The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2373  Tuesday, 16 December 2003

From:           Holger Schott <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 15 Dec 2003 10:39:23 -0500
Subject: 14.2368 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2368 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

Steve Roth:

>Erne makes the strong point supported by Blayney et al. that an
>entry in the stationer's register didn't just protect a given text. It
>protected the stationer's member from *any* similar work which might
>interfere with sales.

Not exactly a new argument. Leo Kirschbaum argued pretty much the same
case in 1938 ("Is _The Spanish Tragedy_ a Leading Case? Did a Bad Quarto
of _Love's Labour's Lost_ Ever Exist?" _JEGP 37, 501-121). See also
Sidney Thomas, "The Myth of the Authorized Shakespearean Quartos," _SQ_
27 [1976], 186-92. It's an aspect of early modern publishing conventions
that has faded in an out of bibliographical and critical consciousness
throughout the century...

I'm not sure, however, that I understand how one can jump from this
observation (i.e., the fact that a publisher's ownership of a particular
title, say, "King John," gave him certain rights over _any_ text by that
name, Shakespearean or otherwise), to the claim that

>every pre-1603 Shakespeare play that was not so enjoined
>(or otherwise impeded) was, in fact, published.

Does this mean that Erne argues that _every_ play Shakespeare wrote
before 1603 was either published or entered into the register? (On the
basis of the negative evidence that entry wasn't necessary for
publication? Does he claim that the plays for which we don't have an
early text are "lost" quartos?) A few more details would be much
appreciated -- I haven't had a chance to look at Erne's book yet, but
his _SQ_ article of two (?) years ago on the same subject was
intelligent and pretty well argued. (Although his book on Kyd did
display a certain taste for broad speculation of the kind that he seems
to engage in here as well...)

Holger Schott

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