The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2446  Tuesday, 30 December 2003

From:           Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 29 Dec 2003 19:15:30 EST
Subject: 14.2299 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2299 Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist

Mac Jackson offered this opinion:

 >I have just finished reading Lukas Erne's _Shakespeare as Literary
 >Dramatist_ and agree with Seb Perry that it is among the most
 >significant works of Shakespearean scholarship in recent years.
 >I think it will take everybody a while to evaluate Erne's arguments,
 >but if they are judged persuasive, the book must have a profound
 >effect on Shakespearean textual study . . .

Erne is to be commended for bringing a number of issues together in
pursuit of his hypothesis that Shakespeare encouraged publication of his
plays. I agree with some of his judgments en route (others will agree
with more) and the book will be much cited in the near future.

However, the lasting impact of Erne's book will be minimal unless
discussion leads to some correction. I question his handling of many of
the larger issues and also some minor aspects of his presentation.
Erne's book is relatively short and readable. For these reasons the less
knowledgeable will perhaps tend to look to Erne as authority.  Readers
more familiar with prior scholarship will find much to argue with, if
not to disagree thematically.

As has been suggested already, much of Erne's hypothesis is obvious.
Shakespeare's plays were and are shortened in production.  Half were
printed in some form. Does it follow that Shakespeare himself
participated in and encouraged publication? One reads Erne's book with a
continuing feeling that he fails to advance his case in the current
chapter while promising a clearer picture in the next. We never quite
get there, despite the author's reiterated claims.

One of Erne's weaknesses is that he offers almost no text-based
argument, preferring instead the authority of numerous citations.  That
luxury may work for the favorable reviewer but not for the critic, who
must argue the evidence. I'm thinking of responding to some of his
presentation. Some matters of interest me are less important than
others, so I'm not sure how to proceed. Further, many of the issues
can't be discussed in few words.

Gerald E. Downs

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