The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.145 Thursday, 19 March 2015
From: Gerald E. Downs <
Date: March 19, 2015 at 2:20:27 AM EDT
Subject: Re: OP
Gabriel Egan wrote:
> In deference to what I suspect is the shortening
> patience of SHAKSPERians, I’ll keep this response
> to William Blanton short.
I think this is a good thread.
> Blanton thinks that it is “pettifogging” to make a
> distinction between the claim “that Shakespeare
> himself was the one who marked up Q1” to produce
> Folio copy for The Merchant of Venice and the less
> specific claim (by Bate) that someone did it.
> Since SHAKSPERians demonstrably care about what
> Shakespeare did in relation to his work, I trust that it
> matters to the majority of them even if it does not
> matter to Blanton.
But this issue does matter to Bill Blanton, and in the same way that most Shakespearians care. The “less specific claim” made by Bate or Rasmussen was probably carefully written for Blanton (aka, the “general reader”), who’s supposed to understand that F MV was further influenced by Shakespeare, subsequent to and in approval of his very own Q1 copy-text, as evidenced by F additions taken from his very own promptbook preserved by Heminges & Condell.
A corrupt Q1 MV was copy for F; no one knows where the additions come from—that’s what editors should say. In a moment of weakness Gary Taylor addressed the matter in the case of F King Lear (PBSA 79, 1985): “We have no clear evidence that the manuscript was a prompt-book, or a derivative of one.”
Perhaps Bill Blanton is confusing F MV with F King Lear, for which the Oxford editors do claim that Shakespeare revised the corrupt Q1 and that he at least began on a copy of the quarto—an idea so unlikely that revisionists have conjured up other fanciful reasons for F’s Q1 derivation. As a result many Shakespeareans actually believe Shakespeare revised Lear into the F version. That’s no good, but good enough . . . ?
Blayney believes “that Q1’s copy was an authorial manuscript; that the adaptation was made by someone other than Shakespeare from the printed Q1 rather than from a playhouse manuscript of any kind; and that F1 was printed from a manuscript (either the adapter’s final draft annotated for promptbook use or a promptbook prepared from it) with the assistance (primarily for punctuation) of a copy of Q2.” Take out the ‘authorial’ bit and we’re getting hot.
Yet Blanton is mistaken to think that replacing “someone” with “Shakespeare” is a minor issue. Textually, that’s always the big question. Editors agree with Blanton, Taylor, Wells, Jowett, the Egans, Drakakis, &c. that Shakespeare’s finger was in nearly all Folio pies, putting in plums. They say it with more art than matter; it’s too much of a reach to say out loud. Up n’ Comers aren’t slow to learn which side of the Buddha the bread is on. Questioning foul papers, Hand D, and promptbooks is for Ardens 8, 9, & 10.
> Regarding the authority of the Folio versions of plays,
> Blanton writes:
>> Hemings and Condell state that their friend Will
>> Shakespeare wrote the plays included in the First
>> Folio, and that they had selected the best versions
>> of those plays for inclusion. That's good enough
>> for me.
> It should not be good enough for anyone who cares about
> the truth since part of this claim is demonstrably untrue:
> the Folio is not the best version for every play. 2 Henry 4,
> for instance, is represented in the Folio by an expurgated
> text in which Falstaff is robbed of his rich wordhoard of
> oaths evident in the preceding quarto.
F 2H4 is revised throughout by someone other than Shakespeare. Q1 is corrupt. H & C said as much (through Ben Jonson): the plays were stolen, surreptitious, and cured (as if). They weren’t the best, but the best—the only—they had. And “F only” does not in itself imply authority.
> Lastly, and equally erroneously:
>> I believe that we all recognize that Shakespeare
>> wrote his plays as scripts to be performed, not
>> as texts to be studied.
> We don’t. The vast body of evidence against this view
> is contained in two books by Lukas Erne:
> ‘Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist’ (Cambridge University
> Press, 2003) and ‘Shakespeare and the Book Trade’
> (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
The vast—the real—body of evidence indicates that Shakespeare had nothing to do with the actual publication of his plays. Erne’s books are fantasies—author intention notwithstanding. I would like to know what evidence Egan is talking about. It may be that Shakespeare wanted to publish his plays. The evidence shows that someone(s) else got the job done, just as H, C, & B.J. say (with interesting mixed results).
> It’s not the ignorance I object to—
Here I think Gabriel Egan is right.
John Drakakis remarks:
> There is a rather conservative strand in textual bibliography
> to which Egan seems now to have attached himself, and from
> this position he professes to decide what is scientific ‘truth’
> and what is error.
Textual bibliography is a bad term. It sounds much like bibliography, which it isn’t. However, Gabriel Egan does seem to defend a line of talk inherited from Greg and the New Bibliography via the Wells-Taylor-Jowett pipeline. His faction (real or not) decries analytical bibliography as somehow akin to author-robbing Postmodernist Theory. It is characterized by the determined acceptance of “foul papers” printer’s copy as explaining enough textual anomalies to claim that Shakespeare is directly behind early editions of his plays; by unqualified acceptance of “Hand D” as Shakespeare’s holograph, despite the absence of a paleographical case; by acceptance of authorized “promptbooks” as printer’s copy; by accepting Shakespeare as the reviser of plays existing in more than one substantial version; by believing Shakespeare acquiesced in theatrical alterations to his playtexts; and so forth.
> You are right to insist that Launcelet’s surname is ‘Iobbe’
> and NOT ‘Gobbo’.
Unless holograph copy is proved “insist” is too strong a word. But ‘Iobbe’ has the better claim.
> The question is: what can we do with this instability
> and how do we justify it. It is because we have too
> few surviving copies of Q1 in existence that it would
> be difficult to reconstruct a fuller printing history for it.
It’s doubtful a full history would settle any such questions, unless a manuscript decides them. The “questions” are matters not of bibliography but of textual analysis. Bibliography trumps literary analysis but it seldom decides the issues.
> There is evidence to suggest that MV was an untidy play.
> There are some loose ends and it is difficult to know what
> to do with them The ‘Iobbe’ issue is one of them. IF ‘Iobbe’
> is something that in the manuscript copy from which Q1 is
> set is substantive . . .
Right. But what if the manuscript is a faulty transmission? “Untidy” often seems to refer to Shakespeare at Work (in his fateful Hand D style) but untidy happens in other ways. I can’t prove it but I like to think the greatest playwright of the age was better than that.
> I would, if I were you, not be sidetracked into the debate
> about the few other textual cruces that appear in Q1.
Amateurs (or lower-caste professionals) should not bother with the debates. I know all about sidetracks. Running trains for thirty years on the old Southern Pacific (or waiting to run trains), sidetracks are where I did my best thinking—no one told me not to. I agree that by avoiding debate one will not be told one’s wrong; but if what’s what’s what one’s about, it’s not so bad.
Gerald E. Downs