Play Length


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0491  Monday, 3 December 2012


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

Date:         December 2, 2012 1:29:23 AM EST

Subject:     Play Length


In his “play length” article Steven Urkowitz observes:


> . . . 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.


Having repeated some of the well-known evidence from which prior scholars reason in respect of Q1 R&J, I turn to some evidence that isn’t generally thought to support “derived, cut down” reasoning. Steven later (11/12) suggested that more than reasoning is involved:


> If we wish to cling to the idea that the shorter versions

> were derived from the pre-existing longer ones . . .


We should keep hypotheses not disproved, even if they compete with other clinging wishes. Wishing doesn’t make any one of them so but it’s in greater supply than reason. Alongside consensual certainty that Q1 R&J has a Q2-like progenitor, scholars find evidence in these texts to think they preserve evidence of “Shakespeare at Work” in the act of revising his holograph composition. Although I think that conclusion is more wish than true, its clinging power has lasted over a century. My belief: the same evidence points to memorial transmission and errors of transcription and printing.


In his article, “Did Shakespeare Revise Romeo and Juliet” (Anglia, LL, 1927, 39-62), B. A. P. van Dam takes on a number of quite interesting, familiar, and imperfectly deciphered passages. He gets little mention these days and I suppose few have read his arguments. He convinced me, however, and I will go over some of the material. The article in its entirety does credit to the author better than excerpts.


By revision in this case we are not questioning whether Shakespeare might possibly have revised R&J: rather we ask if the evidence of the two texts indicates such revision. Modern “foul papers” assumptions expect revision and find it in abundance, usually accompanying fine, or finely ballyhooed Shakespearean reasons for any alteration. But if one looks more closely, other factors show authorial revision is unlikely.


At 2.6 Juliet joins Romeo and the Friar in Q1 and Q2 versions strikingly different from each other. Editors (e.g. Gibbons) presume revision, and why not? Van Dam counters that “an alternative to the rewriting theory is . . . the lines of Q1 and the lines of Q2 are the scattered parts of one and the same original scene.” Van Dam uses bracketed vertical lines (I use ***) to indicate cuts from the ‘original’ text that are not in the shorter Q1. The ‘cuts’ themselves are Q2’s text. If the two versions were to be conflated  in printing, they weren’t. How do they fit (minus my typos)? From Furness line numberings:


     Rom: Now Father Laurence, in thy holy grant Q1 1024

Consists the good of me and Iuliet.

     Fr: Without more words I will doo all I may,

To make you happie if in me it lye.                           1027


*So smile the heauens vpon this holy act,         Q2 2.6.1

*That after houres, with sorrow chide vs not. 

*    Ro. Amen, amen, but come what sorrow can,

*It cannot counteruaile the exchange of ioy               5

*That one short minute giues me in her sight:

*Do thou but close our hands with holy words,

*Then loue-deuouring death do what he dare,

*It is inough I may but call her mine.

*    Fri. These violent delights have violent endes,

*And in their triumph die like fier and powder:          10

*Which as they kisse consume. The sweetest honey

*Is loathsome in his owne deliciousnesse,

*And in the taste confoundes the appetite.

*Therefore loue moderately, long loue doth so,

*Too swift arriues, as tardie as too slowe.              15


    Rom: This morning here she pointed we should meet 1028

And consumate those neuer parting bands,

Witnes of our harts loue by ioyning hands,

And come she will.

     Fr:    I gesse she will indeed,

Youths loue is quicke, swifter than swiftest speed.        1033


              Enter Iuliet

See where she comes. (Q1 / Here comes the Lady. Q2)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .* Oh so light a foote          Q2 2.6.16

*Will nere weare out the euerlasting flint,                         17

     [Rom.] So light of foote nere hurts the troden flower: 1035

Of loue and ioy, see see the soueraigne power.             1036


[Q1 1035 has no s.p., giving Romeo's reply to the Friar.]


*    Fri. A louer may bestride the gossamours,

*That ydeles in the wanton summer ayre,

*And yet not fall, so light is vanitie.                        2.6.20


     IulRomeo.                                                     1037

     Rom:  My Iuliet welcome. As doo waking eyes

(Cloasd in Nights mysts) attend the frolic Day,

So Romeo hath expected Iuliet,                             1040

And thou art come.

     Iul: I am (if I be Day)

Comme to my sunne: shine foorth and make me faire.

     Rom: All beauteous fairnes dwelleth in thine eyes.

     Iul: Romeo from thine all brightnes doth arise.    1045


*Good euen to my ghostly confessor.                   2.6.21

*. . . . . . etc., etc.,

Fri. Come, come with me, and we will make short worke 35


Come wantons, come, the stealing houres do pass   1046

Defer imbracements till some fitrer time,


[Part for a while, you shall not be alone,

Til holy Church have ioyned ye both in one. Q1]


[For by your leaues, you shall not stay alone,

Till holy Church incorporate two in one. Q2]


    Rom: Lead holy Father, all delay seemes long.     1050

    Iul:   Make hast, make hast, this lingring doth us wrong.

    Fri: O, soft and faire makes sweetest worke they say.

Haste is a common hindrer in crosse way.                1053


“When an author rewrites . . . it is next to impossible that the old and the new version joined together should produce a sound text [and it is] impossible that the combination of the two versions should be better than the rewritten text. . . . Romeo’s l. 1035 is good by itself, but it is much better when we read it in combination with and as a repartee to the lines 16 and 17, spoken by the Friar.” I agree with van Dam. The second effort to break a wanton clinch is good too, explaining the need for a chaperone.


If Q1 represents a performance version of this scene comprising lines retained from a fuller version and if Q2 contains the lines actually cut from the more complete version – but not the acted dialogue—then the strong implication is that the Q2 ms. printer’s copy is the very text from which the acting version derives, no matter how the Q2 printer failed to re-incorporate the lines saved for performance (a mystery in itself). The few Q1 lines that repeat Q2 dialogue in recognizable form (e.g. ‘See where she comes’/‘Here comes the Lady’) can be explained as pre-cutting leftovers, or more likely as lines lifted from the cut text during transcription. Q1 is corrupt in several ways, but it apparently saves genuine Shakespeare from oblivion (had Q1 been lost) and that text, strangely enough, is what the players preferred. Van Dam sees Q1


> as a skillfully abridged version of the original scene. . . .

> Q1 is announced 'as it hath been . . . plaid publiquely'

> and . . . [we] take the announcement at its face value

> and regard Q1 as a shorthand report of the play as it

> was acted.


> Q2, whatever else it may be, is a partial reprint of Q1.

> . . . [T]he printer, who having got an obviously better ms.

> text, reprinted Q1 and made use of his better ms. . . .

> Would it not be unreasonable to expect that an Elizabethan

> printer wholly disregarded the authority of a printed book in

> favor of a ms. whose unique value he was not acquainted with?”


When we see the extent of Q1 corruption vis-à-vis Q2 and recognize the reverse osmosis influence of Q1 on the Q2 reprint, we should feel no necessity to conjure authorial foul papers behind the “good quarto.” More likely, fair-written Q2 copy is spoiled by performance history and surreptitious transmission. But if that hadn’t happened, the play may not have been recovered in any form. After all, the Folio text reprints the corrupt Q2 (via Q3).


Van Dam cites other examples of the same phenomenon, the longest of which I reproduce, partly because he didn’t, and because it’s kind of screwy. The lamentations of Juliet’s supposed death have never been well received, though the literary dramatist outdoes himself, serio-comico-tragically. But the meat of the scene is quite different in each quarto, even though the tone is the same. I’ve interpolated Q1’s text into Q2 according to van Dam’s conjectures about 4.5, introduced by similar lines from each text. # marks the few similar lines thereafter:


Q1                  Enter Mother.


Moth:  How now whats the matter?       1831 (Furness)

Nur:  Alack the day, shees dead, shees dead, shees dead.

#Moth:  Accurst, vnhappy, miserable time.


                     Enter Oldeman.


Cap:  Come, come, make hast, wheres my daughter?

Moth:  Ah shees dead, shees dead.

Cap:  Stay, let me see, all pale and wan.

Accursed time, vnfortunate olde man.


                     Enter Fryer and Paris.


Par:  What is the bride ready to goe to Church?  1838

Cap:  Ready to goe, but neuer to returne.

O Sonne the night before thy wedding day,

Hath Death laine with thy bride, flower as she is,

Deflowerd by him, see, where she lyes,

Death is my Sonne in Law, to him I giue all that I haue.




Mo.  What noise is here?

Nur.  O lamentable day.          4.5.17  (Furness)

Mo. What is the matter?

Nur. Looke, looke, oh heauie day!

Mo. O me, O me, my child, my onely life.

Reuiue, looke vp, or I will die with thee:

Helpe, helpe, call helpe.


                  Enter Father.


Fa.  For shame bring Iuliet forth, her Lord is come.

Nur.  Shees dead: deceast, shees dead, alack the day.

M.  Alack the day, shees dead, shees dead, shees dead.

Fa.  Hah let me see her, out alas shees cold,

Her bloud is setled, and her ioynts are stiffe:

Life and these lips haue long bene separated,

Death lies on her like an vntimely frost,

Vpon the sweetest flower of all thefield.

Nur.  O lamentable day!

Mo.  O wofull time!

Fa.  Death that hath tane her hēce to make me waile

Ties vp my tongue and will not let me speake.


Enter Frier and the Countie.


Fri.  Come, is the Bride ready to go to Church?

Fa.  Ready to go but neuer to returne.

O sonne, the night before thy wedding day

Hath death laine with thy wife, there she lies,

Flower as she was, deflowred by him,

Death is my sonne in law, death is my heire,

My daughter he hath wedded. I will die,

And leaue him all life liuing, all is deaths.

Par.  Haue I thought loue to see this mornings face,


[#Par:  Haue I thought long to see this mornings face, Q1 1844]


And doth it giue me such a sight as this?     4.5.42


And doth it now present such prodegies?   Q1 1845

#Accurst, vnhappy, miserable man,

Forlorne, forsaken, destitute I am:

Borne to the world to be a slaue in it.

Distrest, remediles, and vnfortunate.

O heauens , O nature, wherefore did you make me,

To liue so vile, so wretched as I shall.              1851


#Mo.  Accurst, vnhappie, wretched hatefull day, Q2 4.5.43

#Most miserable houre that ere time saw,

In lasting labour of his Pilgrimage,

But one poore one, one poore and louing child,

But one thing to reioyce and solace in,

And cruell death hath catcht it from my sight.      Q2 4.5.48


Cap:  O heere she lies that was our hope, our ioy,   Q1 1852

And being dead, dead sorrow nips vs all.


             All at once cry out and wring their hands.


All cry:  All our ioy, and all our hope is dead,

Dead, lost, vndone, absented, wholy fled.            Q1 1855


Nur.  O wo, O wofull, wofull, wofull day,            Q2 4.5.49 

Most lamentable day, most wofull day

That euer, euer, I did yet bedold.

O day, O day, O day, O hatefull day,

Neuer was seene so blacke a day as this,

O wofull day, O wofull day.

Par.  Beguild, diuorced, wronged, spighted, slaine,

Most detestable death, by thee beguild,

By cruell, cruell, thee quite ouerthrowne,

O loue, O life, not life, but loue in death.           Q2  4.5.58


Cap:  Cruel, vniust, impartiall destinies,            Q1 1856

Why to this day haue you preseru'd my life?

Too see my hope, my stay, my ioy, my life,

Depriude of sence, of life, of all by death,

Cruell, vniust, impartiall destinies.

Cap:  O sad fac'd sorrow map of misery,

Why this sad time haue I desird to see.

This day, this vniust, this impartiall day

Wherein I hop'd to see my comfort full,

To be depriude by suddaine destinie.

Moth:  O woe, alacke, distrest, why should I liue?

To see this day, this miserable day.

Alacke the time that euer I was borne,

To be partaker of this destinie.

Alacke the day, alacke and welladay.           Q1 1870


Fat.  Despisde, distressed, hated, martird, kild, Q2 4.5.59

Vncomfortable time, why camst thou now,

To murther, murther, our solemnitie?

O childe, O childe, my soule and not my childe,

Dead art thou, alacke my child is dead,

And with my child my ioyes are buried.

#Fri.  Peace ho for shame, confusions care liues not,


[#Fr:  O peace for shame, if not for charity.  Q1 1871]


In these confusions heauen and your selfe

Had part in this faire maide, now heauen hath all,

And all the better is it for the maid:                     Q2 4.5.68


Your daughter liues in peace and happines,   Q1 1872

And it is vaine to wish it otherwise.                  Q1 1873


Your part in her, you could not keepe from death. Q2  4.5.69

But heauen keepes his part in eternall life,

The most you sought was her promotion,

For twas your heauen she should be aduanst,

And weepe ye now, seeing she is aduanst

Aboue the Cloudes, as high as heauen it selfe.

O in this loue, you loue your child so ill,

That you run mad, seeing that she is well:

Shees not well married, that liues married long,

But shees best married, that dies married young.

#Drie vp your teares, and stick your Rosemarie

#On this faire Coarse, and as the custome is,

#And in her best array beare her to Church:


[#Come sticke your Rosemary in this dead coarse, 1844

#And as the custome of our Country is,

#In all her best and sumptuous ornaments,

#Conuay her where her Ancestors lie tomb'd,    Q1 1877]


For though some nature bids vs all lament,        Q2 4.5.81

Yet natures teares are reasons merriment.

Fa.  All things that we ordained festiuall,

Turne from their office to black Funerall:

Our instruments to melancholy bells,

Our wedding cheare to a sad buriall feast:

Our solemne himnes to sullen dyrges change:

Our Bridall flowers serue for a buried Coarse:

And all things change them to the contrarie.

Fri.  Sir go you in, and Madam go with him,

And go sir Paris, euery one prepare

To follow this faire Coarse vnto her graue:

The heauens do lowre vpon you for some ill:

Moue them no more, by crossing their high wil.   4.5.95


Cap: Let it be so, come wofull sorrow mates,    Q1  1878

Let vs together taste this bitter fare.                  Q1  1879


> “Neither the versions separately nor the combination

> can be admired. . . . But if Shakespeare is the author

> of the Q2 lines . . . there is no reason why he should

> not be the author of the Q1 lines, and a reason why

> he should have rewritten the one version into the other

> is never found and far to seek. For the textual critic the

> combination forms a sound text, for the aesthetic critic

> it is perfect in its own way . . .”


It does seem that if an author were to rewrite the Q1 version it would somehow come out different in the new version; not different as the words are different, but in some artistic way while retaining more of the phraseology. Q1 is corrupt. Q2’s ‘Accurst, vnhappie, wretched hatefull day, Most miserable houre’ gets play in some form three times in Q1. The set direction ‘Oldeman’ probably just comes from the dialogue. The set direction ‘All at once cry out and wring their hands’ and the prefix ‘All cry‘, sandwiched between ‘And being dead, dead sorrow nips vs all’ and ‘All our ioy, and all our hope is dead,’ has no other rationale than all the ‘alls.’ Capulet is given at least one of Paris’s speeches. Still, it appears that the text behind Q2 was at one time even longer than it is now. This and other evidence indicates that a Q2-like text was cut for performance and that a performance reflecting the cuts was recorded.


Gerald E. Downs


Shorthand and R&J (Was Shorthanded yet again? which was Q1 R&J)


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0490  Monday, 3 December 2012


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

Date:         December 2, 2012 7:11:31 PM EST

Subject:     Shorthand and R&J


Steven Urkowitz responded to my posting on Q1 R&J.


> For proctology, go with Gerald. Flowers? come with Urkowitz.


Name-calling doesn’t do a discussion group any good. If it’s OK with Hardy Cook, I don’t mind. But this kind of thing can’t help scholarly respect for the forum—and it isn’t argument.


> Daunting Gerald Downs . . .


Daunting argument is good. It might mean we’re getting somewhere.


> He looks at a Romeo and Juliet line from Q2. “That’s the real

> one (maybe).” And he points to the equivalent from Q1: “That’s

> an ERROR. I can tell. It’s maybe from transcription, or maybe

> memory, or maybe a ‘pirate’ or an actor grasping at straws,

> or shorthand. But Obviously it’s an error.”


Those aren’t my words between the quote marks, of course. I looked at a lot of suspected borrowings in Q1 and repeated a number of the most telling. The strength of the argument is in the numbers and in the Q2 counterparts. I suggested that the argument against the borrowing would be to hold out one example as possibly Shakespearean and to ignore the others – which is the way Steven approaches the evidence. I noted that evidence adduced in other categories also strongly points to memorial transmission.


> “. . . This one over here has to be the source misbegotten by

> the evil, stupid or desperate pirate, incompetent actor, or

> well-meaning but technically deficient stenographer. Can’t be

> anything else.”


Again, not my words. I haven’t supposed any of the agents spoiling and preserving Shakespeare’s texts were evil, stupid, or desperate; that the players were incompetent; or that a stenographer meant well or was inept. On the contrary: the Bordeaux reporter was, despite a lack of learning in other respects, an accomplished artisan. He could transcribe speech rapidly; he meant to steal a text and he did. No doubt repertory players were competent enough. Over time memory fails but actors may rely on their talents to overcome that fact.


> it seems to me that . . . William really could have written the

> Titus line, AND that he could have written the Q1 line. And

> (why not go for the whole hog?) he could have fiddled with

> it some more to end up with the Q2 line.


That is a conceivable possibility, as I acknowledge. But for the same sequence to happen over and over with the suspected borrowings, with no other argument than “Why not?” the probability diminishes to far below that of memorial error. Further, the massive corruptions in Q1 noted by many eminent scholars over the decades increase the odds of memorial transmission. There’s no Copernicus analogy here.


> I suppose that Gerald’s implied follow-on to his “Why should

> this be revised?” would be something like, “Our William

> wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t revise a line that he’s already

> changed once.”


No, that’s not what I would say. My take—with Hoppe and recognizing the extent of Q1 corruption—is that a far more likely explanation lies in a history of memorial transmission. An author has reasons for revising, trivial as they may be. But if an individual line is good enough in itself and we can’t explain its revision, “Why not?” doesn’t get it. There are reasons for the alternative textual explanation. And when an otherwise harmless “Why not?” is resorted to repeatedly while “borrowing” makes sense, math takes over. Any particular passable line is not apt to be revised by the author; it could be, but it isn’t likely, going in. Odds are against authorial strings of unrelated, unexplained line revisions if bad quarto characteristics explain them and much of the other corruption.


Gerald E. Downs


Searching SHAKSPER Archive


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0489  Monday, 3 December 2012


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

Date:         Monday, December 3, 2012

Subject:     Searching SHAKSPER Archive


It has been suggested to me privately that it would be useful if I were to provide or remind subscribers of methods for using the SEARCH function at the SHAKSPER web site: .


Below are written instructions and attached is a pdf file of the instructions with illustrations of what is discussed.



Using the Archive functions:


For a simple search, go to the search box to the right side of any page on the site, enter search terms, click go, and scroll through results, selecting the one you are looking for.  


Another technique is to bring the cursor over Archive to get the drop down menu.


If you are looking from something from a particular date, you can move down to the year and click to bring up the months of that year. 


Clicking on the month provides a complete list of all postings during that month. 


Browse through lists to find article you are looking for.



You get the most flexibility by going to the home page drop down menu for Archive and selecting “Search Archive”: (You can also get this search box by clicking on “Advanced Search” on the right side of all pages on the site.)


From this click on “Advanced Search” to find these instructions:


Here are a few examples of how you can use the search feature:


  • Entering this and that into the search form will return results containing both “this” and “that”. 
  • Entering this not that into the search form will return results containing “this” and not “that”.
  • Entering this or that into the search form will return results containing either “this” or “that”.
  • Entering “this and that” (with quotes) into the search form will return results containing the exact phrase “this and that”.


If you would further like to search by month, select the month from the drop down menu under “Search by Category”, where you can also limit by “SHAKSPER Book Reviews”, “SHAKPER Roundtable Discussion”, and so on. 


If you have any further questions, you can reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Hardy M. Cook

Editor of SHAKSPER

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Clink on the following link for a downloadable pdf file with screen captures to illustrate the above instructions:   pdf  Searching SHAKSPER Archive (3.93 MB)


Play Length


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0488  Saturday, 1 December 2012


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

Date:         December 1, 2012 1:11:41 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Play Length


I wonder to what extent the issue raised by Steve Roth, inquiring whether the plays show signs that Shakespeare included matter that is only likely to be understood by a reader rather than an auditor, is informed by the fact that Shakespeare’s texts unquestionably were written to be read. They could not be performed unless they were first read by the players, even if they received only their individual parts. The prompter, of course, had to have a complete text, and it is likely that the plays had to be examined in full by at least most of the sharers before they were mounted.


Shorthanded yet again?


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0487  Saturday, 1 December 2012


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

Date:         November 30, 2012 4:36:42 PM EST

Subject:     Shorthanded yet again? More matter for a winter’s morning.


Changing venues away from “play length” for a moment, faithful readers, let’s put on our heavy gloves and trench-coats to patrol the now-wintry perennial-borders of Bad-Quarto Gardens, where the Daunting Gerald Downs once again is tossing the fetid fragments of “textual corruption” over our leaf-less hedges.


His way of working continues to match those of the old guard memorial construction gang he so respects. He looks at a Romeo and Juliet line from Q2. “That’s the real one (maybe).” And he points to the equivalent from Q1: “That’s an ERROR. I can tell. It’s maybe from transcription, or maybe memory, or maybe a ‘pirate’ or an actor grasping at straws, or shorthand. But Obviously it’s an error.” And he points to a similar line from somewhere else, another play, or another spot in the same play, or another author. “See, they’re similar. This one over here has to be the source misbegotten by the evil, stupid or desperate pirate, incompetent actor, or well-meaning but technically deficient stenographer. Can’t be anything else.”


I’m out here patrolling the perennial borders because for decades this kind of dystopic reasoning worked and worked and worked. Kind of like pre-Copernican “epicycles” that for centuries explained the observed motion of the planets. Then along came Copernicus to show that the apparent motion could be explained and predicted much more effectively and consistently using a different theory and a different point of view. The benefit of the Copernican solution to the explanatory issue was that the observations then fit into far stronger models of how and why objects actually move where we see them. But for generations lots of smart folk went on comfortably riding their epicycles hither and thither just like before. 


Like a well-maintained epicycle, the pirates / stenographers / rogue-or-forgetful actor theories work if and only if you don't look anywhere outside the limited box of smoke and mirrors the Bad Quarto Chorus holds up for us to view.  


Here’s one triplet of lines, cited as evidence for his theory by Gerald Downs, that I would say could very well be altogether the product of a certain vividly engaged actor who also wrote plays, the William Shakespeare guy, rather than a pirate / stenographer / actor / printer. Clipped from Downs’ last post, where he draws on Harry Hoppe:



From Hoppe’s 161-5.


TA 3.1.156

And that shall be the ransom for their fault.


R&J 1.1.90

Q1 Your lives shall pay the ransom of your fault.

Q2 Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.


Q2 does not echo TA. If Q1 is an early version with an authorial self-borrowing, why should this be revised?



Come along with me here: Say William rather than a collaborator wrote the line that Aaron the Moor says at Titus Andronicus, 3.1.156: “And that shall be the ransom for their fault.” And even if he didn’t, because William gets to hear this line whenever his company puts on that popular play, it sticks in his mind. So, further envision the possibility that William is writing another play, and suppose there he pens a line that goes like this: “Your lives shall pay the ransom of your fault.” Closely echoing the Titus line.


Now here’s the odd disconnect in Gerald Downs’ epicyclic reasoning, and I ask that you consider just how odd it is.  


The line “Your lives shall pay the ransom of your fault.” appears in print in the 1597 First Quarto of Romeo and Juliet: (at what in the Second Quarto is R&J 1.1.90). In the Second Quarto, not printed until 1599, the equivalent line reads like this: “Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.” “ransom” becomes “forfeit,” “fault” becomes “peace.” Out here on patrol, pretty much in contact with real authors who write things and then later revise them, or with seeds that when dropped into mud eventually turn into flowers, it seems to me that our guy William really could have written the Titus line, AND that he could have written the Q1 line. And (why not go for the whole hog?) he could have fiddled with it some more to end up with the Q2 line.  


But Gerald sees the Q1 line as an effort by the corrupting other (stenographer, actor, pirate) who was trying to recover the Q2 version that Shakespeare wrote.  Gerald says, 


“Q2 does not echo TA.” Okay. “If Q1 is an early version with an authorial self-borrowing, why should this be revised?”


Urk would say in response to that rhetorical gambit, “Why not?” (Oh, us pithy Bronx rhetorical counter-punchers!)


But I suppose that Gerald’s implied follow-on to his “Why should this be revised?” would be something like, “Our William wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t revise a line that he’s already changed once.” Thus, by default, Q1 since it couldn’t be on-the-way towards the Q2 version, in Gerald’s eyes “is manifestly corrupt.” The real William for Gerald Downs is capable of the Titus line, and he is capable of the Q2 line, but (if I’m following him here) he isn’t capable of writing the Titus line, then the Q1 line, and then the Q2 line. I would say instead, “No, it is manifestly an authorial revision of “an authorial self-borrowing”, and furthermore I can point to similarly-variant triplets which abound in our three-text play, Hamlet.”  (See my essay, “Back to Basics: Thinking about the HAMLET First Quarto,” in Thomas Clayton, ed., The Hamlet First Published (Q1, 1603), (1992), 257-91 (esp. 283-7).


Starting with E.A.J. Honigmann and running down through Grace Ioppolo many critics have shown that (contrary to Gerald’s belief) in fact authors do “self-borrow” and even “other-borrow.” AND they even revise what they so borrow.  


“Manifestly corrupt,” Gerald declares?  How about calling it, “Manifestly earlier and tentative, like a draft?”  


Gerald lists a series of these kinds of alteration, never allowing that William could have written things that looked sort-of-Shakespearean or on-the-way-to-becoming-truly-Shakespearean. After listing a lot of these, Gerald instead declares: “I wouldn’t characterize these examples as a berg-tip since the corrupt Q1 is wholly visible and described elsewhere. The memorial evidence is overwhelming in every category.”


If you look at the memorial / shorthand / actor / etc. arguments and accept them, then you are left with great piles of corrupt disjecta membra produced by malignant agents. But if you are (like me) underwhelmed by his “memorial evidence,” I’ll show you instead how those grotty bits in Q1 are really nascent flowers, later appearing in their fuller, blossomed glory in Q2.  You want to follow Gerald Downs along the hard paths of textual proctology? Fine, but don’t be surprised when everything you investigate starts looking like a rectum. Swift, I think, in the grand old days of public whipping said, “Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her appearance for the worse.” Flay them textual variants? If that’s your wish. But will you improve your understanding of how the variant texts actually work?  


For proctology, go with Gerald. Flowers? come with Urkowitz.


Or look at other critics work: most recently Elizabethan Zeman Kolkovich, “Pageantry, Queens, and Housewives in the Two Texts of The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 63 ( 2012), 328-54, where the “stuff” of the quarto and that of the Folio are both examined to great benefit.  


Let’s try to be nicer to those early quartos which we find whilst patrolling the perennial boundaries of our textual gardens; they don’t really do any harm, and they may yet grow up to be Later Quartos or even FOLIOS!   


Steve Gardenowitz


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