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Shorthand

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0352  Friday, 24 August 2012

 

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

Date:         August 21, 2012 5:17:39 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand

 

Camp Counselor Stevie Errorowitz here again, calling for another “delay-of-game FOUL” in the continuing round-robin game of Name That Reviser being played out here in Textual Studies Summer Camp. We’ve had a l-o-n-g exchange about some very small, nearly microscopic, linked King Lear variants found at the end of 3.6, where Gloucester urges Kent to bring the sleeping Lear away to safety. I ‘d like the judges and bystanders and visiting grown-ups to raise their eyes a moment to be reminded of the larger context of this particular mini-bone of contention.

 

The form of Gloucester’s speech in Q1 as it was first printed has Gloucester say “ “take up to keepe” ; after press-correction of this page, later copies of Q1 read instead “take up the King.” About ten years later, Q1 was reprinted and, as luck and the perverse gods that torment us kids in Textual Studies Summer Camp might have it, the four word passage of interest here again came out, “take up to keepe.” (I should be writing “vp” for “up” to be accurate, but Summer Camp allows for some relaxation of rigor.) Then, just a few years later, the Folio prints those words as, “take up, take up.”  

 

(Confession: When I was writing Shakespeare’s Revision of King Lear. I completely overlooked this “Q1 uncorrected- Q1 Corrected- Q2 - F variant.”  But I plead forgiveness because back then I did indicate many more interesting things that happen right hereabouts.)  

 

If you’ve been reading the Gerald Downs correspondence, you’ll see that he feels that either of the two alternatives to the first shot, “take up to keepe,” ain’t anything but typesetters or your odd corrector in the printing house doing what typesetters and correctors always did, or maybe stenographers and their  auxiliaries may have done: he says, “for one thing, “take up” looks . . . like emending . . . graphic error; achievable by anyone, and not to be taken as evidence for Shakespeare” (ellipses here from Downs’ own quote of his earlier writing).

 

Wakey, wakey!  Here comes the good part. Please turn in your Shakespearean Textual Camp Quarto and Folio Songbooks to (1) page G4-verso in the 1608 Quarto and lines TLN 2047-62,  or (2) to your Norton Shakespeare Facing Pages texts, pages 2408 and 2409 or (3) to pages 48-50 in your very own copy of Shakespeare’s Revision of King Lear .   

 

Look even briefly at the text surrounding the miniscule variant four-word passage.  Ka-pow-eeeeeee !  Big stuff happening! Stuff visible and comprehensible even to someone watching who doesn’t understand a word of the language. Both the quarto and Folio versions start this chunk of action when Gloucester comes in with news that a crew intending to slay the King will arrive within a half-hour.  

 

Q1 (corrected) has this degree of urgency:

 

GLOST Good friend-I prithy take him in thy armes

. . . .

take up thy master . . . .

 

take up the King and followe me, that will to some provision

Give thee quicke conduct.

KENT:   Oppressed nature sleepes.

This rest might yet  have balmed thy broken sinewes.

 

After Kent here addresses the sleeping Lear, he enlists the Fool to help carry Lear off. Glouster has another urgent speech: “Come, come away.” Then Edgar has fourteen lines of philosophical soliloquy, beginning “When we our betters . . .” He exits, and Cornwall and the other nasties bustle on, whipping themselves forward about their devilish business.  “Post speedily . . . Show him . . . Seek out . . . Hang him . . . . Pluck out his eyes.”

 

The Folio, here as in a number of other scene-ends, gives a tighter ending, far more urgent, more abrupt in its transition into the entrance of the baddies.  

 

Glou. Good friend, I prythee take him in thy armes . . . 

 

 . . . Take up thy Master,

 . . . .Take up, take up,

And follow me, that will to some provision

Give thee quicke conduct. Come, come, away. Exeunt

Scena Septima

Corn.Post speedily . . . .

 

No revery over the sleeping King, no command to the Fool, no philosophy from Edgar.  

 

Now, you have to see that this kind of end-of-scene variant—with a reflective, relatively slow-paced passage found in Q but not in F—is patterned, a re-design carried out repeatedly between the Lear texts.  Of course, I’ve been criticized unmercifully for saying that this is a “Shakespearean” or “authorial” change, and that actually anyone at all could have cut the Q material to leave what we find in F. Sure. Like anyone at all could carve Michaelangelo’s David by simply cutting out the marble that isn’t the statue.  

 

It’s when we line up instance after instance of patterns that most people don’t notice that we develop an argument for authorial revision. Interrupted speeches—signaled by incomplete grammatical structures at the ends of speeches—abound  in F  where the equivalent moments in Q do not call for a second actor to cut abruptly into the speech of the preceding speaker.   Interrupted exits, where an exit move is announced by a character but that move is blocked by an action (such as a counter-command) initiated by a different character, also appear repeatedly in F but not in Q. That’s the kind of thing that I track and illustrate in my Revision of King Lear book.  They are NOT like what may be found as cuts and changes in scripts being altered for “normal" presentations.

 

Could these distinct and repeated patterns of theatrical scene-making indeed be the result of some agent other than Shakespeare at work. Sorry. That isn’t what any other worked-over script from the period looks like. But could the “take up to keepe  (Q1 uncorrected, Q2) / take up the King (Q1 corrected) / take up, take up (F)” possibly have been done without an “author-function” ?  Yes, but it is supportable or even minutely important if and only if you rip it from its surrounding context.  

 

An aside about putting on Shakespeare’s plays in modern environments:  If you look at the Norton Shakespeare pages of this passage, you’ll see that there is a lot of nice white space left after the end of scene 3.6.  I used to rehearse my productions as if that white space was a convenient place to stop working on a scene. My bad. I found that if, instead, I ended work on such scenes after practicing the opening of the scene following, then I found that the play in production moved along like lightning because the transitions had been practiced and incorporated into the actors’ physical memories from the get-go. So, my dears, let me suggest that you use as a rehearsal unit NOT “the scene” but rather the transition into the scene—then the scene itself—and then the transition into the following scene.  

 

And that, boys and girls here in Textual Studies Summer Camp, is why we leave home, come into the wilderness, and  learn how to play nice with other kids.   

 

Now wash up for supper, the sweet-corn is going into the pot in a few minutes. 

 

Ever,

Counselor Steevie.

 
 

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