The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0129  Saturday, 23 January 1999.

From:           Michael Ullyot <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Fri, 22 Jan 1999 12:37:39 +0000
Subject: 10.0112 Editions
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0112 Editions

Robin Hamilton praises the virtues of "good notes and introductions and
lots of background stuff" in the Norton Shakespeare, which seems
appropriate for students beginning their studies of the plays. However,
I wonder if I can't broaden this discussion and ask which, and for what
reasons, are the best single-volume editions of the plays? I have used,
variously, the Oxford and the New Penguin and (inevitably) the Arden
editions, and have yet to determine for myself which are the most
comprehensively helpful editions to use. I am aware that certain
editorial and typesetting practices determine the presentation of each
series (such as privileging folio over quarto editions), but quite
honestly I've never bothered to figure out which edition is best for
these reasons.

I wonder, then, to avoid individual and enthusiastic endorsements for
certain series, if I might pose a rather broad question: What factors
influence your decision to use one series over another, if indeed you do
not use a "Complete Works"? By this I mean not merely layout (footnotes
v.  endnotes) but editorial practices, such as the use of certain
published versions over others, or the general comprehensiveness of the
introduction or appendices. Is it possible to say that every edition of
one series is superior to every other, or is it best to use different
plays from different series?

I'd finally ask a simpler question: Why does every reputable edition
modernise (by which I mean not simply regularise) Shakespeare's
spelling?  Who was it who wrote (on the sonnets, I think) about losing
shades of meaning when early modern becomes modern spelling? With the
recent demise of Penguin's "Renaissance Dramatists" series, is there any
future for the old-spelling edition? And ought there to be?

Michael Ullyot

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