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Shorthand and the Game of “Fetch”

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0517  Friday, 14 December 2012

 

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

Date:         December 13, 2012 1:42:07 PM EST

Subject:     Shorthand and the Game of “Fetch”

 

Though I’ve never had a dog, I am seeing the fun of the game “fetch” that Gerald Downs and I seem to be playing. Once more, he throws out sticky examples of corruption, and I scamper out into the field to bring one or another of them back into the charmed circle of “not-corruption.” Tail a’wagging, tongue a’lolling, what I carry back may be a little slobbered, and it may not even be the same stick as was thrown, but I do mean well.

 

Today’s sticks, my fellow puppies, are (1) the g-r-r-e-a-t stuffed apothecary ALLIGATOR passage in R&J and (2) the relative proximity of Q1 and Q2 to Brooks’ Romeus and Juliet.

 

Round (1) Toss! So I run out to look for the ludicrously obvious corruption claimed by Gerald Downs and others that is to be found in the Q1 passage describing just what is “stufft” in the different versions of Romeo’s memory of the poor Apothecary, whose

 

 . . . needie shop is stufft

With beggerly accounts of empty boxes;

And in the same an Aligarta hangs,

Olde ends of packthred, and cakes of Roses

Are thinly strewed to make up a show.

 

Here in Q1, “stufft” can mean also “supplied with stuff,” or “comprised of” as “my household stuff,” not necessarily “crammed to full capacity,” as appears to be the different usage in the Q2 version, “an allegater stufft”:

 

 . . . And in his needie shop a tortoyes hung,

An allegater stuft, and other skins

Of ill shapte fishes, and about his shelues,

A beggerly account of emptie boxes,

Greene earthen pots, bladders and mustie seedes,

Remnants of packthred, and old cakes of Roses

Were thinly scattered, to make vp a shew.

 

Different or unexpected usage is not the same as corruption. Except if your goal is to implicate difference as corruption. Fredson Bowers somewhere claimed, as self-evidently true, that “Editors edit,” so they can’t leave anything indeterminate or undetermined. The Corruption Detectives? They detect corruption, of course. 

 

And since corruption is s-o-o-o bad, R.G White and Gerald Downs seem to sneer at the errors they see in the textual variants. Though I may have gotten this wrong, Downs quotes White where White wonders whether “Sh’s ever describing an apothecary’s shop as stuffed with beggarly accounts of empty boxes is at an end when we . . . see [in Q1] how he was led to stuff the shop instead of the alligator.” So of course we are encouraged to believe that the Q1 text must be corrupt. (Pardon my messy recovery of Downs’s quote here.) Let me fetch further. (I think the quote indented below indicates that at least part of it is to be understood as having been written by Downs, though my own transcribing again may have fudged the case):

 

“And what was Shakespeare thinking? ‘I got it! Stuff the alligator for Q2! What will I (or Steven) think of next?’ Let’s let Shakespeare off the hook. Q1’s stuffing is a memory turkey.”   

 

I think White for Q1 and Downs (at least by ridiculing my suggestion that Q2 derives from Q1) denigrate the images of the apothecary’s shop found in both Q1 and Q2, or they’re simply ascribing those images to intervening non-authorial agents who left messy footprints. Again, I may be wrong here, but it seems that, for White, Q1’s stufft shop can’t be Shakespeare’s, and as for Downs’ evaluation of Q2, it is just too silly to contemplate that Shakespeare would have converted “stufft shop” to “An allegater stuft.” And if I follow Downs’ overarching argument, the “real” Shakespearean work lies somewhere prior to both Q1 and Q2.  

 

But wait! The game of Fetch continues: L’il Pup retrieves the relevant passage from Brooks’ Romeus and Juliet:

 

What by no friendship could be got, with money should be 

An apothecary sat unbusied at his door, 

Whom by his heavy countenance he [i.e. Romeo] guessed to be poor

And in his shop he saw his boxes were but few. 

And in his window, of his wares, there was so small a shew

Wherefore our Romeus assuredly hath thought,                       2571 

For needy lack is like the poor man to compel 

[emphasis supplied]  

 

Holding this up to Q1 and Q2, I see Shakespeare tentatively generating images in Q1, derived in part from Brooks vocabulary of “boxes,” “shew,” and “needy,” with Brooks’ repeated references to “poor” sliding into Shakespeare’s “beggerly,” and with the shop itself transformed and fleshed out first in Q1 and then further in Q2.  If we are looking for signs of an author at work, we may see here a text undergoing invention-in-progress in Q1 and then we see it revised for greater pathos in Q2. We’re supposed to recognize or realize how poverty hurts and how it tries to disguise itself with a brave show of empty boxes and unvendible artifacts. I propose that Shakespeare here typically expands into Q1 and expands again into Q2 the specific images meant to convey the impression and experience of witnessed poverty.  

 

But if we believe with White (or is it White and Downs also?), that our task is to scope out a lost original lurking behind Q1 and Q2, and we should merely find both extant texts somewhat ridiculous.   

 

But let’s return to play Fetch, eh? Scamper around, Stevie. Scamper more. Find that corruption stick, Stevie! What? No stick? Woof? Faked out again. But I’ll scamper back to try a different one.  

 

Round (2). Here it was my stick that I tossed that I hadn’t really fairly sorted out. I mentioned that Q1 was closer to Brooks’s poem than was Q2. And Gerald came back with “Erne suggests Q2 follows Brooks more than does Q1. That’s expected of a cut, memorial report.” To counter Erne’s claim, I should have laid out even more findings (like the apothecary shop discussed above) that I’m currently working up.  

 

First Stick Returned: An interesting analysis of Brooks and Shakespeare’s adaptations of the source poem is found in Jill Taft-Kaufman, “Rhetorical Implications of Shakespeare’s Changes in His Source Material for Romeo and Juliet,” in Martin Medhurst, and T.W. Benson, eds., Rhetorical Dimensions in Media (1984), 344-63. Many of the specifically Shakespearean variants in rhetoric and characterization that she describes show up only tentatively in Q1 but are more fully realized in Q2. (Note that this is my analysis; Taft-Kaufman doesn’t work with Q1.) Simply checking Taft-Kaufman’s findings with the Q1 text reveals that Brooks’s Juliet and the Juliet in Q1 for example most often display limited and stereotyped emotions, while the Q2 version displays far more strength, variety, and social/linguistic sophistication. Of course, one may argue that the 1597 memorial puppy responsible for Q1 and some of its flaws failed to retrieve most of the signs of Juliet’s elegant language out there in the super-inclusive field, or one may argue that those kinds of sophistications were all dropped by the acting company (those philistine editorial puppies) in preparing its performing text constrained by audience or actor or time capacities. But somehow the sophistications thus are missing from Q1 (regardless of their not being in Brooks, either), though they are present in Q2. Naughty puppy! 

 

Second Stick Returned: In my continuing search for sense, or at least sensible sticks, to bring back into our magic circle, I bring to your attention also: Jonathan Goldberg, “’What? in a names that which we call a Rose,’ The Desired texts of Romeo and Juliet,” in Randall M Leod, Crisis in Editing: Texts of the English Renaissance (1994), 173-201. After elegantly laying out many of the still unresolved textual enigmas and contradictions, Goldberg semi-concludes: 

 

There never was a final Romeo and Juliet, a single authoritative or authorial version of the play. There were only versions, from the start. Scripts to be acted, they presumed multiplicities and contingencies, the conditions of the theater (189).

 

So I'll likely continue fetching sticks, gnawing on found bones, relishing those sweet and meaty quartos and folios. Happy to play,

 

Steve Urpupowitz

 

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