The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0445  Wednesday, 11 September 2013


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

Date:         September 10, 2013 10:07:18 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Spanish Tragedy Additions


Holger Syme provides a link to Douglas Bruster’s N&Q article, which fills out the NYT preview. The Hand D / Spanish Tragedy Additions spelling comparisons may be of interest to Shakespearians. Before getting to them, I see that Bruster does allude to the circumstance of my objection to his conjecture reported by the NYT; which he describes as “important, misreading” of the speech ascription ‘Ier’ as ‘I, or’:


“The added lines . . . may have

been written on another sheet, or another

place (including the margins) on the same

sheet featuring this part of the Additions.

Shakespeare could have prefaced them with

the identifying ‘Ier’ as a compositional

anchor—that is, a personal prompt for new

writing. Alternately, such a preface may have

been intended as an identifying label for

others, a group that may have started with

actors, but wound up including compositors.”


Bruster could have said, “This is no place for a speech prefix.” Instead, he suggests a “compositional anchor” or a failed “identifying label for others.” Although these substitutes sort of speak for themselves, a reader may not notice their role as necessary secondary hypotheses. DNA doesn’t need ‘could haves.’


However, the more important feature of the N&Q pages is the contention that Shakespeare’s spelling in “Hand D” indicates he wrote the additions of 1602. This may be worth examining in detail; it’s surprising how much something that hasn’t been thought through bolsters and is bolstered by the modern concept of Shakespeare.


Bruster lists twenty-four categories of Hand D spelling that are reflected in the added Spanish Tragedy lines, which is taken to indicate common authorship. I’ll contribute spellings from John of Bordeaux for further comparison. Readers should keep in mind the facts that Shakespeare is not only the best to read, but among the best-read of his era; and that Bordox’s scribe (while a shorthand whiz) is an orthographic nincompoop. How do they compare (using the ‘D = Shakespeare’ formula), and how can that be? One needn’t read all the examples to get the idea. I hope the editor’s automatic press-corrector doesn’t interfere:


1) Shortened past tenses: d for -ed; t for –ed


Q 1602: supt, vnsquard, vnhorst, Wrapt, burnt, blest


Bordox: whipte, destrest (desstressed, destressed), accurst, crost, imbrst [embraced], banest [banished], belegerd, conspiered, and on and on.


2) Single medial consonant: sorow, towling


Bordox: sorow, sorowes, beger (begg), penie, wepe, folow, to morow, theasaltes [the assaults], etc.


3) Doubled medial consonant: Reccons, kiernnell, vnuallued, collour


Bordox: beyonnd, dellicattes, pittieth, grattewlat (gratulat), thannckfull, etc.


4) Single terminal s: spotles, darknes


Bordox: comforles, haples [for sure], lucles, gerasles [graceless], etc.


5) Doubled final consonant:  runne, whippes, kiernnell, scornefull , Starres, sonne/Sonne


Bordox:  martiall, whell, quarell, faythfull, haristottell, etc., etc.


6) a and ai interchangeable:  humaine


Bordox:  staie


7) ai = ei: waigh


Bordox: waigh [meaning wait, however]


8) au = a:  traunce


Bordox:  Aunswer, straung, a boundaunce [common for the era], etc.


9) c and s interchangeable:  ballace [ballast, I think], trise, sences


Bordox:  senced, elce, excammin, Awnsester


10) Terminal -e omitted: wast, you’r, desperat


Bordox:  stat (whate), lat [common in the era], etc.


11) e, ei, and ie interchangeable: beleife, kiernnell


Bordox: heignes, dei, eiorne [iron], etc.


12) en = in:  encrease, entend [note also: intertaine]


Bordox:  cossen, driven, in trape, meadesen [long before Ali, medicine made sick], 'so lerndd a man hath he tought the ani latten', etc.


13) er = ar: ierring


Bordox:  Iarman, Iarmayne, (Iermani, etc.), hart, clarkes, desartes, begeart [begirt], etc., all phonetic.


14) i = ee or ei:  shriking


Bordox: empier, atier, sattier [satyr], natier [nature], frier, my nier [mine ear], etc., etc.


15) ie = y: prie, merrie, eiebrowes, iuttie, allie, crie


Bordox:  Common in the age, ubiquitous here


16) nck = nk:  rancke


Bordox:  thinck, drincke, thanncke, thannckfull, etc., a scribal habit.


17) o = oa:  croking


Bordox:  aproching, etc. [one oa only, ‘cloake’]


18) oo = o:  foorth, mooue, prooue, doo’st


Bordox:  goote [got], ooft, fooe, goos, gooste [e.g. Casper], poot, etc.


(19) Ow = o, oo, oe: nowse (= noose), Rowle


Bordox:  fowe [few opportunities but obviously not a habit]


(20) ow = ou: thorow [three times]


Bordox:  thow [regularly], howse, stowtter, thowsand, nowne, etc.


(21) ow = o:  towling


Bordox: none, but few candidates with -oll


(22) rie = ery: Gallirie


Bordox:  verie, trecherie, anggerie, Cunteries, honggerie, weried, etc.


(23) then for than:  then (= than, x 2)


Bordox:  common in Bordox and elsewhere at the time


(24) y-spellings:  Syrha, Y’fayth, ryots, dyed, ynch, mynes, noyse, myne


Bordox:  yf, mynt, mynd, ayre, myn Awnsester, myghtie, faythfull, etc.


As the comparisons show, Bruster too readily supposes that Hand D and the Additions indicate common authorship. Bordox (even adjusted for length) confutes that notion all by itself. Yet ‘hand-to-hand combat’ is mistaken if spelling is taken as merely a personal characteristic, or if it is supposed to survive printing and transcription in measurable ways.


Bordox’s scribe was an accidental cacographer of the first order; his spelling was phonetic and without formal learning but laced with blurred concepts (e.g. he knew ‘highness’ had a g, so ‘heignes’). And yet his transcription is amazingly accurate and not too hard to read. Forms were interchangeable to him so long as they got the job done and these are categories without borders. With words like ‘thannckfull’ he was not taking dictation but getting carried away expanding shorthand notes. There are many indications of this in vestiges of short writing alongside the longer words. One comes to understand his orthography as the result of a peculiar but natural history. Why would Hand D have so many features in common with Bordox? Why would Shakespeare write this way? These are not identical questions.


Bordox’s S and STM’s D share a lot of traits besides the two dozen listed. For example, S used almost no punctuation; he didn’t have time the first go-round, then left it to others. Revising players pointed more of the text. Is that how Shakespeare treated his intricate syntax? Shakespearians seem to think so. S and D interchanged medial v and u in an odd way. Bordox’s ‘thravle’ (thrall) results from S’s persistent use of medial v for the ‘vee’ sound; from his lazy/hazy recognition of the u/v convention; and from his lackadaisical application to spelling that never made sense anyhow. D spelt with a medial v that ought to be a u in the same way. Why? Did Shakespeare/D just fall off the parsnip truck? Hadn’t he already read more than you could shake a spelling-bee at? What history can account for these characteristics? My answer is that Shakespeare/D is a big mistake. In the first place, D was a copyist.


When a strangely spelt manuscript was copied or printed it would be “normalized” by the lights of agents. The SpTr Additions are a mess, but they were worse to begin. The same for Hand D (in my opinion) so we can’t know how much they resemble Bordox. “In for a dime, in for a dollar” is my guess; ‘kiernnells’ didn’t live alone. Bordox is transmission on the hoof; the others are cur’d.


I have expressed the view that Hand D is transcribed from a report similar to Bordox. I’m not ready to say the same of the Additions, but I’m leaning that way even before I evaluate Vickers's article. Shorthand was about about that time: why not? I almost forgot; the Addition latten is no good.


Last, I like to repeat some of my favorite play. That gives a better idea of S at work than isolated idiotic spellings. Transmission (at a remove) and survival of a theatrical report is a miracle; it should be judged fairly:


and that yor maiestie had banest him he fecth a sigh and swore a

solom oth yor heignes had disparagd all this thought in reving

him of such a martiall fooe, how brav a man quoth he was      938


what meat wod we have why thow ould mapellfast matrone

thow rates collerd ruffen lok in my face and se yf thow canst spie

ani basser cattes then a could capon a fat pigge or a pasti of ven . . . 548


letes lose the Raynes of reson to conseve thinges past belefe

here of coniecturd is that poeates wrighte Sapience dominabeter



thy practies is plaged with feweris

how his conshince stinges

gerasles repent and thow shallt

yet find grace


van  grace I grace is a pretie wench I know her well

com hether phelossopher whates hell

tell me how manie drope of blud ther

is in the sea or thow diest non place tibe domene   1298


lastlie he that menes to Liv in this world must

hav his toung mad of a paynters apperne spotted

of all culleres he face brace cog ly and desemble

or elce yf he live never so honistlie he shall

di a starke begger)    357


[his face brass, codge, lie, . . .]


but harke my theinckes som Ientell is hard at hand   879


be not impatient myghty prince the night is Long

Booties hath not pitchd her Laboring waine

[[.....]nter John holland] (In a reviser’s hand)


betuwne aquarious armes  678


low how thow art tranncported


Gerald E. Downs


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