Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0591.  Sunday, 3 July 1994.
From:           David Scott Wilson-Okamura <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 2 Jul 94 10:39:39 CDT
Subject:        The new Everyman editions
I found the Everyman _Hamlet_ at the downtown Kroch & Brentano's last week.
I was not especially impressed.  To my mind the text is an uncomfortable
compromise between modern and old spelling.  John F. Andrews, the Everyman
_Hamlet_ editor, makes a big deal of old spelling puns, and so preserves the
base text spelling where he thinks it significant.  The Everyman text also
makes "bountiful use of capitalized words . . . in the hope that today's
audiences will be made continually aware that the works they're contemplating
derive from an earlier epoch" (xliii).
Now to my mind it is a good thing to preserve puns and maintain some
historical distance.  I also think the past as such is romantic, so I am
predisposed (on purely aesthetic grounds) to like _any_ edition that
preserves so-called accidentals.  Unfortunately, the Everyman text does not
preserve them consistently.  Old spelling is preserved only where the editor
finds it significant; capitalization is usually guided by the First Folio,
but not always: "In some instances the Folio capitalizes words that the
Everyman text of the same passage lowercases; in other instances Everyman
capitalizes words not uppercased in the Folio.  The objective is merely to
suggest something of the flavour, and what appears to have been the
rationale, of Renaissance capitalization" (_ibid._).
It may be that the editor only steps in to add a capital when there is an
obvious _printer's_ error--the Everyman introduction does not say.  But a
half-normalized text strikes me as dangerous to the very "awareness" of
historical distance that the editor is trying to inculcate.  The text is
trying very hard to look like something it is not: a verbatim report of the
plays as first published.  For the scholar who knows that he is not looking
at a consistent transcript the edition is merely useless.  For the
undergraduate, however, the edition is something worse, because it inspires
the reader with more confidence in his text than is really justified by the
editorial principles.
This is not to say that students should all read old spelling editions; nor
need students who read Shakespeare in modern spelling editions miss out on
any of the puns that Andrews wants to point out: these can all be put in the
notes.  And in fact the notes that Andrews does give are quite good, in my
opinion, and include some good defenses of the Q2 variants.  Moreover text
and notes are conveniently arranged on facing pages.  But then so are those
of the Folger editions (old and new), which sell for the same price, have
cool pictures, a color cover, _and_ mark out IN THE TEXT all the lines and
phrases that derive exclusively from Q2, all the lines and phrases that
derive exclusively from F, and all the lines and phrases that derive
exclusively from editorial tradition.  Still the best student edition for my
                                                Yours faithfully,
                                                David Wilson-Okamura
                                                This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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