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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: January ::
Arden3 Sir Thomas More

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0036  Wednesday, 30 January 2013

 

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

Date:         January 29, 2013 1:46:34 PM EST

Subject:     Arden3 Sir Thomas More

 

With his Arden3 Sir Thomas More, John Jowett continues the tradition defending the hypothesis that Shakespeare wrote the manuscript scene known as “Addition IIc.” It’s good to settle on Shakespeare as the “D” of “Hand D.” But when belief comes first inquiry comes second and in this case it shows. Doubts will continue.

 

There are reasons to wish Shakespeare onto Hand D (e.g., tradition itself and the intrinsic value of a Shakespeare manuscript). My gripe with Arden3 is that it betrays the editor’s awareness of his own bias while he sidesteps too many questions. I’ll describe some of this and follow up with my idling hypothesis as to what Hand D and STM are. The topic is (should be) important to Shakespeareans, if for no other reason than a false manuscript attribution screwed to the printed texts. I keep in mind a “general reader” who has no chance against slanting that leaves a sense of having been informed but who would prefer to weigh arguments independently. With STM any fair solo assessment requires casting a wide net; as far as I’ve managed that I’m not much enamored of Arden3.

 

The meaningful question is whether Shakespeare can be identified as D; in the long run, he can’t. Jowett observes of Thompson’s early case that “Hand D shows significant similarities to that of Shakespeare. Particularly striking was a distinctive ‘spurred’ form of the letter ‘a’ shared between Hand D and the Shakespeare signatures” (437). That’s as close as Arden3 gets to a description of Shakespeare’s handwriting sample. It would be helpful to say that six signatures and the words “By me” comprise the entirety of Shakespeare’s extant penmanship. It isn’t helpful to refer to “the attested Shakespeare handwriting” (440). And it might be observed that a spurred ‘a’ is shared by one (“Deposition”) signature only – not the signatures—and that in Hand D the feature is also anomalous. Tannenbaum rightly questions whether signatures can be compared to other writing or, if they may be compared, how many of what quality may serve. I agree minimal “conditions are not fulfilled.”

 

Besides, significant similarities take a back seat to differences. For example, Tannenbaum observes of Shakespeare’s letter “B” that “its structure differs from that of D’s . . . “because one was Shakspere and the other was not; the two men had learned to make different kinds of B.” Even similar letters can be constructed differently. Shakespeare seems to know this himself: ‘her c . . . her great P’s.’ If you believe, as I do, that “By me William” was written by a helping “hand,” you have to turn in your biographer’s card & forget the B example anyhow. Among paleographers supporting the handwriting attribution Arden3 lists Blayney and Hamilton. Hamilton, we recall, asserted that Shakespeare wrote his own will; so much for the Falderal Papers. I don’t know that Blayney claims to be a paleographer, but all he says in his cited article is that Hand D is “generally thought” to be Shakespeare’s. The citations show how weak the case is; else they aren’t necessary.

 

Jowett reports that a “succession of palaeographers has described Hand D’s contribution as showing a writer in the immediate process of composition” (440). “Described” doesn’t mean “explained” or “argued,” because none really do that. When yet another succession of scholars argued that D is a copyist they got no reply from the first batch. Jowett continues the tradition, as we’ll see. If the first question to be asked of a manuscript is whether it is copied and if the question isn’t answered, then reference to a hand as authorial simply begs the question. That’s the biggest and most misleading assumption about STM.

 

The editor observes that “no similarity has been noted between Hand D and the handwriting of any other writer” (441). I won’t make much of Charles Hamilton’s claim that the writer of Shakespeare’s will and D wrote similar hands (as they were the same person); no one buys that. But one writer does have a hand similar enough to D’s to question their identity. Richard Simpson, the first to attribute Hand D to Shakespeare, didn’t differentiate D's from C's; they must have looked similar to him.

 

“Simpson’s case was marred by his palaeographically inept view . . . . Spedding rightly rejected the spurious identifications” (437). Nothing about Hamilton’s inept view. Spedding made no argument but in English Literary Hands from Chaucer to Dryden (Cambridge: Harvard U P, 1977), Anthony G. Petti suggests that “Hand C may be that of a leading dramatist and the resemblance it bears to Hand D . . . should not be completely ignored . . . . The apparent revision of Hand C might be Hand D’s written somewhat later” (91). So we see that someone has noted a similarity to Hand D in another writer, and we don’t have to look very far; C’s hand is in the very same pages. Scott McMillin observed that no study of this question has been published; I agree it shouldn't be ignored and that Hand C would have been later. Though I doubt the i.d., two writers in such close proximity having comparable hands suggests the Shakespeare case is overblown.

 

Speaking of McMillin and the possibility of C writing “somewhat later,” Arden3 reports of Howard-Hill’s collection of essays “. . . McMillin’s and Taylor’s proposed dating of the revisions in 1603 or after” contribute to acceptance of the Shakespeare attribution” (438). But McMillin argued pretty well that Hand D was produced in the early ‘90’s. His essay and fine book are misreported and I lean toward McMillin’s dating; if STM was revised by D early and by C (et al) later, Petti’s suggestion could be meaningful. The critical issue remains: Is Hand D a copy? Jowett addresses the problem:

 

“Though the stylistic evidence for Shakespeare is impressive, it would be compromised if the penmanship could be disassociated from the authorship. . . . And the few items of evidence for eyeskip from one point to another in the supposed copy are interpretable in ways that do not require a pre-existing draft” (439).

 

Whether a manuscript is copied is a legit question. Every copy requires a copy-text; that’s no reason to disregard scribal evidence. Alternatives must be weighed, however “interpretable” the favorite. Scholars argue that numerous alterations in the D pages are representative of common scribal error and the “few items of evidence for eyeskip” are strongly indicative. The phenomenon is well known, especially in classical and Biblical scholarship; identified by empirical evidence, it’s the fat kid on the see-saw.

 

Manuscript re-interpolation of omission is often noticeable. Restoration may end (or at times begin) with a word or phrase identical (or nearly so) to another in the body of the text. Thus cause and effect of eyeskip are identifiable with a higher probability than might be supposed if one is not familiar with it. If interpolation is simply authorial revision, identical words and their placement are coincidental (subject only to matters of composition). So when three substantial examples of the eyeskip sort exist in three pages, cause and effect whup coincidence, probabilitically speaking.

 

Features of D’s instances support transcription. In one, the interpolation is not treated satisfactorily by editors because the omission returned to the text in the wrong place. (Though a scribe might know the cause of his error, his carelessness may extend to correction that isn’t quite as intuitive as he supposes). In another instance the writing at one point is misaligned in a way indicating how the eyeskip occurred. In the last, consecutive use of one speech heading (‘all’) invites the second speech to be skipped. Stir in many other errors typical of casual transcription and Hand D looks even less authorial.

 

These observations require answers from ‘Shakespeare advocates.’ Instead, Arden3 tackles a straw man – Ioppolo’s suggestion that Shakespeare was copying his own draft. That’s not impossible of course, but the evidence she puts forward is of no consequence and Jowett rightly confutes it. But he avoids the topic otherwise as Greg, Pollard, and others have done for a century. Non-engagement with an alternative lets the alternative look better, yet the object is to keep it off the table. If Hand D is a copy we should find out. Most scholars aren’t aware of the issue but trust (in passing) authorities taking a “playwright at work” as self-evident. On further review, it isn’t, and until the matter is taken up the study of STM falters.

 

Jowett confuses the issues: “‘Hand D’ . . . is unique as a passage in manuscript of authorial dramatic writing attributed to Shakespeare. Insofar as the attribution is secure, the particulars of layout, spelling, punctuation, self-correction and alteration by Hand C are crucial primary evidence for the production of the Shakespearean text” (402, ‘Transcript of Hand D’). There are two topics here. Every ‘Shakespeare attribution question’ except Hand D is studied without assuming the text is in Shakespeare’s hand. “Insofar as the attribution is secure” applies independently to handwriting. If Hand D is a scribal copy, “authorial dramatic writing” is by definition impossible and the “layout, spelling and self-correction” isn’t likely authorial. One might even think Shakespeare wasn’t handicapped by the oddball features of Hand D.

 

Historically, scholars who want D to be Shakespeare build a literary, paleographical, and “particulars,” composite case. Recently, Paul Werstine has questioned the method when no individual argument cuts the mustard. Jowett counters that “much of the evidence is strong” and that later work has “overtaken” Werstine’s criticism. It is at this point that Arden3 necessarily sidesteps the question of D as a copyist. The ‘strength’ is restricted to the literary, stylistic side of Hand D. That’s obviously true of addition III (in Hand C) and of all other Shakespeare attribution cases. Given the weak (non-existent) paleographical case, why should Hand D be different? If it’s a copy it may not be a first copy. As STM shows (in spades), a play was subject to alteration by any number of agents without regard to its initial composition. Jowett sees Shakespearean usage in D’s correction of ‘wars’ to ‘hurly’ (a shortening of the phrase hurly burly or a form of hurling not found in contemporary texts other than Shakespeare). Arden3 emphasizes the word (128, 440, and 442) perhaps because it may be the only ‘literary’ evidence attributable to D in the guise of author. I also cite the change as important, but to draw a different conclusion:

 

                           . . . to kneele to be forgyven

is safer warrs, then euer you can make

whose discipline is ryot., why euen yor [warres] -hurly-

cannot pceed but by obedienc . . .

 

Arden3 follows OED to define hurly as “commotion, uproar, turmoil.” Does that proceed by obedience? Not around my house. I believe D misunderstood the author’s ‘your wars’ to refer to the riot in progress (pceeding just fine, thanks), when the author meant an “ethical dative” you to refer to ‘any war.’ If that’s correct, D was not the author; nor was he constrained by the author.

 

As long as Hand D is thought to show Shakespearean idiosyncrasies, even if they don’t jibe with the rest of his works, the evidence will lie dormant in respect of its own explanation. And yet the idiosyncrasies will impose themselves on the canon. If the characteristics of the scene really result in large part from its transmission history, then scholarship will be misled. For example, sparse and inaccurate pointing in Q1 Lear is likened to the Hand D model; what if the model is merely corruption? In that case, Hand D points to a corrupt Q1 Lear. What if STM comes by lively, opportunistic theatrical types not exactly under Shakespeare’s thumb? Might it be a play removed from the author, where Hand D is not a late revision but the vestige of a tale actually closer to the original than the body of the play in Munday’s hand? That’s my guess, which may sensibly unite D’s text and the historical thinking about it.

 

Before getting on with a guess that I haven’t yet analyzed, I’ll reiterate a couple of things. There are many real oddities about Hand D; sayeng they are Shakespeare doesn’t explain them but inhibits curiosity and inquiry into what might explain them. I don’t plan to argue the original authorship. Whether it is Shakespeare is of limited importance, per se; significance grows when characteristics transmitted by D are attached to the canon.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

[Editor’s Note: For those as myself who are suspicious of names of people I have never heard of being paraded around as experts and those as myself who have nothing but the highest regard for John Jowett as a scholar, I researched Tannenbaum. The Tannenbaum in question is Samuel Aaron Tannenbaum. He did not merit an entry in the 2001 The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (General editor Michael Dobson. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). However, the following entry does appear in The Reader’s Encyclopedia of Shakespeare (Editors, Campbell, Oscar James and Quinn, Edward G., New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1966):

 

Tannenbaum, Samuel A[aron] (1874-1948). Hungarian-born physician and scholar. Tannenbaum emigrated to the U.S. as a child. In 1898 he received his M.D. from Columbia, but by this time had developed an interest in the two areas to which he would devote his life—psychology and Shakespeare. He studied in Europe under Freud, returning to America in order to practice psychotherapy. His scholarly study of Shakespeare centered on Elizabethan handwriting, which he treated in his Problems in Shakspere’s Penmanship (1927) and The Handwriting of the Renaissance (1930). Dr. Tannenbaum rejected the generally accepted theory that Shakespeare’s handwriting is extant in a manuscript version of Sir Thomas More. He engaged in another heated controversy when he contended in his Shakspere Forgeries in the Revels Accounts (1928) that the manuscript was a forgery. Dr. Tannenbaum was the editor of the Shakespeare Association Bulletin from 1934 to 1947 and the compiler, with his second wife, Dorothy, of a large number of valuable bibliographies of the individual Shakespearean works and of the major Elizabethan dramatists and poets. His large personal library now forms the basis of the University of North Carolina’s Tannenbaum Shakespeare Collection. [John S. Mc-Aleer, “The Gladiatorial Dr. Tannenbaum,” Bulletin of the New York Public Library, LXVI, 1962.]

 

Ah, that is he—the man who believed that the Office of the Revels Accounts were a Collier forgery. Interesting. –Hardy]

 
 

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