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Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0918  Tuesday, 17 October 2006

From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Monday, 16 Oct 2006 18:44:26 -0400
Subject: 17.0908 Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0908 Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars

Gerald Downs's lengthy post ostensibly commenting on Ron Rosenbaum's 
discussion of the "Lear" revision theory-while actually using the 
Rosenbaum book as a jumping off point to expound his own point of 
view-is unfair to Rosenbaum.

For example, Downs begins by taking Rosenbaum to task for implying (but 
not saying) that Blayney's rejection of the memorial reconstruction 
theory of Q1 was expressed in Volume 1 of Blayney's work, when in fact 
it was intended to be developed in the abortive Volume 2 and has come 
down to us by oral transmission.  Oh come on!  Rosenbaum got it right; 
Downs is quibbling for the sake of giving himself an excuse to express 
an opinion on the underlying textual question.

Even worse, Downs calls it an "error" for Rosenbaum to "cite two Knowles 
articles without comment on the Variorum editor's serious misstatement 
(repeated four years later) of Howard-Hill's 1986 contentions, which 
showed that all the readings in F supposedly deriving from Q1 could as 
well have been derived from Q2 . . .(1997, 75; 2001, 269)."  Again: Oh, 
come on!  Rosenbaum.  And he did a damned good job of it, making these 
issues accessible to "general readers" wrote a book for general 
consumption, not a detailed exegesis for the reference of academic 
specialists without losing most of the nuances that make it fascinating 
for the adepts.  That could not have been easy to do.

This is not to say that there are no mistakes in Rosenbaum's book. 
There are a few lulus.  For example, unless Rosenbaum is privy to a 
secret kept from the rest of us for half a century, it was Frank 
Mankiewicz, not John Houseman, who directed the 1953 film of "Julius 
Caesar" starring Brando, Mason and Geilgud.

Later, in an obvious typo, the book dates Samuel Johnson's edition of 
Shakespeare as 1715, instead of 1765.

Rosenbaum also misquotes Greene's "Groatsworth of Wit"-"plumed in," 
instead of "beautified with" our feathers.  Perhaps Rosenbaum feels that 
"beautified" is a vile word.

Rosenbaum also says that Lewis Theobald claimed to have a manuscript of 
"Cardenio" before him when he composed "Double Falsehood."  In fact, he 
claimed to have three separate manuscripts of "Cardenio."  Perhaps this 
is in the nature of a Downsian quibble, but a claim to three separate 
manuscripts is as impressive as the thirteenth stroke of the clock, so 
it is probably worth mentioning.

These errors are more to be laid at the feet of the proofreaders and 
fact checkers.  They do not detract materially from the usefulness of 
this book, which I highly recommend.

If Gerald Downs wants to start a discussion about the current state of 
scholarship on the Lear revision theory, I don't think anyone would 
object; but let it stand on its own feet, not as a cavil about 
Rosenbaum's book in which it is only one of more than a dozen issues 
discussed, and in which it is accurately described.

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