Vickers One King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.207  Friday, 27 May 2016


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

Date:         May 26, 2016 at 3:39:07 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: One Lear


Anyone interested in Brian Vickers’s book on Lear should read the long and devastating series of tweets by Holger Syme. 




Bertram’s Velvet Patch

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.206  Friday, 27 May 2016


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

Date:         May 26, 2016 at 5:24:58 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Patch


“CLOWN//Oh, madam, yonder’s my lord your son with a patch of velvet on’s face. Whether there be a scar under it or no the velvet knows; but ‘tis a goodly patch of velvet. His left cheek is a cheek of two pile and a half, but his right cheek is worn bare.”


The visual may evoke the shedding of the velvet of young deer antlers. One side is “worn bare” referring to the loss of velvet via scraping or antler play with another deer. 


Earlier at 1.3.54-55 Clown makes a deer fighting reference, “they may jowl horns together, like any deer i’ th’ herd.”




Review Summary: The Shakespeare Circle

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.205  Friday, 27 May 2016


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

Date:        Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 8:06:00 PM EDT

Subject:    Charles Nicholl Reviews ‘The Shakespeare Circle’ edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells · LRB 19 May 2016


[Editor’s Note: The full review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books, of which I am not one. Below is the summary that is provided at the web site. –Hardy]



By Charles Nicholl


The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells

Cambridge, 358 pp, £18.99, October 2015, ISBN 978 1 107 69909 0


On 16 March 1810 a Mrs Martin, a ‘labourer’s wife’, was working a field near Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon when she turned up an old gold signet ring bearing on its bezel the initials ‘W.S.’ It was bought for 36 shillings by Robert Bell Wheler, a local historian, and later donated to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where it still resides. When the Romantic painter Benjamin Robert Haydon heard news of the discovery he wrote excitedly to his friend Keats: ‘If this is not Shakespeare who is it? … As sure as you breathe & that he was the first of beings the Seal belonged to him – Oh Lord!’ The sceptic might answer that it could have belonged to someone else with the same initials – the Stratford draper William Smith, for instance – but the possibility remains strong that it was Shakespeare’s. It is certainly a genuine ring of the period, and there are other pointers in its favour. The field where it was found, Mill Close, was on land that Shakespeare had owned: it was part of 107 acres of pasture and gardens he bought in 1602. A minor amendment to his will may also hold a clue. It originally concluded with the formulaic phrase, ‘in witnesse whereof I have hereunto put my seale,’ but in the final version of 25 March 1616 the word ‘seale’ is crossed out and ‘hand’ is written instead. Had he recently lost the ring he would have used to stamp his seal on the document?


--Best regards, Bo.




Vickers One King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.204  Thursday, 2 May 2016


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

Date:         May 26, 2016 at 12:42:09 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: One Lear


[Editor’s Note: When a thread becomes someone essentially talking to himself or herself, as editor, I feel it is time the thread was closed. If no one responds to the Vickers One Lear thread by Monday, that shall be the case, and I will no long post on it. –Hardy]


At 2.4.99–100 F adds lines to a Gloucester-Lear exchange:


Glo. Well my good Lord, I haue inform’d them so.

Lear. Inform’d them? Do’st thou vnderstand me man.


Stone observes that “in Q Gloucester replies [to Lear’s order to summon Regan and Cornwall] ‘I my good Lord, but without making any move to comply . . . . while at the same time . . . he is anxious to avoid an open refusal. The reviser has Gloucester demurring explicitly (‘Well . . . I have informed . . .), letting his ‘Aye, my good Lord’ remain as the simple answer to a question (‘Dost thou understand me, man?’). That these lines did not belong to the original text is shown by their association with the next addition[:] to suppose that both passages were omitted from Q would be virtually to assume a method and purpose in the omissions.


[Lear.] Are they inform’d of this? My breath and blood:

                                                         (2.4.104, F only)


“As did the previous one, this interpolation evades the problem of Gloucester’s inaction” (241).


Inasmuch as Sir Brian Vickers proposes that Q1’s printers ‘purposely and methodically’ abridged the text, Stone’s argument against “related” additions begs the question. If the lines stood in Q1 copy their excision would be relatively harmless; yet Lear’s sardonic ‘Are they informed of this?’ is more than a reminder. Many F additions seem too troublesome as (anyone’s) revisions, but plausible if original.


Although F additions should be examined separately, some omissions occurring during Q1’s printing may have been “restored” to F from manuscript. But if a presumed straightforward restoration from a parallel line of Lear transmission should fail to correct Q1 error, one may surmise that the “restoration” is instead revision, that the “parallel” F manuscript printer’s copy was itself coincidentally corrupt, or that it didn’t exist. I’ve noted instances of this circumstance already: F retained By for My to confuse matters prior to the noble kinsmen’s combat, whereby the F addition must be a revision.


Further, two separate 3.1 additions were interpolated as one, to imply that F was not printed at that point directly from “parallel” copy-text but by collation with a text from the Q1 line, when the blocks were mistakenly joined. The unlikely alternative is that the parallel copy had suffered the accident at some earlier time, without discovery, to the very same blocks of text that had been omitted in Q1. If that didn’t happen, why not print the “correct” text in the first place? If, however, Q1 printer’s copy was collated with Q1 after the forme was printed the misplacement could easily occur in redaction. Vickers sometimes accepts F additions when surrounding text is uncertain:


   Gon. My most deere Gloster . . .    (Q1)

<Oh, the difference of man, and man,> (F)

. . .

A foole vsurps my bed.  (4.2.28, Q1c)

My foote vsurps my body (Q1u)

My Foole vsurpes my body (F)


Vickers seems to accept the corrected Q1’s ‘A foole . . . bed’ without comment, though F and Q1u are much closer readings. Stone observes: “It is extremely unlikely that the Q compositor could have mistaken A for My, bed for body. . . . The [Q1c] reading is . . . a thoroughgoing sophistication . . . .” He infers that Edmund handily touched his lips and Goneril’s foot, which causes her remark that Q1u reads correctly. “She replies . . . by insinuating that the relationship should be reversed . . . To thee a woman’s services are due: / My foot . . . .’ If this is correct, Edmund cannot . . . leave the scene (as he does in F) before hearing this reply. It must be Oswald’s warning of Albany’s reproach which prompts him to . . . exit” (221, “Q1 readings unnecessarily altered”). The insertion at 4.2.26 (Oh, the difference . . .), “serves to clarify the sense . . . . We should be puzzled by the abrupt reference to ‘my fool’ unless we realised that Goneril was comparing one man to another . . .” (245).


The interpolation could be a recovery of original text, or a late revision; it could also be a pre-Q1 theatrical elucidation of “puzzling” text. As Stone implies, the issue is whether ‘foot’ or ‘fool’ is right. My principle is to accept uncorrected Q1 (or what it tells us); shorthand records sound. The Q1 corrector, often failing to consult copy, had no such concerns. F’s and Q1c’s fool was easy to say, as always, and probably coincidental. On balance, I suppose ‘fool’ is wrong; the inserted line is a consequent F revision; and that no corrective parallel text was available.


Gerald E. Downs




Bertram’s Velvet Patch

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.203  Thursday, 2 May 2016


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

Date:         May 26, 2016 at 12:41:17 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Patch


Alan Dessen’s account of Bwertram’s ‘patch’ is intriguing. He links his explanation with that of Innogen in Much Ado, although apart from he appearance in 2 stage headings she says nothing. A better comparison might be with Lorenzo’s comment to Lancelet at 3.5.34-35 where he says, “I shall answer that better to the commonwealth than you can the getting up of the negro’s belly.”  Either this is some kind of joke that suggests that Lorenzo is better able to justify ‘converting’ Jessica to Christianity than Lancelet can impregnate a negro OR that this refers to an episode that either Shakespeare intended to, but did not write. 


Why must we assume any of those alternatives?  Can’t we just understand that Lancelot impregnated some negro servant without having the ocular proof or a predicate description of the event?  Was it beyond Shakespeare’s powers to conjure up an incident without depicting it?




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