The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.018 Friday, 16 January 2015
From: Gerald E. Downs <
Date: January 16, 2015 at 12:16:43 AM EST
Subject: Stern Noting Q1 Hamlet
Professor Holland responded to my inference that Tiffany Stern’s “Noting” was not peer reviewed (as it were):
> Gerald Downs’ post about Tiffany Stern’s article on
> Hamlet Q1 includes the following statement: ‘No doubt,
> Tiffany Stern’s article was written by invitation, which
> bypasses the editorial process (I hope).’
> As editor of Shakespeare Survey, I want to make clear
> the nature of Gerald Downs’ error over this. Professor
> Stern was invited to give a paper at the 2012 biennial
> International Shakespeare Conference, papers from
> which form some of the contributions to Survey,
> a process which has been the same ever since the ISC
> and Survey both began in the 1940s. The invitation was
> issued by those who run the ISC, not by Shakespeare
> Survey. As usual, Survey’s Board met during the
> conference to decide which of the papers would be
> selected for Survey. No, this is not anonymous
> peer-review but it is review by a large number of the
> world’s most distinguished Shakespeare scholars,
> many more than the two who would normally read
> submissions to journals. This is not ‘bypass[ing] the
> editorial process’ but is instead a rigorous process
> consequent on the link between the ISC and Survey
> for more than 60 years.
Thanks for the clarification. If the cause is reported aright, Stern did write by invitation. As “You’re pre-approved!” is my favorite greeting, I don’t object per se; just wondering how a faulty essay got by the scholarly firewall.
For the same 60 years shorthand has been almost completely ignored by the same most distinguished Shakespeare scholars; so much for authority—almost; voted isn’t vetted, in my book. Hypothetically, scholars-that-be may welcome (invite?) a bad essay blessing bad tradition. But my “asperities of expression” result from trying to understand an article uncorrected before “setting forth,” not to complain about publication.
I was hoping for some discussion about the issues. There are better ways to try than to belabor a bad paper, I grant. But it’s easy to see that Stern’s conclusions, mistakenly manufactured as they are, nevertheless provide an ‘invitation’ to set the bad quartos aside as post-theatrical oddities.
Instead, I recommend rational inquiry; argument, even. Are the bad quartos evidence of theatrical history itself? I think so. And in that spirit I’ll conclude my review of the article with remarks left over from my earlier responses. I’ll gladly discuss any of the issues.
Except for text read to dictation, shorthand implies a memorial transmission. Bad quartos are memorial reports. A theatrical report is first “reported” by actors in performance. Yet Stern allows performing actors little chance to cause any differences between Q1 & Q2: “Sometimes in Hamlet Q1 there seem to be traces of memorial corruption. That, too, can be ascribed to note-taking, however. . . . There is no suggestion, then, that noting precludes memory . . .” (13). That is, ‘noters’ may fail to recall or to reproduce properly what they ‘noted’ or failed to ‘note.’ But there is plenty of evidence in the bad quartos that actors’ memory fails of its own accord.
Stern also examines other kinds of corruption to find that shorthand (or vague cousin ‘noting’) and its aftermath may be their cause. But assigning error isn’t easy; scribes, performers, revisers, printers, and editors all chip in to corrupt the texts. The trick is to identify evidence that admits of as few causes as possible (one?). In the meantime, we are apt to bog down in tangential issues; bad argument obscures matters even more.
Readers may keep the fact in mind that Stern and I both posit a theatrical report (TR) behind Q1. Memorial reconstruction (MR) is not TR, though each is memorial transmission. My own hypothesis (I haven’t thought it through) is that Q1 Hamlet derives from a combination of the two R’s and an extensive textual history; one supposing competent shorthand reporting must assume that even memorial texts have been recorded in performance. That is, I’m not one to argue against MR in every case and I’m not talking about 1602 Globe goings-on.
An obvious circumstance separates ‘pirate’ from stenographer. One familiar enough with a play to report it, even as poorly as Q1, might be expected to get speech prefixes right. The same may be said of the (dis-)orderly team Stern envisions, whose conjectured division of labor might have kept track of matters. But if Bordeaux is to be trusted, the stenographer trusted the recorded dialogue itself to identify speakers. For example, I supposed Q1 s.p.’s ‘Rossencraft and Gilderstone’ would not match Q2. In fact they are shuffled; two peas in a shorthand pod. A pirate may get s.p.’s wrong, but a stenographer will get some wrong. Stern’s “see-what-sticks” method of argument doesn’t consider this issue:
“There are certainly reasons for thinking . . . Q1 a combination of different people’s work . . . . Some sections are ‘right’, then ‘wrong’, and then ‘right’ again, as when the . . . dumbshow consists of ‘the King and the Queene’, while the play it flanks calls the same people ‘the Duke and Dutchesse’. . . . A combined text would explain how this . . . came about – not least because, as in Q2 ‘Gonzago is the Duke’s name’, a version of the play visited by one of the noters might have had a Duke and Dutchess instead of a King and Queen” (18).
Why posit yet another separate version of the play and its ‘noter’ in attendance—only to construct a weak argument? (And what is least?) Q1 assumes (post-transcription, perhaps, since the dumb show is not what it says but what it doesn’t say) that Lucianus poisons his Kingly uncle. Maybe so; Q2 s.p.’s are ‘King’ and ‘Queen’. However, Q1 takes another cue from Hamlet’s chorus line:
. . . mary how trapically: this play is
The image of a murder done in Guyana, Albertus
Was the Dukes name, his wife Baptista,
Father, it is a knauish peece a worke: but what
A that, it toucheth not vs, you and I that haue free
Soules, let the galld iade wince, this is one
Lucianus nephew to the King.
Neither Q1 nor Q2 identifies the speakers in the ‘play within the play’ by its dialogue. In Q1 the s.p.’s are taken from ‘the Dukes name,’ while the ‘dumb show within the play within the play’ picks up on ‘Lucianus nephew to the King.’ A hint to the sequence may be found in Bordeaux, where the scribe informs someone of the placement of the dumb show (‘as you know’) but doesn’t describe the action. Jenkins rightly credits doubt of the Q2 dumb show's authenticity. Q1’s is necessarily made up, at least in its wording. Q2 may simply inherit and improve its Q1 ‘dumb show printer’s copy’ (in Shakespearian style only for a true believer), where the King’s nephew is ID’d. Certainly Hamlet tells the ‘real’ King and Queen that the historical characters are Duke and Duchess.
If we presume the dumb show was not explicit but enigmatic, we can stop wondering why Claudius did not respond to its graphic murder "reenactment." All this is more apparent if Theobald is correct that Hamlet should have said, ‘nephew to the Duke’, an easy mistake for the actor in performance who botched many another line, and who personated a ‘nephew to the King’ himself.
Notwithstanding the textual question, playing, reporting, revising, editing, and reprinting supply all the agents and circumstances we need to explain the text. Stern’s invented additional version and Mutt & Jeff ‘noting audience’ are unnecessary multiple hypotheses.
Stern grants theatrical reports but not that their corruptions stem from the histories of each play up to and including the recorded performances. Her method of determining who and what caused Q1’s massive corruption is then limited to asking whether an ‘actor-pirate’ or her ‘noting group’ is responsible for the transmission of specific passages in the play. By a series of "mighty" assertions she eliminates the ‘pirate’ to leave the ‘group’ as the last guess standing. I’ll examine some of these assertions and expand the list of agents for comparison.
Q1 Hamlet requires a complicated solution. Stern appeals to different post-notation operations to patch ‘Noting Bee’ holes. But her first agent is a ‘pirate,’ endowed with memory enough not to have spoiled Hamlet’s text. Although the freebooter is a New Bibliography Survivor (on life-support), she advances her theory only by assuming that his recollection would be error-free, which denies the tradition that a pirate’s faulty memory is responsible for Q1. She insists instead that his memory—however and whenever he came by his knowledge—was too good to have produced the corrupt Q1 text:
“Finally, Hamlet Q1 is filled with gaps” (16). So may be textual argument. Stern wishes to show that where the pirate’s memory may be impugned by the MR, a congregation might instead have augmented and worsened their faulty notes:
1) “For an actor-pirate, trained to remember a text by sound and rhythm, a synonym is less obvious than the correct word” (12).
2) “While an actor is likely to remember a word because he remembers its context . . .” (14).
3) “These Q2/F lines . . . might be expected to stick in the mind of an actor, for they are about the trade of playing . . .” (14).
4) “Here an actor might be expected to recall the elongated ‘long Purples’ . . .” (14). Short ‘long purples’ are forgettable, however; or so I've heard.
5) “[A]n actor may have various productions in his head [like elephants, they never forget] – but needs to observe their differences to avoid switching the performance to the wrong play” (16).
One gets the idea that any gratuitous argument will do when the object is to claim that actors’ memories cannot fail. But to take the last example; Stern makes the counter-claim that a “noter who has records of several productions has reason to be conscious of their similarities”. And reason to be oblivious, perhaps. Stern drags in hypothetical “records of other plays” to patch a “gap” in her evidence (as in the ‘Duke’ example above.) In light of Q1’s multiple borrowings from other plays, who would have a supply of dialogue from any number of dramatic works, and who might (consciously or not) retrieve some for use? Who else but a player? Cairncross has some interesting remarks about this likely phenomenon, as does van Dam. Their insights are valuable.
Though Stern’s defense of actors’ memory is weak, some of her arguments against the concept of MR by one or two actors are more meaningful. For example, “if an actor-pirate was playing Voltemand, it is surprising that, in addition to misrecalling his entrance in the last scene, he also cannot remember his name.” But we shouldn’t extrapolate MR expectations too hastily. If Stern and I are right that Q1 Hamlet is a theatrical report, then we must agree on explaining some of its features. Yet it’s mistaken to think every valid argument against MR and its ‘actor-pirate’ applies to reported performance of an entire cast. Straw ‘pirates’ aren’t merely convenient alternatives to ‘noting’ but red herrings hiding performers from the mix, as if MR & TR are alike.
The stenographer’s great concerns are speed, legibility, and accuracy; he probably would not ‘note’ whether Voltimand arrives on the death-scene as an ambassador “back from England.” The identity was probably presumed afterwards because ‘ambassadors’ are called such in the dialogue; someone jumped to a ‘Voltemar’ conclusion. As for the botched names, Stern cites Bales to the effect that two letters suffice for names that can be memorized (or, more likely, recovered from early, full transcription). ‘Gilderstone’ may have been phonetically attempted only once and abbreviated afterwards. Thus stenographers and their prey aren’t subject to all criticisms of ‘pirates’ but they have errors of their own.
Because of this “review” I’ve been reading some interesting old books about shorthand. I may cook up a note on how an early stenographer could have worked. Methods of shorthand were controversial and competitive in later days. Their advocates state their cases and reveal interesting biases to provide some insights into the Bordeaux method and vice versa.
Gerald E. Downs