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King Lear Analysis: Appointed Guard

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0381  Friday, 14 September 2012

 

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

Date:         September 13, 2012 7:25:19 PM EDT

Subject:     King Lear Analysis: Appointed Guard

 

Textually speaking, one King Lear passage has special status because opinions hang on its analysis—which needs improving. I’ll start with one who gets it wrong before I add to the extensive confusions.

 

T. H. Howard-Hill was an effective critic; reviewing Division, he noted that “the trivial or indifferent character of many of the variations which are brought forward to illustrate [Shakespearean] revision can allow [suspicion] that . . . the distinctive literary consequences of the variation are more a measure of the critical sensitivity of the scholars . . . than an indication of a purposed, consistent revision . . .” Still, he allowed two-text theory “a strong likelihood” and helped to extend its life with an influential argument. In 1982 he questioned Greg’s case that Q1 had been collated with a theatrical manuscript to produce F. Stone’s work had encouraged Howard-Hill to posit Q2 as F copy, when Q1 might be eliminated as an immediate ancestor. Because use of the 1608 Q1 impedes revision theory by forcing Shakespeare to begin his project on corrupt text at an implausible date, Howard-Hill undertook to reduce Q1’s relevance with new analysis of a seemingly crucial phrase at 5.3.47 (* . . . *), where Edmund informs Albany of Lear’s detention:

 

  Bast. Sir I thought it fit,

To saue the old and miserable King to some retention, (5.3.47)

Whose age has charmes in it,whose title more

To pluck the coren bossom of his side,

And turne our imprest launces in our eyes,

Which doe commaund them . . .

(Qa TLN 2706–2711; K4v21–26)

 

To send the old and miserable King to some retention, *and ap-

Whose age has charmes in it,whose title more, (pointed guard,*

To pluck the common bossome of his side,

(Qb TLN 2707–09; K4v22–24)

 

To send the old and miserable King

To some retention, *and appointed guard,*

Whose age has charmes in it, whose Title more,

To plucke the common blossomes of his side,

(Q2 K4v11–14)

 

To send the old and miserable King to some retention,

Whose age had Charmes in it,whose Title more,

To plucke the common bosome on his side,

(F 5.3.47–49 [TLN 2990–92])

 

Q1 and F were probably foul-proofed and Q1 was corrected at press; “and appointed guard,” (a phrase unlikely to be created by a corrector was squeezed into line 47. F compositor E’s reliance on Q2 provided opportunity to retain the phrase and the lineation of Edmund’s speech, whose first twelve lines are spoiled only by the extrametrical additions (typical of reporting?), twice each, of Sir and do. Yet F follows Qa in both mislineation and omission, by which Greg infers that F copy was collated with Qa, the uncorrected state of outer K.

 

Howard-Hill theorizes an alternative history for 5.3.47, reduced here to his propositions: (1) The phrase “and appointed guard” was misplaced in Shakespeare’s draft (the assumed Q1 copy). (2) Its position caused it to be omitted by a Q1 compositor and (3) omitted independently by a scribe (4) whom Shakespeare employed for a fair copy to become the “promptbook.” (5) The phrase was subsequently restored and then (6) underlined. (7) A collator of F copy took the underlining as a mark for deletion, when the phrase was removed a third time. (8) Line 47 was identically lined in Qa, the foul papers, and promptbook. (9) Howard-Hill sees “and appointed guard” as Shakespeare’s afterthought “that may have been added merely to improve the meter.” (He takes Qa’s “To send the old and miserable King to some retention” as an “acceptable hexameter,” but fourteen syllables are unlikely to have been composed or retained in Shakespearean pentameter verse.

 

In the absence of evidence Howard-Hill’s “appointed” history is virtually impossible in light of its many interdependent improbabilities. Factoring in foul papers (his enabling, unargued assumption), this explanation of Q1-only anomaly showing up in F has no value. Despite his assessment as “unprovable except from a chain of consequences,” and weakness in every link, Howard-Hill assigns more than alternative status to his story. Acknowledging Q1 readings transmitted only from Q2, he advises that a Q1 F-source can be 'dismissed' and 'removed' from consideration.

 

Because Q2 influence on F dominates recent discussion one may overlook the many Q1/F agreements against Q2—including errors, anomalous punctuation, and variant Q2 “correction.” At 4.6.119, “for I lacke souldiers” (Q1/F) becomes “for I want souldiers”. Possible sources for F’s reading are Q1 or a separate manuscript. If Q1 is the source, then all the other Q1/Q2/F correspondences might originate in a report. Q2 can’t decide F's authority; the question is about Q1 copy. Lear editors uncritically accept Howard-Hill’s sequence while failing to appreciate that his conjectural string (in its most generous reception) can only be alternative to the inference that Q1 affects F independently of Q2. New Cambridge editor Halio allows that F “substantive readings and alterations derive from the [authoritative] manuscript; accidentals and orthography from Q2.” Apparently swayed by argument that Q1 omission and lineation is transmitted through a playhouse promptbook, he discounts Blayney’s and Stone’s opinion that F revises Q1 itself.

 

{It is objected that promptbook is anachronistic but the term merely refers to a text used (or prepared for use) in a dramatic production. Gary Taylor refers to the usage (“Folio Compositors and Folio Copy” PBSA 79): “We have no clear evidence that the manuscript was a prompt-book, or a derivative of one.” Q1 in any case was a playtext; the publishers might have hoped to produce a Lear “cured, perfect of its limbs, and all the rest” with no plans for production.}

 

Arden 3 editor Foakes acknowledges the “consensus that the text in F has a significant relation with Q2, and no direct link with Q1.” Mediating Q1 influence through Q2 on the strength of one bad argument, Foakes and others postulate an authorial revision prior to 1608 (and therefore not based on Q1 at all). Most improbably, this revision of an imaginary manuscript is supposed to have compatibly shared F-copy duties with a corrupt Q2. More simply, F originates in Q1, as does the 1619 reprint.

Single instances can be decisive, but this shared omission isn’t crucial. According to two-text advocate and Oxford editor Taylor, “If Q1 is a ‘bad quarto,’ then Q—and hence F—is pervasively corrupt.” And if so, the error (only one of multitudes) bears little on any issue. The seeming importance comes by failing to prioritize the evidence. Taylor (as Greg) sees Qa ancestry in the omission: If “Q1 were a ‘bad’ quarto”—to date revision after 1608—“is essentially Stone’s hypothesis, though he does not himself recognize the importance of this variant.” But three omitted words can’t greatly affect the question of Q1 provenance (which Taylor pointedly declines to address). Stone is not short on argument that Q1 is a bad quarto, but no good case has ever been made for foul papers Q1 copy.

 

{Jowett, “After Oxford,” 77: “No one to date has advanced coherent explanations of all the ‘bad’ quartos that do away with memorial transmission entirely”: Halio, First Quarto, 5, acknowledges that Q1 “matter seemingly points to a reported or memorially reconstructed text.” However, he explains (as Doran) that “Shakespeare himself was an actor.”}

 

If Q1 is “pervasively corrupt,” then F is its derivative no matter what happened in the transmission of 5.3.47 – when conjectural explanations of one Qa/F omission are not of much worth. Nevertheless, Stone approaches this crux more intelligently. He observes that Q1’s influence on F is indicated less by the omission than the identical, anomalous lineation in both Qa and Qb (134, and n.8). He further suggests that the phrase was purposely deleted during revision—not of Qa, but of Qb—and that when the resultant F copy was “collated” with Q2, the compositor opted to reproduce the manuscript revision. The important fact is that, of twenty-seven variants in outer K, only the missing 5.3.47 phrase indicates Qa influence on F. Because Q2 shares Qb-derived readings with F, the Qa/F omission may be an irrelevant coincidence. Stone observes that in context the phrase “appears to produce a false relation between guard and the relative pronoun” (whose):

 

   Bast. Sir I thought it fit,

To send the old and miserable King to some retention, and ap-

Whose age has charmes in it, whose title more, (pointed guard,

            (Qb TLN 2706–2708)

 

Stone hypothesizes that by deleting the phrase a reviser had removed “the temptation to understand appointed . . . as a second main verb,” when the reader or auditor takes “guard as the (absurd) antecedent of whose” (237). This Qb analysis relies on syntactical, grammatical, and outer K realities, not on assumptions. The text is easily misunderstood; Stone’s conjecture may well be correct.

 

In Division Gary Taylor argues misleadingly against Stone’s view of this passage. He suggests that “Stone recognizes the need for a common ancestor” to forestall “an absolutely incredible coincidence” of the same omission (and lineation) in a bad quarto (Q1) and in the independent F manuscript copy. But Stone of course posits only the manuscript that derives from Q1 (and its copy).

 

Taylor argues further that the phrase is required by the meter and therefore, presumably, redactors were required to care. Sometimes they didn’t care enough to preserve the meter; after all, it’s lost in Qa and in F (despite attempts at correction throughout). Because meter is a concern from an author’s standpoint, anomaly is a sign of corruption. But one can't assume that other agents would fix matters. Taylor also suggests the omission couldn’t have happened from eyeskip. I think it could (at one remove).

 

Beyond these objections Taylor’s argument is typically rhetorical. Stone “presupposes that the adapter deliberately excised . . . .” But Stone doesn’t presuppose anything; he analyzes sentence structure. “Stone’s excuse . . . .” Stone’s reason is another way to put it. The “ambiguity is more apparent than real . . . .” But what’s the difference? If a reader or auditor can take a wrong meaning, even momentarily, it’s real enough. Some may be persuaded by this manner of argument, but it isn’t fair to Peter Stone, or to textual inquiry.

 

{Howard-Hill, “Q1 and Copy” 429-30, remarks the possible use of Qb outer K: “When the Folio collator took up the promptbook, it contained the phrase ‘and appointed guard’. No-one has suggested that the promptbook was defective in this respect and certainly, from Greg’s viewpoint, if the phrase did not occur in the promptbook, its absence from F could not assist the hypothesis that [Qa] provided the basis of F copy. So the promptbook contained a complete text of the passage.” Howard-Hill omits reference to Stone, who did suggest a “promptbook” omitted the phrase (via a revised, corrected outer K: Qb). In Stone’s case, Qa isn’t the basis of F. Greg’s opinion is subject to modification; Qb influence is Q1 influence. Lineation is the important fact reproduced in F. Corroborating Stone (again with no citation), Howard-Hill observes that if “the phrase was not in F [sic; F copy?] one could argue—with substantial support from the appearance of [Qb] variants in the Folio text—that F copy here had been prepared from [Qb, when 5.3.47] would be useless to prove Greg’s theory since the other variants of Q1 were transmitted by Q2” (430, n.16). Yet the Qa/Qb lineation, invariant in Q1, is not transmitted in Q2. Observations so carefully worded with no reference to Stone lead me to think that his reasonable conjecture has been dodged.}

 

My explication of the coincidental earlier Qa omission is of a printing-house affair. Two verse lines crammed into one line of Qb indicates restoration of omission, which is confirmed by Qa—with a line that is itself too long for a speech otherwise metrically correct. Qa may be a foul-proof miscorrection: 

 

   Bast. Sir I thought it fit,

To saue the old and miserable King to some retention,

Whose age has charmes in it, whose title more

To pluck the coren bossom of his side,

 

There’s no reason to think the compositor tried to make sense of these lines; context can’t suggest deletion of “and appointed guard” if context (coren bossom) doesn’t matter. But what if the copy was regular?  

 

to saue the old and [miserable King

to some retention and] appointed guard,

 

The compositor could have set “To saue the old and” before returning to the wrong and, mistakenly to continue with “appointed guard . . . ”. (On Moxon’s authority, the compositor “reads so much of his Copy as he thinks he can retain in his memory till he have Composed it, as commonly is five or six words . . .”) A foul proof omitting “miserable King to some retention and” would have read:

 

To saue the old and appointed guard,

Whose age has charmes in it, whose title more

 

The meaning would have been all the same to the compositor; that is, none to speak of. There is nothing obviously wrong with the grammar or syntax (where whose refers to guard after all). When the omission was detected, the corrector’s instructions may have accidentally induced the compositor to omit “and appointed guard” when he restored “miserable King to some retention”. A word causing eyeskip omission (‘and’) also may cause confusion; proper restoration is not always intuitive.

 

This solution (analogous to Blayney’s “fiery Duke” miscorrection) relies on the factual Qb restoration; the hypermetrical Qa line; the universally inferred complete Q1 printer’s copy; foul foul-proofing; and eyeskip (the most coren cause of omission). The secondarily omitted “and appointed guard” would be restored with other Qb corrections (with no room to repair the verse lining). If this or a similar sequence is correct, the Qa and F omissions are less informative of a relationship between editions than of printing error and proofing before presswork. The overlong line 47 still indicates that F stems from Q1, but transmission error accounts for the text well enough to doubt its value in establishing Shakespeare’s presence in the middle of the Q/F textual history.

 

Why do editors uncritically accept Howard-Hill’s bad argument to the exclusion of the better inference that F derives from Q1? It’s less about the text than preservation of a tradition that Shakespeare is central not only to the creation of his works, but to their transmission and evolution. King Lear (despite its problems) almost always exemplifies the concept because the F text is presumed to be authorized.

 

For decades (centuries) Q1 was considered a faulty reproduction of F, though each contain additional matter. Since the early 1980’s most all agree that F is best characterized as a revision of Q1, or Q1-like text. Taylor asserts of “and appointed guard,” that “if Q1 were . . . printed from a memorial reconstruction, the manuscript from which it was printed would have no direct relationship with Shakespeare’s foul papers;” which can't explain the omission in common with an authorized F. But in that case, few of the many Q1/F features in common could be explained. Therefore, any suggestion that Q1 is a bad quarto must be rejected or F itself loses its authority.

 

So now “Shakespeare Central” needs more than authorial F King Lear; it needs foul papers behind Q1. If the authorial draft can be situated somewhere in time before Q1 – by easy acceptance of Howard-Hill’s retrograde analysis, for example – so much the better. Otherwise it may seem reasonable to suppose that Q1, accessible to anyone, was not Shakespeare’s exclusively to revise; or even that it is a bad quarto. As it happens Q1 was long thought to be a memorial transmission and Stone tried to revive a form of the theory (almost correctly, in my view). Moreover, opinion has swayed (inevitably) toward rejecting the Oxford editors’ over-ambitious claim for Shakespeare's revision. Presumably, Richard Knowles’s Variorum edition will argue forcefully against it.

 

But that’s no longer the issue. As long as we have Shakespeare’s foul papers, authority is maintained. We even have “Shakespeare at Work.” The big hole in this narrative is that no one has ever made the case for foul papers. Taylor and Wells said that was a waste of time because Blayney had proved it. Howard-Hill said we “can only assume that Q1’s memorial errors are scribal . . . or compositorial” until Blayney finishes Volume Two. Are we still that helpless thirty years later? Perhaps not, because H-H in 1997 (halfway) noted that the “consensus established by Warren, Urkowitz, Taylor, Blayney, and others understands that Q1 prints Shakespeare’s early draft . . .” How do we get a ‘consensus of understanding’ without an argument? In 1990 Paul Werstine suggested an answer: “It would seem that the category of ‘foul papers,’ in the full sense that Greg gave it, is the product not of reason but of desire – our desire to possess in the ‘good’ quartos Shakespeare’s plays in the form in which he, as an individual agent, both began and finished them.”

 

In 1980, when Stone was renewing the case for theatrical reporting of Q1, Steven Urkowitz argued for foul papers on the basis that it is the “one explanation [that] does not require the acceptance of hypotheses that are either demonstrably false or so complex as to be patently improbable.” That is, 'foul papers' is accepted because the alternatives don’t work. But Stone showed good reason to doubt foul papers and to posit a report.

 

Lately I have argued that shorthand transcription is “demonstrably true” of a particular playtext caught in the act. It’s a pretty extensive case backed up by numerous corroborating playtexts with the same features that have seemed so mysterious in the past. “Foul papers” theory can boast, but boast of no empirical evidence that helps to “establish an understanding.” Why not test these alternatives head-to-head?

 

Richard Knowles probably won’t do that in his Lear edition because he hasn’t questioned the foul papers hypothesis but reverts to Doran’s old argument that evidence for manuscript F copy indicates a relation to Q1 copy—which must mean two authorial texts: foul papers and fair copy.

 

Knowles thinks Doran’s arm was twisted to make her recant but her assumption doesn’t preclude the alternative that F derives from Q1. A scribal copy (including revision) would be subject to misreadings of the Secretary Hand and it is hard to deny that copy is related to copy-text. (There is a possibility that another manuscript was involved but that’s another story.)

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

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