The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0626 Sunday, 27 December 2009
Date: Friday, 18 Dec 2009 11:09:29 -0800
Subject: Shakespeare's Literary "Intentions"
>Lukas Erne put the silver spike to it quite decidedly a couple of
>... Shakespeare showed no interest whatsoever in the publication
of his plays. ...
This assertion seems to be the primary argument for the non-literary
position. Absence of evidence. Such absence can be convincing, of
course. But in an field where absence of evidence is more the rule than
the exception, it becomes far less so. (i.e., We have no evidence that
Shakespeare of Stratford had a library!)
>All evidence of revision in Shakespeare's plays points to theatrical
With apologies to the new bibliographers and their descendants, the
"evidence" of revision is so variously construed (by equally
well-"considered" scholars) as to be utterly inconclusive. (Look in
particular at William Long's work on the handful of extant playhouse
manuscripts, and many of the bibliographers' surmises start to look far
>*We* regard Shakespeare's plays as literature -- the question
is, did he?
This we can say with complete certainty: Shakespeare knew that his plays
were being read, and that they were being read by his best customers
(the inns-of-court men, courtiers, aristocrats, and nobles who could
afford 1. the good seats, and 2. to buy books): denizens of the
galleries at the Globe, the stage seats at the Blackfriars, and the
performances at court. (As Erne points out, prior to 1603, every one of
his plays that was not somehow constrained -- by a competing/preceding
stationer's registration or the like -- was in fact published, generally
within a year or two of staging.)
This does not of course definitively prove who Shakespeare was thinking
of when he composed. Each can draw his/her own conclusions from it. But
we know what he knew when he was writing.
Erne offers a whole raft of other evidence that you gloss over.
>There is not a scrap of evidence to support that point
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend who's an ardent
anti-Stratfordian. A rough re-creation:
"There's not a scrap of evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the
"Well, we have 29 extant editions of Shakespeare's plays (not counting
poems and etc.) that were published during his lifetime with his name on
them as author."
"Yeah, but even establishment scholars think some of those weren't
written by Shakespeare."
"Well yeah... (Unscrupulous publishers were capitalizing on his famous
"See!? There's not a *scrap* of evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford
wrote the plays."
>You have a gift (nay, a genius) for the non sequitur :-)
I take that as a compliment. <g>
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