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Criticism of Erne

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.158  Tuesday, 24 March 2015

 

[1] From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 23, 2015 at 4:01:05 PM EDT

     Subject:    Erne

 

[2] From:        Jim Carroll < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 23, 2015 at 7:11:44 PM EDT

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Erne

 

[3] From:        Gerald E. Downs < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 24, 2015 at 1:38:13 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: Erne Review

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 23, 2015 at 4:01:05 PM EDT

Subject:    Erne

 

Gerald E. Downs’s account of the weaknesses he sees in Lukas Erne’s book ‘Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist’ runs to over 3,400 words. I hope he doesn’t think I’m shirking a responsibility when I say that I don’t want to reply to it because I think an email list is not the place for contributions of that length. I strongly suspect that if I reply at the same length (which is what it would take) then Gerald and I would effectively be having a private conversation, and SHAKSPER is not the place for that. I was looking for a more pithy set of examples of errors of fact or logic.

 

Steve Urkowitz offers a pointer to his own article on the topic of how long play performances were.  I read the article when it came out and if my notes on it are accurate then Steve thinks that play scripts were routinely cut by about 10% for performance, whereas Erne thinks they were cut by 30%. Could Steve say how his difference of opinion with Erne regarding the 20% is in his view fatal to Erne’s argument that Shakespeare wrote for a readership as well as an audience?  If he could also answer Joe Falocco’s essay arguing precisely the opposite of his claim in the same volume of Shakespeare Bulletin that would be especially illuminating and appreciated.

 

Gabriel Egan

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Jim Carroll < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 23, 2015 at 7:11:44 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Erne

 

I must say that this idea that Shakespeare did not have interest in having his plays published has never made any sense to me. My opinion is independent of any of the vast seas of ink spilled over the issue, pro or con. The quartos have typographical errors and probably misinterpretations by the printers, but how can those things be construed as evidence that Shakespeare didn’t care about seeing his work in print? Was there such a thing as overnight mail where

proofs were delivered and corrected by the author? I assume Shakespeare could sit with the printer and correct his Venus and Adonis because he had time while the plague raged. Otherwise he was a busy man who left such work as best as it could be handled. I also assume that he spent time in Stratford before he died revising his work, and died before he could finish. Shakespeare must have been aware of the literary heritage, he certainly knew Ovid (mihi flauus Apollo Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua); he not only knew of Chaucer but wrote an entire play in a similar manner based on Chaucer’s poem of Troilus and Cryseyde. Why would he write such a play based on the writing of one of Britain’s greatest literary treasures if he were not thinking of the posterity of readership? And not only write such a play, but include speeches such as that from Act 5: “O madness of discourse/That cause sets up with and against itself!” etc., which could hardly be appreciated in full as it passed by in the moments of a play? In fact, the care that Shakespeare takes to craft his line should be enough internal evidence that he intended his work to be read, as the disagreements between texts take up a tiny fraction of the whole. Orts and scraps indeed! Otherwise the best evidence 

that Shakespeare intended his plays to be read is provided by Heminge and Condell, who went to the trouble to have his plays printed in folio. These men knew Shakespeare for years. They were among his best friends according to Shakespeare’s will, which leaves them rings to remember him by. Are we to suppose that they then both deliberately went against his wishes in publishing the folio? In the prefatory matter to the folio, they don’t say that Shakespeare didn’t want his work published, they say “...he not having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings...” and “It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been wished, that the author himself had lived to have set forth, and overseen his own writings. But since it hath been ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that right....” It seems clear that they, at least, thought that the only reason Shakespeare was not overseeing the publication of his plays was the fact that he was deceased, and not that he himself had no interest in publication.

 

Jim Carroll

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         March 24, 2015 at 1:38:13 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Erne Review

 

Last of the Erne Review

 

Erne sometimes contradicts his own stated views, as when he spends time arguing the literary value of printed playbooks (10ff) only to suggest in another context that they “were considered unimportant publications and comparatively little effort went into their printing” (96). Most printing costs were fixed, however, so his rationale can extend only to press correctors and compositors. Money was at stake in every case and printers used faulty copy only when no better was available. Compositors gladly reduced their workload by using printed copy. In each of these instances, however, the quality of Shakespeare’s texts could and did suffer in the printing. What did the ‘literary dramatist’ do to help matters? The case of Romeo and Juliet is not unique. Corrupt editions were used many times, when fair copies from the author with instructions not to resort to other texts would have insured ‘literary texts.’ Some of [Erne’s] excesses amount to no more than tone-setting. While discussing the importance of Francis Meres’ praise of Shakespeare as a cause of title-page attributions, Erne remarks:

 

“Shakespeare's appearance alongside Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, & other literary worthies of his age in 1598 comes as much out of nowhere as the massed appearance of Shakespeare's name on the title pages of his plays starting the same year” (68).

 

Editions of Venus and Adonis in addition to Q1 were issued in 1594, 1595, and 1596. Lucrece was reprinted in 1598. Erne virtually ignores these early poems. Compare this assessment by Colin Burrow: “By the later 1590s Venus and Adonis and Lucrece were established as two of the most popular and widely imitated poems in English.”

 

This list of missteps can easily be extended, but it may be enough to warn readers that Erne’s hypotheses are not well argued. To the less critical reader Erne’s credibility may survive into his last chapter, “Theatricality, literariness and the texts of Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, and Hamlet,” where textual and historical scholarship gives way to an aesthetic comparison of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ texts, purporting to show that Shakespeare’s long texts were meant for readers, and that the short texts were the necessarily inferior result of downsizing. But Erne offers no solution to the provenance of the ‘bad’ quartos, which are really bad. Neither case credibly represents the author’s intention, but Erne credits the ‘good’ quartos from the outset as reader’s texts and arbitrarily accedes to an “authorized communal” derivation of the bad quartos, in which case Shakespeare will have participated in reconstructions like this:

 

              Burbage:  To be, or not to be, I there’s the point,

                  To Die, to sleepe, is that all? I all:

                  No, to sleepe, to dreame,

Shakespeare:   I mary there it goes.

 

It is perhaps more fair to limit comparative passages to Erne’s selection. But when he remarks of the bad quarto copy-texts that “their purpose is likely to have been literary rather than theatrical” (218), contradicting his description of a bad quarto’s “theatrical means” as “precisely non-verbal” (224), one realizes how these publications cannot fail to support his every supposition. For instance, Erne forgets his early dictum that plays “were printed in order to be read” (132), referring to one set of printed texts as strictly theatrical, but to another as literary. As a result Q1 Romeo and Juliet “avoids tautology by confining the information about Juliet’s kneeling to a stage direction. A reader of Q2, however, only knows that Juliet kneels down because she says so” (223). In either case, the knowledge is got by reading. Erne cites without comment John Jowett’s credible argument that Henry Chettle augmented the text of Q1. If so, we are not certain who is responsible for the set direction. Such comparisons are worthless, especially when we remember that an ‘authorized’ bad quarto is imaginary or that Juliet’s lines may simply have been muffed by an actor.

 

Erne devotes considerable space to the contention that Q1 Henry V differs thematically from the longer text (224, 230-31). But critics of the King Lear revision theorists have long noted that cuts must necessarily affect content. In this case [H5], the exceedingly corrupt quarto is half the length of F. Erne cites Gary Taylor in support of his argument, who at least qualifies his remarks on the Q1 differences: “Whoever was responsible for them . . .” If we cannot answer this question, neither can we confer authority on the changes. The same is true for Hamlet, yet Erne again requires the approval of ‘Shakespeare and his fellows’ if his argument is to be allowed. Hamlet continues to be scrutinized – to say the least – and weak argument about the play is unlikely to escape criticism. For example, Erne compares the order of events in Q1 and the longer texts, and remarks of Hamlet’s most famous lines: “At the end of the second act, Hamlet, surely, is finally ready to take action. Yet, when he re-enters some fifty lines later, he muses on suicide and seems to have forgotten about his project” (235). Some will say that every line of Hamlet’s soliloquy directly addresses his project, and that he muses not on suicide, but a suicide mission. Erne seems to have indulged in a bit of special pleading. The ‘To be or not to be’ musings are misplaced in Q1 and it is hard to believe that Shakespeare would have agreed to the change.

 

When a play is shortened, events are speeded up. But in Q1 Hamlet the play is slowed by a conversation between Horatio and the queen that is not in the longer texts. Clearly, the cuts have been so drastic as to require elucidation of the story. Erne cites the scene as an example of the difference between theatrical and literary contingencies. But where is Shakespeare? As early as Halliwell-Phillipps the added lines are seen as “the hand of a very inferior dramatist.” Van Dam credits von Westenholz for observing “that this passage is a very curtailed surrogate” of occurrences in the longer versions. Obviously, any redactor would have been capable of the scene, unless of course the lines are as botched as the rest of Q1. Once again, there is no reason to suppose that Q1 Hamlet reflects an authorized version.

 

One must ultimately be disappointed with this chapter, which fails to tie up the large number of loose ends left in the preceding sections. Erne’s text-based discussion is largely confined to these last pages and his analyses are almost always wrong or dismissive of alternative explanation. Yet many [readers] may be misled since Shakespeareans are currently between bandwagons. ‘Theory’ is folding its tents, Shakespeare the reviser is being edited out, and funeral elegies are dead. The time is right for yet another uncritical movement. However, “Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist” is off to a bad start. Erne would have better served scholarship not by taking this step backward, but to have applied his considerable talents to real solutions of the textual mysteries of Shakespeare, so many of which he discusses fruitlessly.

_______________________________________________

 

Gabriel Egan observes:

 

> Gerald E. Downs writes that Lukas “Erne’s books are fantasies”

> and asks “what evidence Egan is talking about”.  I was referring

> to the copious evidence in those two books by Erne:

> ‘Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist’ and ‘Shakespeare and the

> Book Trade’. If Erne’s claim that Shakespeare wanted to be a

> published author is a fantasy, one would expect his argument

> to have been effectively refuted by now.

 

Lukas Erne knows his readers better than they know his books. They are happy to hear Shakespeare was on top of things, except when he was authorizing the bad quartos. Yes, we should expect refutation of his books. That they are happily accepted is good commentary on the state of Shakespeare scholarship. After reviewing my review I still wonder what Egan sees in Erne’s first book. There are so many errors and other shortcomings that it won’t do to cite the book as a whole. What exactly is the evidence that convinces Egan? I’m not holding my breath.

 

I submitted some opinions on Book Trade here last year. More preaching to a sleepy quire.

 

Some time ago Gabriel Egan asked me to say which of my arguments about John of Bordeaux was the most compelling in showing the play to be a shorthand report. I replied (as I recall) that the article as a whole was convincing. I had thought recently to explain that answer and I may yet, especially since he is replying similarly to my question about Erne’s books.

 

The Bordox evidence convinces every step of the way, at least for each step. The evidence converges. And it won’t do to set up a “linchpin” argument as a target for someone merely to say it isn’t enough. But most of the evidence and the easy inferences resulting from it are very powerful. That is why the case is compelling.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

 
What the English of Shakespeare, et al. Sounded Like

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.157  Tuesday, 24 March 2015

 

From:        Hardy Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 24, 2015 at 8:21:12 AM EDT 

Subject:    What the English of Shakespeare, Beowulf, and King Arthur Actually Sounded Like

 

What the English of Shakespeare, Beowulf, and King Arthur Actually Sounded Like 

By James Harbeck

 

Let’s hop into a time machine and go back to the England of yore!

 

If this were a movie, no matter when we got out of the machine, we could walk up to people and start talking. It could be medieval times or the age of King Arthur’s round table, and they’d just say, “Who art thou, varlet?” and we’d reply with something like, “We, uh, would-eth like-eth some beer-eth,” and we’d all party. Yeah, no.

 

I mean, of course they have to do that in movies, because we need to understand them. But this is reality. We're going to hear what they really talked like. Ready? Buckle up!

 

Shakespearean England

 

First stop: the early 1600s. The time of Shakespeare! Of course the English of Shakespeare and the King James Bible may seem flowery, but it’s basically just an older version of what we speak now. In fact, it’s what linguists call Early Modern English. But the way they spoke it was not quite what we probably expect — or what you hear in the movies. Do you imagine some Queen’s English accent? Or perhaps Cockney for the lower classes? Guess what: the way they spoke it would sound to us more like a mix of Irish and pirate. Here, listen to Ben Crystal (son of linguist David Crystal) perform a sonnet in the pronunciation of Shakespeare’s time:

 

http://theweek.com/articles/545166/what-english-shakespeare-beowulf-king-arthur-actually-sounded-like

 

[ . . . ]

 
 
Conference Announcement: The Shakespeare Saint-Omer Folio in Context

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.156  Tuesday, 24 March 2015

 

From:        Jean-Christophe Mayer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 24, 2015 at 9:51:39 AM EDT

Subject:    Conference Announcement: The Shakespeare Saint-Omer Folio in Context

 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT

 

“The Shakespeare Saint-Omer Folio in Context”

 

26-27 June 2015

 

Galerie des Tableaux, Hotel de ville de Saint-Omer, Grand Place, 62500 Saint-Omer, France. Attendance is free of charge.

 

For a complete programme, including practical information, please go to:

 

http://www.bibliotheque-agglo-stomer.fr/bibliotheque-agglo-stomer.fr/userfiles/file/PDF_patrimoine/programme_colloque.pdf

 

This event is organised by PRISMES, a research centre of University Sorbonne Nouvelle, the Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-Classical Age and the Enlightenment (CNRS/University Paul Valery-Montpellier), and the French Shakespeare Society (SFS), with the financial support of the Communaute d’Agglomeration de Saint-Omer (CASO).

 

Contacts:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

PROGRAMME:

 

Friday 26 June

 

9:30: Reception of participants

 

9:45: Opening of conference

 

Chair: Brian Cummings (University of York)

 

10:00-10:30: Alison Shell (University College London), “Fathers and Mentors in English Catholic School Drama”.

 

10:30-11:00: Maurice Whitehead (Schwarzenbach Fellow, Venerable English College, Rome), “ ‘The strictest, orderlyest, and best bredd in the world’: Students and their Educational Experience at the English Jesuit College at Saint-Omer, 1593–1762”.

 

11:00-11:30: Anthony James West (Independent Scholar), “ ‘Deux-cent-trente-trois’: The Saint-Omer Shakespeare First Folio in the World of 232 Other First Folios”.

 

11:30-12:15 : questions

 

Afternoon:

 

Chair : Remy Cordonnier (Bibliotheque d’Agglomeration de Saint-Omer)

 

2:00-2:30pm : Jean-Christophe Mayer (CNRS eand Universite Paul Valery-Montpellier), “The Saint-Omer Shakespeare First Folio: A Folio for the Theatre?”

 

2:30-3:00pm: Jan Graffius (Stonyhurst College, UK), “The Saint-Omer First Folio: Drama for Poetry in an English Jesuit College”

 

3:00-3:30pm: questions

 

3:30-4:00pm: coffee break

 

Chair: Roger Chartier (College de France)

 

4:00-4:30: Line Cottegnies and Gisele Venet (Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle), “The Saint-Omer Folio and Other English Books in the Saint-Omer Library”.

 

4:30-5:00pm: Eric Rasmussen (University of Nevada), “Commending the Commendatory: New insight on Leonard Digges and the First Folio”

 

5:00-5:30pm : questions

 

6:00-7:00pm: Public Lecture (in French):

 

Chair: Line Cottegnies (Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle)

 

Jean-Christophe Mayer (CNRS et Universite Paul Valéry-Montpellier) and Gisele Venet (Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle), “Un First Folio de Shakespeare à Saint-Omer: La decouverte d’un livre iconique, et d’un exemplaire riche de mystere”.

 

 

Saturday 27 June

 

Chair: François Laroque (Universite Sorbonne Nouvelle)

 

9:30-10:00: Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford University), “Unclasping a Secret book : Popular Perceptions of the First Folio”.

 

10:00-10:30 : Richard Wilson (Kingston University London), “From France to England: Catholic Shakespeare and the French Resistance”.

 

10:30-11:00 : Brian Cummings (University of York), “Shakespeare and the Religion of the Book”.

 

11:00-11:45: questions

 

12:00-1:00pm: Public Lecture (in French).

 

Chair: Jean-Christophe Mayer (CNRS and Universite Paul Valery-Montpellier)

 

Roger Chartier (College de France), “Relier Shakespeare. Des Quartos au Folio”.

 

1:00-1:15pm: close of conference. 

 
 
Announcement: Funded Ph.D. Opportunity

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.155  Tuesday, 24 March 2015

 

From:        Jean-Christophe Mayer < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 24, 2015 at 6:38:47 AM EDT

Subject:    Announcement: Funded Ph.D. Opportunity

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

Please find a call for a three-year funded Ph.D. scholarship in early modern book studies at the University of Montpellier, France.  If you think some of your students might be interested to work with us, feel free to forward them the call. The deadline for applications is 15 May 2015 and all the information (including salary, etc.) is included below.

 

Many thanks!

 

Best wishes,

Jean-Christophe Mayer

CNRS and University Paul-Valery-Montpellier

 

 

Funded Ph.D. opportunity in early modern book studies at University of Montpellier, France

 

The Institute for Research on the Renaissance, the Neo-Classical Age and the Enlightenment (IRCL, http://www.ircl.cnrs.fr/english/index2.htm) based at University Paul Valery-Montpellier, France is currently offering a 3-year Ph.D. scholarship in the field of early modern book studies (16th to 18th century).

 

Priority will be given to candidates whose topics are related to: France; Britain; France and Britain; Europe. The Ph.D. can be written either in English or French. A working knowledge of French at the time of the application would be an asset (see below: “How to apply”).

 

Candidates are encouraged to visit the Institute’s website to familiarize themselves with its research areas: http://www.ircl.cnrs.fr/english/index2.htm. Programme 4 in particular of the Institute’s research activities is entirely devoted to “The production, reception and circulation of books (16th -18th centuries)”. The centre works also on programmes which involve, to various extents, book history, such as “The circulation of ideas and the renewal of literary forms in the French and British cultural areas (Programme 1)”, “Traditions, their circulation and transmission” (Programme 2), “Drama and the moving picture” (Programme 3).

 

Here are a few examples of areas concerned by this call. These do not of course exclude other relevant areas:

 

- authors and publishers in France and Britain during the Classical Age

 

- major early modern publisher-booksellers

 

- 17th century promptbooks in France and Britain

 

- The French book market and foreign publisher-printers

 

Candidates are reminded that their Ph.D. will have to be completed in 3 years and are thus encouraged to choose topics feasible within that time frame. Ph.Ds. may be co-supervised by two members of the research centre and the successful applicant will be provided with support from the IRCL.

 

HOW TO APPLY?

 

Candidates should send a CV (maximum 3,000 characters incl. spaces) and a precise summary of their Ph.D. project (3,000 characters incl. spaces), in English or French to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  AND  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  BEFORE MAY 15, 2015.

 

After shortlisting, candidates will be interviewed (in French) at the beginning of July 2015. Applicants may be interviewed via videoconferencing.

 

The successful applicant will begin on September 1, 2015. Monthly salary for the three years: 1,500 to 1,800€. She or he may be housed in university accommodation (upon request only and depending on social criteria). 

 
 
Gobbo Name

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 26.154  Monday, 23 March 2015

 

[1] From:        Lawrence Weiss < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 20, 2015 at 7:05:09 PM EDT 

     Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: OP (Now Gobbo Name 

 

[2] From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         March 21, 2015 at 10:07:27 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: OP 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Lawrence Weiss < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 20, 2015 at 7:05:09 PM EDT 

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: OP (Now Gobbo Name)

 

It is not Mr. Blanton’s amateur standing which places him in what he calls a “lower caste.”  It is certainly not his legal education and experience as a litigator.  Quite the contrary, the interpretive, investigative, and rhetorical skills possessed by a good lawyer make him or her particularly well-suited to deal with critical and textual issues in literary scholarship.  I can think of a number of lawyers who are well-regarded Shakespeare scholars, notwithstanding that they are “amateurs,” i.e., it is not what they do for a living.

 

It is not Mr. Blanton’s legal training, but his failure to immerse himself in Shakespeare studies which make his opinions problematical.  He admits: 

 

>I have studied only one play in depth: MV. I have nothing to say

>about Lear or any other play.

 

He then acknowledges that

 

>To my knowledge no higher caste professional has ever analyzed 

>the trial scene as a trial (which it assuredly is not). I believe that I 

>am the first qualified trial attorney to educate himself or herself in

>sixteenth century English law and procedure and to attempt such 

>a thing.

 

I can assure Mr. Blanton that this is not case; the lapsus is not in the critical literature, but in Mr. Blanton’s knowledge of it.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gabriel Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 21, 2015 at 10:07:27 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: OP

 

I start to see how William Blanton is confusing himself when he writes:

 

> Somebody changed the spelling of 'precedent'

> in Q1 to "President" in F1 [The Merchant of

> Venice]

 

Those are the two readings, but to use the verb “changed” is to assert that somebody took the first and transformed it into the second, consciously or unconsciously. That’s not what happened.  The two spellings are equally valid spellings of the same word and scribes and compositors were not bound to preserve the spellings of the words they transmitted.

 

For us, practise/practice are equally valid spellings of one word. For early moderns, the same is true of president/precedent. No significance attaches to the choice of spelling, except perhaps in the mechanical sense that one or other might be preferred by a scribe or compositor for aesthetic or practical reasons.

 

It’s a difference, not a “change”.

 

Gabriel Egan

 
 
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