcomed Howard-Hill’s bad argument that the “and appointed guard” mix-ups had nothing directly to do with the Q1 text. They did so because they didn’t like the “revised on Q1” hypothesis but did like the “revised foul papers” solution, which gets to be earlier than 1608. But F revises Q1; evidence of this sort proves it. Taylor hedged, as I recall, reducing ‘on Q1’ to ‘began on Q1.’

 

> In Q1(u) Shakespeare would have found the words

> “Take vp to keepe”. Not remembering what he had

> originally written (“Take up the king”)—why should he

> remember it 5-6 years later when doing the revision?

 

Maybe he doubled the King and was unconscious in that scene—for 5-6 years. But we are proliferating hypotheses; I don’t buy either one.

 

> —Shakespeare might easily have deleted the

> meaningless [we agree it's meaningless] “to keepe”

> and written above/near it “take up”, producing the F

> reading with the merits that Urkowitz identifies.

 

Highly unlikely: for one thing, “take up” looks very much like emending “to keep” on the assumption of a graphic error; achievable by anyone, and not to be taken as evidence for Shakespeare. Possibility? That’s not argument. More important, this is one of many shortcomings that Shakespeare (if the reviser, which I don’t believe) overlooks alongside, and inside, his revisions. Followers of the Oxford Shakespeare have to buy into that—even to express it. Non-Shakespearean revision accepts the Q1 text for what it was; something that needed fixing more than it got fixed.

 

I don’t believe Shakespeare would stoop to revising Q1 and leaving the F mess, nor would he be directly behind Q1. A few corollaries could be mentioned again.

 

First, it is a mistake to judge Q1 by F “merits.” The best way is to study Q1 for its own sake, as Blayney advises, and as Stone does. You’ll get a better idea of the corruptions. Second, the author can have done that much better than us, and found a travesty of his text. Heywood said of his reported play (thirty-five years on), “scarce one word true.” Would Shakespeare have felt different? I tend to agree with Philip Edwards; a revision by the author would have contained at least something other than the pussy-footing around corruption—something like revision.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

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