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Play Length

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0454  Monday, 12 November 2012

 

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

     Date:         November 8, 2012 9:30:46 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: Play Length 

 

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

     Date:         November 9, 2012 12:33:20 AM EST

     Subject:     Re: Play Length 

 

[3] From:        Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         Monday, November 12, 2012

     Subject:     Play Length

 

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

     Date:         November 10, 2012 8:52:47 PM EST

     Subject:     Re: Play Length 

 

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

     Date:         November 11, 2012 11:43:32 PM EST

     Subject:     Urk, yet again 

 

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

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

Date:         November 8, 2012 9:30:46 PM EST

Subject:     Re: Play Length

 

Hardy M. Cook wrote:

 

>I can easily accept John Briggs’ (and George W. Williams’ at 

>Blackfriars Conference and in Shakespeare Newsletter) contention 

>that two-hours traffic meant anything less than three hours, but 

>I find it difficult to believe that, at least, the Globe audiences would 

>have stood for four or four and a half hours for a play.

 

Well, they do now, and I don’t suppose we are more tolerant of either standing and/or having to concentrate than Elizabethans were.

 

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

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

Date:         November 9, 2012 12:33:20 AM EST

Subject:     Re: Play Length

 

>I find it difficult to believe that, at least, the Globe audiences would 

>have stood for four or four and a half hours for a play.

 

But would they have stood that long to hear a total entertainment in which the play was sandwiched between pre-play juggling, singing, etc. and a post-play jig? If so, it would have been fairly easy to adjust the lengths of the pre- and post-play entertainments to accommodate shorter or longer plays, as Mike Hirrell persuasively suggests in his groundbreaking SQ article.

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         Monday, November 12, 2012

Subject:     Play Length

 

>I can easily accept John Briggs’ (and George W. Williams’ at 

>Blackfriars Conference and in Shakespeare Newsletter) contention 

>that two-hours traffic meant anything less than three hours, but 

>I find it difficult to believe that, at least, the Globe audiences would 

>have stood for four or four and a half hours for a play.

 

I guess I was revealing my Presentist leanings: I probably should have written that I cannot stand for a four hour play (or three or two or one, for that matter). 

 

William’s and Larry’s and Steve’s points noted. I might add, with no hope of generating controversy, that Elizabethans were perhaps more able to concentrate after listening to extremely long sermons.

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         November 10, 2012 8:52:47 PM EST

Subject:     Re: Play Length

 

Steven Urkowitz (on my congratulatory notes to his play-length article):

 

> If he had written only this line, “I agree with Steve that

> longer plays were acted essentially as written” . . .

 

If only that were my style.

 

> As part of my conclusion I said only that those textual

> arguments which depended on the shorter texts as being

> derived from the longer ones should be re-examined.

 

I began the exam, which I’m willing to continue. Steven observed,

 

>>> . . . it is reasoned that the radically shorter . . . “bad” quarto

>>> versions of plays such as Romeo & Juliet . . . represent texts

>>> somehow derived from the supposedly cut down “originals”

>>> found only in . . . longer forms.

 

I still say “there can be no real doubt that the corrupt texts derive from plays nearer to the better texts.” Chambers observes of R&J, “Q1 is certainly a ‘reported’ text, and its derivation from an original more closely resembling Q2 is apparent” (v.1, 341). I’m sorry Chambers is using a debater’s trick. I fell for it, thinking he was stating an opinion that I had come to myself.

 

Q2 R&etc. is better in most respects. The question for me is not whether Q1 is shorter, but where it comes from. Chances are, the good text is also the ‘good’ length because it is nearer the ‘original.’ When Steven speaks of texts “somehow derived from the supposedly cut down ‘originals’ . . .” he implies (and now repeats) that bad texts may not derive from demonstrably better texts. But they obviously are derivative—not independent. Steven’s arguments from earlier years champion the bad texts, despite the evidence in each case. His ‘length’ essay seems meant to support his early theme. I can cite evidence in support of Chambers.

 

> But important, consistently-structured and patterned

> textual variants he ascribes to “corruption” could with

> greater likelihood arise from different sources found in

> related documents such as authorial manuscripts.

 

Structure and patterns are largely irrelevant to the ‘memorial’ question, which comes first.

 

> But ““There can be no real doubt “is a debater’s trick that

> gives the appearance of certainty without the obligation

> for further evidence or argument . . .

 

I am myself certain of the memorial reporting.

 

> (Downs’s favored sources, hypothetical, corrupt

> transcriptions from dictation, or shorthand, or from memory,

 

Steven confuses the issues here. All is hypothetical to some extent, of course. I don’t believe any of the bad quartos derive from ‘dictation’ per se, which implies a voluntary (if paid-for), non-performance, whole-cast reprisal before a stenographer—with no help in transcription. McMillin and others favor that source largely because shorthand was dismissed as a method of transmission.

 

Memory plays a role, by definition, in any form of memorial reporting. A shorthand report necessarily depends on actors’ memories. The key is the availability of written text from an unbroken series of transcriptions deriving from authorial copy. Any transmission not in reference to copy is memorial.

 

> Another problem: For R&J, he claims that “Q1 is the

> record of a performance, as a comparison of the

> prologues shows” . . . Gerald can SAY that a comparison

> will show, but in order for standers-by to believe him he

> really should do the showing.

 

The memorial gist of Q1’s prologue corroborates the rest of the play. The whole case, easy as pie, nevertheless requires citation from earlier studies. Most current views are clouded by Laurie Maguire’s “not MR” assessment. But if her misinterpretation of the evidence is corrected in reference to shorthand theory, former scholarship is vindicated.

 

> Maybe Q1 R&J . . . was performed as it appears in

> the printed text. Or a performance with quite different

> words and actions may have been badly transcribed and

> the transcriber accidentally and creatively came up with

> what we read in Q1.

 

Transcription error can’t account for Q1 R&J.

 

> The proposed story I think Gerald believes of it being a

> record of performance, i.e., a transcription taken down

> by shorthand – or memorially reconstructed,

 

I don’t think the bad quarto in this case is a memorial reconstruction; it’s a theatrical report of a play long in repertory. The players could do it in their sleep; and they did.

 

> or generated through a transcription of a  purposefully

> compressed Q2 text in order to reduce it into two hours

> traffic –

 

Q2 didn’t exist. If Q1 is a report it was played pretty much as is. The shorter text is not imaginary and not transcription.

  

 > Jerry asks, “What reason do actors have to speak

> quickly?” Ah. Here we’re at the aesthetics of performance.

> Slow speech by actors of Shakespearean texts yields

> b-o-r-i-n-g performances.

 

What reason do actors have to speak slowly?

 

> But my experience as a director and as a member of

> audiences tells me that verbal quickness is a sign of lively

> performance.

 

Why not speak three times as fast, and jump around?

 

> But then Gerald Downs swings at one of the fine

> practitioners of our scholarly craft.

 

To criticize a practitioner is not necessarily to “swing at.” The option is to let faulty work pass as good.

 

> He says: “Grace Ioppolo hasn’t identified any foul-paper

> text satisfying any definition, including her own.” 

 

> Grace Ioppolo has done the tough and painstakingly

> detailed work of examining the documents. Here’s a

> sample: “Heywood’s 1624 autograph manuscript of his

> play The Captives is a foul-paper text that offers a full

> example of an author in the act of composition. . . . In

> his manuscript of The Captives, Heywood is obviously

> in the act of composing, not copying, unsure as he writes

> which characters will appear in which scene . . . (Dramatists

> and their Manuscripts in the Age of Shakespeare, 94-5).

> Her discussion is crystal clear, her illustrations abundant,

> and her conclusions consistent with the evidence she so

> generously provides.   

> If Gerald Downs can’t see the virtue and validity in

> Grace Ioppolo’s work, then all I can do is recommend

> that we all look at Grace’s work and learn from it, And

> that we then turn to Gerald Downs derogation of her

> excellent scholarship and hold him up to the ridicule of

> the polis

 

Every publication invites criticism. Dramatists is often poorly executed, not least in its study of The Captives. For example, in describing its first page, Ioppolo asserts that Heywood “has made a few currente calamo changes . . . . These are most noticeable . . . [in] the crossed-out line ‘ffor instanns, who so ffond’. . . . He has made some major cuts . . . by simply drawing a vertical line close against the margin . . . . These deletions are also currente calamo . . .” (98).

 

Arthur Brown (MSR) observes that [Heywood’s] hand appears to have gone through the play a second time making further alterations and marking passages for omission in a different ink [Ink 2]” (vi). Of the first page, Fol. 52a, referring to the same deletions as Iopollo, Brown notes that the “deletion here [’for instance’], the cancellation of 11-34, the deletion of yet and the insertion of all are in Ink 2” (1).

 

A different ink “going through a second time” is never currente calamo. Iopollo makes no mention of Ink 2 (other than to suggest Heywood later added a second deletion line). But almost all of Heywood’s alterations throughout the play are in Ink 2, including deletions of hundreds of lines. Otherwise, the authorial manuscript is remarkably clean—so clean that it cannot support claims—the only claims that matter—that foul papers cause the numerous corruptions of the Shakespeare canon.

 

Heywood adjusted his text first time round (and second time round), as any author might in any case, but I agree with Honigmann that the ms. is fair copy. Iopollo’s assessment depends on her mistaken description. There’s no dispute about this: “If Heywood is fair copying here, rather than composing in foul papers, his deletions are early enough in the text that he could easily have abandoned this sheet and started over . . . . Instead he marks the cuts . . . showing that he is still engaged in the act of composition”. The large deletion on the first page occurs after the whole text was put to paper. Starting over was not an option.

 

What must really be happening is that Heywood and a players’ rep are cutting the play together after it was finished. Iopollo agrees the hand behind “Ink 3” is a theatrical figure, but she asserts his “only substantive changes to dialogue and content are his cutting of two minor characters and their speeches in one scene” (113). But Ink 3 deletes at least fifty lines elsewhere, sometimes extending Heywood’s cuts.

 

This is not “valid work”; it is mistaken and conclusions drawn from it are also faulty. Anyone depending on her report of Heywood’s play will be misled. I spoke more of this in 2008. Another practitioner’s work is on the horizon, however; more may be said of this play in Paul Werstine’s latest treatise on a number of manuscripts. In other words, calling for ridicule (speaking of debating tactics!) may not end discussion. I would even like to see it continued here.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         November 11, 2012 11:43:32 PM EST

Subject:     Urk, yet again

 

Steve Roth would like to rescue some greater flexibility about shortened plays. First off, I’d like to get some number attached to the idea of how often anyone mentions two hours as the length of a play. Is it ten? A hundred? Help! 

.  

Next, it would be so simple if only the changes between long and short texts dealt primarily or even secondarily with length. That’s the red herring  that leads speculation away from the CONTENT of the textual variants, especially in the radically-variant Shakespearean quartos and folios. 

 

The Padua Promptbooks show  how a company interested in reducing playing time would go about cutting to reduce length, but those don’t at all resemble the quarto and  folio variants found in Shakespearean texts.

 

Right now there’s this heavy stress on a hypothetical urgency to cut a play down to two hours.  But if you’re trying to reduce a play, then to my mind there’s no reason to bring in changes of characterization, plotting, or relationship to sources, especially where many of those changes don’t reduce the play’s length.  Those other textual changes that do not reduce length have traditionally been ascribed to various sources of transmissional error—forgetful or extemporizing actors, sloppy scribes, and (why not?) stenographers juggling imprecise coding technologies.  

 

(I’m skipping over the problems of the publication of these supposedly post-composition versions prior to publication of the longer “original” texts, as well as the corollary problems of the publication of full-length or “good” quartos, their  somehow still-undiscovered shortened-to-two-hours versions, and those multiple texts like Richard III and Othello where we find two overly long versions somehow emerging into print. )    

 

For a number of years I’ve been showing how the largest portion of these so-called transmissional errors can be maintained as errors only by the theatrically-tone-deaf and creative-process-blind defenders of a fantasy of Authorial Abstinence, “Just Say No to Revision.”  

 

Okay.  So my rhetoric is getting away from me, and I shouldn’t even imply that my immensely  kind and supportive  friends and mentors who happen to feel that Shakespeare wasn’t responsible for the most interesting textual variants we find are in any way blind or deaf.     But . . . . but . . . . but . . . .  let me give you a f”r’instance.  You can check it out yourself.   

 

Among the Duke of York’s sons, in the 1595 Octavo text on a number of occasions Richard is set out only as equal to his brothers, but in the Folio he is instead singled out as being more energetic, brave and aggressive than his brothers. I’ll give two instances:  At the grisly moment in the opening scene when Richard trumps his brothers shows of martial prowess by holding up the head of Somerset, the dialog runs, “Rich. Speake thou for me and tell them what I did.” and poppa says, “What is your grace dead my L. of Summerset?” In the Folio, York’s line reads, “Richard hath best deserv’d of all my sonnes. / But is your Grace dead . . . “ A few scenes later, York in the Octavo reports:

 

Three times this daie came Richard to my sight,

And cried courage father: Victorie or death. 

And twise so oft came Edward to my view,

With purple Faulchen painted to the hilts,

In bloud of those whom he had slaughtered.

 

A brave Richard, but a twice-as-brave Edward. But in the Folio, the equivalent of the third line above reads, “And full as oft came Edward.”  Richard in this text rallied his father just as often as did his elder brother.  And in lines only found in the Folio, York continues: 

 

And when the hardyest Warriors did retyre,

Richard cry'de Charge, and give no foot of ground,

And cry'de, A Crowne, or else a glorious Tombe,

   A scepter, or an Earthly Sepulchre.

 

In these examples, the Folio text highlights Richard. I’ll stop here with the suggestion that you look for more of these kinds of variants yourself.   

 

If we wish to cling to the idea that the shorter versions were derived from the pre-existing longer ones, and were cut for primarily theatrical rather than literary values, then we have to conclude that some agency carefully leveled Richard’s character for the performances which were then memorially or stenographically or minimally or collectively transcribed into whatever was used as the copy for the Octavo. But then they may have been slipped back in on occasion?  Yikes!   Maybe Lukas Erne and Stephen Orgel and Andrew Gurr and Gerald Downs can believe that the Shakespeare and his actors or the pirates or the stenographers would do that. I can’t.  Maybe because I’ve made so many more blunders in my life than most people, I have a different “feel” than these guys about what an error looks like.

 

Here’s an alternative hypothesis: Suppose that Shakespeare wrote the form of the play underlying the Octavo.  And then in the fullness of time—say as long as it took him to write his way to the end of that manuscript, or maybe after that Octavo form may even have been played by a company of actors—suppose further that he developed the idea that the NEXT play he’d work on would feature Richard.  Then suppose that he had the opportunity (because of changes in personnel, in the ownership of texts, or entering into new venues, or his own relationship to the transforming acting company at hand) to go back to revise and add to that script underlying the Octavo. “ Hmmmm,” Bard wonders,  “How can I beef up Richard’s part, prepping the audience for this upcoming play? “ And so we find those purposeful and detailed changes from what was first inscribed for the version underlying the Octavo appearing in the Folio.  

 

Thought is free.   Evidence is golden. 

 

Look at the texts. 

 

Urquartowitz    

 

p.s.  I’m sorry, Gerald Downs, but  I went through Stone’s book when it came out. I thought he was blowing smoke back then. I’m having too much fun doing things other than extricating coherence from those flabby books.  

 

p.p.s. Hardy Cook questions the willingness of people to stand for the four hours or more that an afternoon in the theater seems to have called for.   Well, in a not-so-sedentary age, many people (even of high rank like Elizabeth’s courtiers) did a lot of standing.  I built myself a stand-up desk, and I clock that length of time on my feet most days.  My dad was a letter carrier, did that much and more standing and walking for more than fifty years.  And people waiting to vote in Florida last week.  And in the London Globe, as I recall, there’s a lot of milling around comes with admission to the yard to ease stiffening legs (at least before the recent reconfiguration of the yard which seems to hold benches and a lot of extended stage platform and access stairs now; to me it looked that way in the “live” broadcasts of All’s Well and Much Ado I saw in the last few weeks).

 
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.