The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0527  Wednesday, 25 February 2004

From:           Bill Lloyd <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Feb 2004 06:21:44 EST
Subject:        Scribal Copy for Q1 Richard II?

Scribal Copy for Q1 Richard II?

[Apologies for the length of this post!]

Scholars have been undecided as to whether the compositor's copy for
Richard II (Q1597) consisted of a manuscript (foul or fair) in
Shakespeare's hand or was a scribal transcript in the hand of another.
The latest survey in the Arden III edition of 2002 [pp.517-20] admits
that "[o]n this point the evidence remains inconclusive" . But after
citing the arguments of Dover Wilson, Pollard, Hinman, Craven, Alexander
and Greg in favor of holograph copy and Ure, Feuillerat, and Jackson in
favor of a scribal transcript, the Arden editor seems to come down in
favor of holograph, for example: "...it is just as logical to infer that
the distinctive pattern of merged lines points to a Shakespearean
holograph-and this despite disturbances of metre in other places that
may well be compositorial," and "[t]he arguments for holograph copy,
however, cannot be dismissed," and sums up by citing the arguments of
the latest Oxford editors.

The Oxford Textual Companion states "The stage directions in Q are
authorial in character, and the text is thought to derive directly from
Shakespeare's foul papers or from a non-theatrical transcript of them.
The relative absence of the inconsistencies, confusions, and
Shakespearian spellings associated with foul-paper texts leads to the
suspicion that a transcript intervened. However, the only convincing
evidence for such a transcript is the preference for the spelling 'Oh'
where Shakespeare preferred 'O'. It remains possible-perhaps even most
probable-that Q was set from well-ordered authorial papers." [p.306]

So the current consensus, as represented by the influential Oxford and
Arden III editions, seems to be that while it is not impossible that the
Q1 copy was a scribal transcript, it is probable the manuscript was in
Shakespeare's hand. I here present some evidence suggesting that this is
unlikely and that the manuscript from which Q1597 was set was quite
probably a scribal transcript by someone other than Shakespeare.

It will be helpful to consider Q1 Richard II in light of the case of the
first quarto of 1 Henry IV. The Oxford Textual Companion gives thirteen
reasons for believing that this manuscript was not in Shakespeare's hand
but was a scribal copy [pp.329-30]. (This fragmentary first edition in
most other accounts is called Q0, but is designated Q1 by the Oxford
editors.) Reason #1 is: "Q consistently departs from Shakespeare's
preference *between* in favour of *betwixt* (Jackson, 'Two Shakespeare
Quartos')."  Reason #11 is: "As Walker pointed out Q is sparse in its
use of contracted forms; expansions are more likely to be scribal than

As has been shown by MacDonald Jackson, David Lake and others, early
modern writers often displayed consistent preferences among variant
forms of connective words, for example Among vs. Amongst, Between vs.
Betwixt, or the three-way choice between While, Whiles and Whilst. These
choices are (at least potentially) metrically equivalent, and do not
bear much stylistic significance so that an author would not normally be
aware of his preference and would not alter his choice depending on
genre, register, verse vs. prose, etc. It is true that interference by
collaborators, scribes and compositors may sometimes alter the
connective profile of a given work; and some writers simply don't have
strong preferences for one or another connective. But when a number of
works by the same writer from a number of printing houses or manuscript
sources show a consistent pattern, it seems safe to say that the
preference displayed is the writer's own.

The following table gives figures for three connective choices and for
contractions of 'the' in the 10 works which correspond most closely to
Richard II and 1 Henry IV in genre, style and date. Richard III, King
John, 2 Henry IV and Henry V are the histories written immediately
before, during and after the period when R2 and 1H4 were written
(c1595-97). The Oxford Textual Companion states that 2 Henry IV and
Henry V were set up from holograph copy; and one would further think
that the stylistic minutiae of 2 Henry IV would correspond closely to
its companion play. Venus & Adonis and Lucrece are, like Richard II,
written in a relatively heightened and formal verse style, while Love's
Labour's Lost, Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo & Juliet, and to some
extent Merchant of Venice represent the "poetic" period of Shakespeare's
plays to which Richard II also belongs. Finally, LLL, MND, R&J Q2, 2H4
and MV are "good quartos", possibly set up from mss. in Shakespeare's
hand, but in any case believed to closely mirror his orthography,
sub-style and preferences, while the two narrative poems are believed to
have been set up from holograph copy.

Title           th' V   th' P / among -st   / between  -xt  /   while whiles whilst

Rich III [F1]   10      0       2       0       7       1       6       3       1
V&A              2      0       1       0       3       0       2       0       0
Lucrece  7      0       0       0       5       0       13      1       0
LLL              7      3       3       0       3       0       6       0       0
MND              3      2       2       0       6       1       5       1       2
R&J              6      0       6       0       3       0       5       1       0
K John          12      0       3       0       7       1       3       3       1
MV               9      2       5       0       10      3       4       1       2
2 Hen IV        11      19      6       1       6       0       1       3       0
Hen V           24      8       1       0       10      0       5       7       1
10 Works        81      34        29    1         60    6        50     20      7
STMore   3      3       1       0       0       0       0       1       0

Rich II          0      0       0       1       1       3       3       0       12
1 Hen IV         0      0       1       3       0       7       5       0       1

[These figures have been compiled from the Harvard Concordance; readings
given there as departing from copy-text have been excluded. Most have
been checked against the old-spelling texts available on the ISE
website. Two of the twelve Whilsts in Richard II are from the deposition
scene, which is of course not in Q1 but which I believe was part of the
original play. If they are excluded, the argument is not affected.]

Shakespeare's connective preferences in these 10 works is quite clear.
He chooses Amongst only once against 29 instance of Among. His
preferences for Between over Betwixt, and for While/Whiles over Whilst
are ratios of 10 to 1. (The "bonus figures" for the scene from Sir
Thomas More which is probably Shakespearean holograph tend to confirm
the sample profile.) The connective usage of both Richard II and 1 Henry
IV presents a clear contrast. 1 Henry IV differs from the comparison
sample in two of three connectives, showing an absolute preference for
Betwixt (as MacDonald Jackson pointed out); and reversing the
Among:Amongst profile-- its 3 instances of Among is three times that of
all the comparison plays combined. Richard II differs from the
comparison sample in all three connectives, preferring Amongst, Betwixt
and Whilst. The single Amongst (to no Among) is not statistically
significant but it equals the total Amongst displayed by all 10
comparison plays and, taken along with the preferences of the other two
connectives, contributes to the anomalous pattern. Betwixt in Richard II
is preferred over Between 3 to 1. Neither Richard II nor 1 Henry IV
displays any instances of Whiles- a slightly uncommon form that
Shakespeare was fond of, as evidenced by its appearance in 8 of the 10
comparison sample plays. And most unusually there are twelve instances
of Whilst- more than any other play in the canon- and it is preferred
over While by a ratio of 4 to 1.

The Oxford editors report Alice Walker's comment that 1 Henry IV is
"spare in its use of contractions". The same is true of Richard II. In
fact both 1H4 and R2 are completely devoid of one of the most common
contractions, used by many writers in both verse and prose- th' for the.
As can be seen from the 10 plays in the comparison sample, Shakespeare
used this contraction in histories, tragedies and comedies, in verse and
prose, early and late. Even the brief More scene yields 3 in verse and 3
in prose. The complete absence of this contraction from both Richard II
and 1 Henry IV stands in stark contrast. In the latter case this is
rather surprising as its companion play 2 Henry IV contains 30 instances
of th'  in both verse and prose. In the case of Richard II the formality
of the verse may be thought to preclude the use of contractions as
giving too informal a flavor. But the practice of Shakespeare in his
other 'poetic' verse plays and in his narrative poems does not support
this view.

Two other of the Oxford editors' Thirteen Reasons For Scribal Copy in
1H4 may also apply to Richard II.  Reason #6 points out that there is in
1 Henry IV an anomalously high percentage-just over half- of certain
types of stage directions lacking 'and' or 'with',. A table is given
showing rates of this lack in other Shakespeare plays. Richard II is the
next highest, with a third of its stage directions given in this form.
Reason #7 cites the use in 1H4 of the Latin plural stage direction
"manent", one of three occurrences in all of Shakespeare's plays. One of
the other two occurs in Richard II.

Scribal copy has been accepted in the case of 1 Henry IV, but has been
resisted in the case of Richard II. Scholars have felt that because some
palpably Shakespearean features-habits of lineation, lightness of
punctuation, etc.-can be seen to 'show through', that the printer's copy
was probably Shakespeare's manuscript. But this view does not take into
account the fact that Richard II (like 1 Henry IV) is anomalous in its
usage of connectives and contractions compared with those of
Shakespeare's works which are similar in genre, style and date. Since
the compositors of various printing houses more or less faithfully
transmitted Shakespeare's preferences in the other works this strongly
suggests that some agent, presumably a scribe, imposed these
non-Shakespearean features in the manuscripts that were used for
printer's copy. Since Valentine Simmes printed Q1 Richard II and Peter
Short Q0 and Q1 of 1 Henry IV it is unlikely that the similar features
of these texts were coincidentally imposed by different compositors.
Taken together with the anomalous stage directions cited above, these
features suggest not only that the manuscript of Richard II was scribal,
but also that the scribe who produced it may have been the same who made
the 1 Henry IV manuscript.

It cannot finally be determined why these two plays, among the
comparable Shakespeare texts of the period, should have been copied over
in such a way as to give them a somewhat more formal cast. But it is
noteworthy that both were subject to censorship-Richard II for its
deposition scene, and 1 Henry IV over the use of the name Oldcastle. It
is perhaps likely that the Master of the Revels required from the
players a new manuscript fair-copied after the changes had been made. A
scribe charged with producing non-threatening copies of potentially
dangerous plays may have tried to make the style more sedate. However it
may have happened, he clearly seems to have imposed his connective
preferences on these two plays.

Here's a radical suggestion: what if an editor of 1 Henry IV were to
change wholesale every instance of Betwixt in the text to Between?
Shakespeare did not absolutely eschew Betwixt so there's the possibility
that editor would be eliminating a genuinely Shakespearean reading or
two. But he or she would almost certainly be restoring more genuinely
Shakespearean readings than would be eliminated. And then on to the
Whilsts in Richard II?

Bill Lloyd

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