The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0109 Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Date: March 12, 2013 9:01:38 PM EDT
Subject: Re: Folger’s New Online Texts Go Up Against Moby
Al Magary quotes from the Folger Digital Texts site,
“When the Moby™ Text was created [sic; in 1864], for example, it was deemed “improper” and “indecent” for Miranda to chastise Caliban for having attempted to rape her. (See The Tempest, 1.2: “Abhorred slave, / Which any print of goodness wilt not take, / Being capable of all ill! I pitied thee . . . ”). All Shakespeare editors at the time took the speech away from her and gave it to her father, Prospero.”
We know that when older editors made a change to prevent Shakespeare from being “improper” and “indecent” they were probably replacing the authentic Shakespeare with a fake Shakespeare. I’m not so allergic to what Victorians saw as improper and indecent, but in this case I think the older editors made the right decision, though perhaps for the wrong reasons. I don’t believe that Shakespeare could have intended this speech for the modest, innocent Miranda—as he in all else establishes her character. But for the chronically enraged Prospero, the speech is perfectly in character.
Some problems with the text are insoluble, others have a most plausible solution, while less likely alternatives nevertheless remain conceivable. I don’t think this is such a case. This is so clearly a mistake in the Folio that editors who fail to change it seem to me deaf to Shakespeare in general and The Tempest in particular, and arguments supporting this Foliolatry serve as studies in speciousness. Only one case in which modern editorial practices produce the opposite of progress.