The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.136 Monday, 16 March 2015
From: Gerald E. Downs <
Date: March 16, 2015 at 1:52:42 AM EDT
Subject: Re: OP
Gabriel Egan replied:
> Downs doesn’t find convincing the explanation I
> suggested for the press variant near the top of
> page G4r in Q:
>> But the variant shorter lines cannot have resulted
>> strictly by accident. If accident began the sequence
>> . . .
> Just to be clear, my suggestion was not of mere accident
> to the type but of miscorrection. But, no, I don’t find this
> explanation terribly convincing either, which is why I
> added the qualifier that it “might, I suppose” have
> happened. The trouble is that the usual explanation isn’t
> terribly convincing either:
Gabriel Egan still isn’t trying to be clear. My comment on the shorter lines wasn’t in reference to his suggestion. What I said was that he’s not “trying to get at the history of the variants because his suggestion doesn’t account for the evidence of the second shorter line.”
Egan’s “dittography miscorrection” does not explain omission of ‘why he hath made’, a line below the omitted ‘you may as’. A second hypothesis would be necessary to augment the first faulty guess. Emendations, however casual, should address all of the pertinent evidence. Otherwise, they occlude by piling up quasi-guesses.
>> This doesn't conform to the 'general agreement'
>> that the longer lines represent the corrected
>> state. I wonder if Gabriel accepts the general
>> agreement . . .
> . . . I’m expressing dissatisfaction with the usual
> explanation because it requires that after consulting
> copy to insert the missing words the compositor
> nonetheless failed to correct the work “bleak[e]” in the
> same line. We can make sense of “bleake” as a good
> reading based on a Somerset dialect form of “bleat[e]”
> but it’s a bit strained, don’t you think?
Just as we read Egan’s ‘work “bleake”’ as ‘word . . .’ early modern readers took such matters in stride: bleak meant bleat. A factor modern editors probably overlook is that compositors lost earnings fooling with misprints. It’s analogous to John Smith’s 18th-century observation about meager punctuation (as is supposed of Shakespeare, of all people): “for in that case a Compositor has room left to point the Copy his own way; which, though it cannot be done without loss to him; yet it is not altogether of so much hindrance as being troubled with Copy which is pointed at random, and which stops the Compositor in the career of his business . . . .”
> A good reason to question the “general agreement” about
> which is the uncorrected and which the corrected state of
> the type is the absence of other press variants on the same
> forme that might help us decide the ‘before’ and ‘after’ state
> of the type. That is, the general agreement is about just this
> variant and is not based on something else outside of it.
This argument, though I agree with it, is incomplete. If a forme got a facelift, more early wrinkles ought to show. Egan himself acknowledges Blayney’s insistence that playtexts were “foul-proofed,” or corrected before a print-run began. For MV that is certain; errors abounded in the day, yet this is a relatively clean text. So, why wasn’t ‘bleake’ fixed in the foul-proofing? Because some things just weren’t fixed (cf. Q1 Lear); their persistence is not good argument against nearby correction.
> If Downs thinks that the general agreement is right,
> could he give his explanation for the corrected state
> nonetheless requiring a ewe to “bleake”?
Gabriel Egan knows I accept van Dam’s explanation, as I’ve described. The usual explanation gets things backwards. Argument about Shakespeare’s text should be taken seriously by the “arbiter.” I study these trivialities as a hobby, where the best answer is best (else why bother?) With others that isn’t necessarily the case, but it should be.
Gerald E. Downs