The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0531  Thursday, 16 August 2007

From: 		Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, August 16, 2007
Subject: 	TLS Shakespeare Issue

Last week, Julia Crockett announced that this week's TLS would be a 
Shakespeare issue. The TLS website provides enticing details, including 
Alan Jenkins's "Note from the Editor":

"In an important sense Shakespeare did not live in his life, if by life 
we mean circumstantial existence." Barbara Everett, in the latest of a 
distinguished series of essays on Shakespeare in this paper, shows why 
biography, attached of necessity to the social, the superficial, can 
tell us so little about the "provincial nobody" who was also one of the 
greatest of "those whose work is not superficial"; and why, even in the 
age of television and celebrity, we should be content to look for 
Shakespeare's face in the Droeshout engraving and the Stratford bust 
(and even more in the poems and plays) rather than searching for a more 
glamorous or sexy image.

The true biography of "gentle Shakespeare" might well be the story of 
his mind, but the life he did live was that of a highly successful 
playwright and actor-manager; his great poetry was written for the stage 
-- even if not in the Stratford of his upbringing, the place to which he 
eventually returned and which is now the home of Shakespeare study and 
performance. Earlier this year Jonathan Bate, one of the editors of The 
RSC Shakespeare, explained to TLS readers why he had based this new 
edition on the First Folio of 1623. There have been many editions of 
performance texts before this, as Peter Holland, who now reviews Bate's, 
reminds us; The RSC Shakespeare, while it makes some radical and 
original choices, presenting a Shakespeare who is, precisely, sexy and 
even "raunchy", does not engage directly with "the multiple discoveries 
that the directors, actors and designers" of the "magnificent" Royal 
Shakespeare Company have made about the plays since its inception. The 
TLS this week will speak to anyone who cares about Shakespeare, about 
poetry, drama, and human creativity, whether they are in Stratford or 
far beyond -- if not "beyond beyond".


Peter Holland begins his review, labeled online as "Sexy Shakespeare," 
with the following:

In 1887, Henry Irving began collaborating with his friend Frank Marshall 
on an edition of Shakespeare. The aim was to bring the plays to the 
general reader, then still a creature in no immediate danger of 
extinction, in a way that combined the latest scholarship of F. J. 
Furnivall in England and H. H. Furness in America with some sense of the 
plays in performance. Published in eight volumes over the next three 
years, The Henry Irving Shakespeare included illustrations by Gordon 
Browne which, while not representing performance directly, suggested 
current styles of stage costume, and notes by Irving on cuts in the 
text, both those used by professional commercial companies like his own 
and those that would make public readings or amateur productions 
practicable. The final volume to appear contained a general introduction 
and a biography of Shakespeare written by Edward Dowden, the foremost 
critic of the age.

There had been many editions of performance texts before this, including 
John Philip Kemble's acting editions and those by Charles Kean who 
proudly recorded the historical authenticity and antiquarian sources of 
his productions and ensured that his name on the title page was followed 
by his FSA, as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Earlier, there 
were the editions published by John Bell, starting in 1773, of the plays 
"as they are now performed at the Theatres Royal in London", based on 
the prompt-books for the plays in the repertory and with suggestions by 
Francis Gentleman for the right way to adapt the plays not currently 
being performed. Though Kemble's and Kean's names were very visible in 
their texts and though Bell's text emphasized its connection with the 
London stages, none was quite so emphatic in their linking of actor and 
author as The Henry Irving Shakespeare, and, as far as I know, there was 
no successor in quite that style. There is no Olivier Shakespeare or 
Gielgud Shakespeare, nor did Lilian Baylis edit an Old Vic Shakespeare.

Now there is a Complete Works edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric 
Rasmussen, already widely known as The RSC Shakespeare, a handsome piece 
of book-making, for all that the cover design suggests the future 
marketing of matching curtains. The publicity for the volume has 
trumpeted the fact that, for the first time ever, it is the First Folio 
(F1 as scholars call it) of 1623 that provides the basis for the text. 
This is, in effect, an edition of F1, a modernized, corrected and 
annotated version of that text, with Bate in overall charge, Rasmussen 
tightly controlling the textual matters, and Heloise Senechal 
supervising the commentary.


I eagerly await the issue's arrival in my mailbox.


S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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