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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: February ::
In the Case of Egan vs. Elliott: A Reply to Larry Weiss et al.

 

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0087  Monday, 25 February 2013

 

[1] From:        Michael Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         February 24, 2013 1:51:25 PM EST

     Subject:     Date of 1 Richard II 

 

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

     Date:         February 25, 2013 1:50:13 PM EST

     Subject:     Woodstock

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         February 24, 2013 1:51:25 PM EST

Subject:     Date of 1 Richard II

 

Thanks to Mac Jackson for his temperate and measured comments. Among them he cites D.J. Lake’s ‘Three Seventeenth-Century Revisions: Thomas of Woodstock, The Jew of Malta and Faustus B,’ which, he claims, confirms his opinion that the play is Jacobean. But Lake actually supports Partridge’s conclusions, and mine, that while the MS is about 1606 the original play was Elizabethan ca 1592.

 

As Jackson notes, Lake is interested in the text’s elisions and contractions and what they might tell us about its date. But in his analysis, Lake makes an astonishing observation whose implications have gone completely unrecognized. Lake notes that there are 9 instances of i’th, and 3 each of o’th and a’thall contractions which are at least extremely rare before 1600.

 

For Lake, this confirms a Jacobean writing for the play itself, as Jackson notes; yet if we look elsewhere in Lake’s article to discover just where these forms appear so rarely before 1600, we find that the answer is—exclusively in Shakespeare:

 

Shakespeare in the mid-1590s was the first dramatist to make any appreciable use of the contractions i’th’, o’th’ and a’th’. But before 1599 he was probably the only one. (Lake, 137)

 

The only one. Lake cites Love’s Labour’s Lost (Q 1598), i’th’ 1, a’th’; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Q 1600),  i’th’  (three times) ; The Merchant of Venice (Q 1600),  i’th’  (twice); and  2 Henry IV (Q 1600),  i’th’ 5 o’th’ 1, a’th’.

 

So Lake’s data actually support my claim that 1 Richard II was an early play by Shakespeare.

 

A parallel instance occurs in a short Notes and Queries comment by J.C. Maxwell, (“Doubts on the Date of Woodstock,’ Notes and Queries (April, 1976), p. 154). Maxwell argues that 1 Richard II must be Jacobean because nearly all its blank-verse scenes conclude with a couplet. This is “a general practice of the early Jaco­beans” and hardly ever found in the Elizabethan period. Indeed, Maxwell notes, the only exception is—Shakespeare.

 

Among the data supporting Partridge’s case for textual stratification, and the survival in the play of forms characteristic of the 1590s, are usages such as the 16th-century word “lyneing” (II.iii.0.s.d).  Both Corbin and Sedge and the Nottingham editors note that lyneing “is a common sixteenth-century term for any material used to line or back another.” (Corbin and Sedge, Thomas of Woodstock, p. 94n., Parfitt and Shepherd, ed. cit., p. 27n.) Cf. 2 Richard II, I.iv.62-3: “The lining of his coffers shall make coats / To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars.”

 

Also the archaic use of “country” for “county” (III.iii.65, OED, “Country,” 2a), the antique spelling of the word “Intendiments” (V.i.142), which Shakespeare himself abandoned by 1599, and the repeated Elizabethan noun-verb discords. It’s true that we find usages of all the above both in the 16th and 17th centuries, but so what? It’s the combined weight of the evidence that makes Partridge’s case.

 

Jackson says:

 

I demonstrated that all the linguistic forms that Partridge called “old-fashioned” (and that could therefore have been present in a play of the early 1590s) remained in common use in the seventeenth century, and so could equally well have belonged to a seventeenth-century composition. There is no doubt that the manuscript of Woodstock/ \1 Richard II contains handwriting penned at more than one date – there are late marginal additions, for example – but nothing in Partridge’s analysis serves unequivocally to tie anything in the manuscript to the early 1590s.  

 

This isn’t true, though we might add that the argument works in the other direction too. All Jackson’s linguistic examples were available and in use during the 1590s, many by Shakespeare. There is nothing in his analysis to unequivocally tie the play to the early 1600s.

 

There are other anomalies if we take the play to be Jacobean. Why were act and scene divisions omitted, typical of pre-Jacobean practice, but later added by some other hand? What about the fact that interest in history plays faded rapidly after 1600 and was all-but dead by 1608-10, rendering Jackson’s 1 Richard II a virtual anachronism? How does he explain the persistence in the text of the manifold blasphemies banned from the stage by the 1606 ‘Acte to restraine the Abuses of Players,’ and account for the use and presence of a masque which, ac­cording to Ewbank, Boas, Stavropoulos and Corbin and Sedge, ‘does not follow the elaborate patterning of the Jacobean masque’? Tthe inset masque in 1 Richard II conforms closely in style and content to the Elizabethan model, and must thus in Jackson’s terms be accounted a puzzling incongruity.  

 

Michael Egan

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         February 25, 2013 1:50:13 PM EST

Subject:     Woodstock

 

Michael Egan observes:

 

> There is also evidence of authorial rewriting and editing.

> Recovering a lost Shakespeare play in the current

> Authorship climate requires that every fact, claim and

> detail be unequivocally nailed down . . .

 

I don’t recall Michael responding to my posting about MSR 117. Perhaps we can nail it down.

 

>> entries for Woodstock himself and ‘The Lord Mayre & Exton . . .

>> precede Woodstock's turn from his brothers:

>> 

>>            Ile speake wth you anan: / hye thee good Exton

>>            good lord mayre I doe beseech ye prossecute

>>            wth yor best care . . .         124

>>            . . . pray be carefull            132

>> Mayre:  yor ffreends are Greate in London. good my lord   ____

>>            Ile front all Dangers, trust it on my word           {Exitt L: May<

>> 

>> Editors have recognized Holinshed's report that the Mayor

>> of London was Richard Exton; the dialogue had led the

>> scribe to think two persons were represented. . . . it is quite

>> unlikely that the author would have written or overseen the entries.

>> 

>> Michael Egan remarks that there were two characters after all:

>> "However, the original (sic) MS. seems unequivocally to indicate

>> two men . . . . It's not clear to what passage(s) in Holinshed

>> [Rossiter] refers" (Egan, v. 3, 59).

 

And yet Holinshed is clear:

 

“But the duke comming by some meanes to vnderstand of this wicked practise, had no desire to take part of that supper, where such sharpe sauce was prouided, and withall gaue warning to the residue, that they likewise should not come there, but to content themselues with their owne suppers at their lodgings. It was said, that sir Nicholas Brember, who had beene maior the yeare before, had promised his assistance in the execution of this horrible fact: but thorough the commendable constancie of Richard Exton that was maior this yeare being mooued by the king for his furtherance therein, and denieng flatlie to consent to the death of such innocent persons, that heinous practise was omitted” (774).

 

This detail suggests that the author was not involved in the set direction. Does Michael agree? No one can know how the “really original” manuscript reads but it probably followed the source. Allowing that “evidence of authorial rewriting” can only be in the eye of the beholder, the evidence of authorial non-participation (like the bi-polar Exton) must decide that issue. I suppose the suggestion of an authorial presence in the manuscript is to deflect the evidence of memorial transmission. Egan’s “reply” again:

 

> If 1 Richard II is plagiarized it’s by Shakespeare’s most

> dedicated fan, an individual who knew his work from back

> to front and understood its subtlest functionings. . . . .

> Even more astonishing, and surely decisive when it comes

> to matters of authorship, some of the most intriguing parallels

> are found in plays not attributed to Shakespeare until the

> 20th century—Edward III, The Two Noble Kinsmen and the

> Sir Thomas More fragment among them. That these, like Pericles,

> another late addition, are echoed or pre-echoed in 1 Richard II,

> seems quite remarkable to me, a clinching detail. Weiss et al.

> pretend to overlook the implications.

 

In the past I noted that Michael summarily rejects memorial reporting as a historical likelihood. But if Woodstock (having all the earmarks) remains a candidate we shouldn’t overlook the existence of an entire class of individuals who knew the works of Shakespeare by heart—the players of the canon (whatever its size). Echoes are what memorial transmission is all about. On principle I presume that plays comprising the most echoes are themselves derivative recipients—not contributors. It’s a good idea to accept Egan’s “Contention” that Woodstock uniquely has large numbers of Shakespearian echoes and parallels; “doesn’t mean a thing” doesn’t work forever. But how might a single play outpace all others in textual influence? Chances are it can’t. On the other hand, anyone intent on “constructing a Shakespeare play of Richard 2” would not be dissuaded by “plagiarism” or text recovered from a variety of plays.

 

It’s easily possible that a memorial text stems from a play outside the known canon. If that’s the case here the echoes must be classified as corruptions to be set alongside the many others. That may help a bit to isolate the “original” text but it won’t help to call corruptions “original.” Nor will it do to include corrupt text in stylometric investigations. As is stands, Woodstock may not look like Shakespeare in such tests—but they aren’t worth much in the circumstances.

 

> Among what I consider to be good evidence is Anon’s

> tendency to write like Shakespeare in general terms.

> I’m referring here not to any specific phrase or even the

> play’s thought . . . but the fact that among other things

> he likes hendiadys, compound words and the prefixes

> un- and re. These preferences have long been recognized

> as Shakespeare markers . . . . Hendiadys is a rhetorical form . . .

 

From Michael Egan’s 37 examples I guess that he still doesn’t grasp the essence of hendiadys. “Remiss and inconsiderate” doesn’t come close, nor do most of the others. “Rude and bitter taunts,” though we might know their use, is just padding and “and.” An imitator might suppose this Shakespearian, but since Shakespeare is also entitled to common usage, these phrases don’t mean much. I don’t put any stock in “un-words” either:

 

> The important statistic provided is 27, the number of un-

> instances in 1 Richard II. It’s important because their extensive

> usage confirms a preference consistent with Shakespeare’s

> over 700 counted instances. No other Elizabethan or Jacobean

> writer employs the form so habitually, and . . . not Sam Rowley.

 

I don’t discount the possible presence of Rowley (for example) in a revised memorial report with surviving authorial usages. The first question is to establish the nature of the text’s transmission, which has been overlooked. The mistake in this attribution debate is to set one author against another (or a computer) without considering evidence of the manuscript’s theatrical transmission history. I have no trouble at all with a late copy of an early play; it would naturally show signs of both. Without an original there is no way to know the extent of corruption. The hypothesis that the original began as a separate Shakespeare play is worthy of investigation but any attempt in that direction will be spoiled by turning a blind eye to all the indicators of a broken line of transmission.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 
 

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