The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.049 Thursday, 11 February 2016
Date: February 10, 2016 at 12:40:50 PM EST
Subject: Sir Brian’s King Lear
Steve Urkowitz mentions an upcoming publication that should be interesting:
>Sir Brian Vickers The One King Lear . . . forthcoming
>Here’s the Harvard University Press blurb:
“Sir Brian Vickers demonstrates that the cuts in the Quarto were in fact carried out by the printer because he had underestimated the amount of paper he would need. Paper was an expensive commodity in the early modern period, and printers counted the number of lines or words in a manuscript before ordering their supply. As for the Folio, whereas the revisionists claim that Shakespeare cut the text in order to alter the balance between characters, Vickers sees no evidence of his agency. These cuts were likely made by the theater company to speed up the action. Vickers includes responses to the revisionist theory made by leading literary scholars, who show that the Folio cuts damage the play’s moral and emotional structure and are impracticable on the stage.”
I hesitate to argue or to agree with a blurb. At times I hesitate to hesitate. Vickers respects evidence and early scholarship; I hope his opinions can be fit to mine. “Cuts by the printer” may work; that approaches my conclusion for Richard 3. Stone convinces me (as noted) that omissions from Q1 Lear printer’s copy survive in F; I hadn’t considered “economic” cuts. But mention of F “cuts by the theater company” signifies unwarranted belief in an authorized redaction (i.e. that F derives from an “official promptbook” rather than revision of Q1 by someone other than Shakespeare).
It sounds like Vickers defends Q1 Lear, which is good; it’s the only defensible text. I suppose he’ll plump for “foul papers.” Shakespeare’s revision of his own work, as demonstrated by Q/F variants, is mistaken.
Reading Arden3 Richard 3, I was struck by Siemon’s assertion that Peter Short’s part of Q1, which was composed by formes (as opposed to Simmes’ seriatim share), was so accurately “cast off” that no space was wasted. But that only speaks to one side of the castings-off. If estimates are too large, some text may not get printed at all (as Walton affirms). From the working man’s viewpoint, omissions from long reported texts are almost inevitable. A closely printed Q1 may indicate that excess text was left out by the printers; doubly “cast off” text would have been cut as “necessary.” That could apply to seriatim setting if the idea was to adjust Simmes’ part to his allotted space.
Why are Q1 cuts meant to save paper while F cuts “speed the action”? Running also speeds the action; was FFW Shakespeare’s idea of fun? I think Q1s Lear and Richard 3 were acted in their entirety, and then some. F recovers some of each while reprinting the bad quartos.
Gerald E. Downs