The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0269  Saturday, 11 July 2010

From:         Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         Saturday, July 10, 2010      
Subject:      SBReview_7: The New Kittredge Shakespeare: Julius Caesar


 _The New Kittredge Shakespeare: Julius Caesar_. Ed. Sarah Hatchuel. 
Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing, 2008. ISBN-10: 1585102601. ISBN-13: 978-
1585102600. 144 pp. US$8.95.		

Reviewed by Alisha Huber, Mary Baldwin College

The New Kittredge Shakespeare series clearly began with a commendable idea: to 
make George Lyman Kittredge's editions of Shakespeare's plays available to a new 
generation of scholars. Kittredge's detailed and insightful footnotes and 
prefaces give the reader a window into two worlds -- Shakespeare's and 
Kittredge's. Kittredge's voice, in his notes, is strong and specific. When he 
glosses a masque as "a half-dramatic social entertainment," the reader hears, 
not only a definition of the word, but also Kittredge's own opinion of such 
entertainments (89). 

Reading Kittredge's introduction to _The Tragedy of Julius Caesar_, one can 
imagine what it must have been like to sit in one of his Harvard lectures. He 
begins by refuting the commonplace that the play would be more aptly titled "The 
Tragedy of Marcus Brutus." Kittredge argues that although Caesar dies at the 
midpoint of the play, his supernatural revenge makes him an ever-present figure, 
causing the conspirators to "turn our swords / In our own proper entrails." 
Caesar's pervasive presence makes the play a whole piece, rather than two 
disjointed stories yoked together. 

Kittredge follows this unified reading of the play by examining each character 
in turn. Here, his depth of knowledge is especially apparent. He explains 
Caesar's awkward tendency to refer to himself in the third person as 
Shakespeare's continuation of a long-standing stage tradition. He perfectly 
summarizes Cassius' mixed motives: "[His] passion does not burn with a clear 
flame, for his noble scorn of servitude is tainted with ignoble envy" (ix). 
Character readings like the ones Kittredge proposes would give an actor a good 
starting place in his own relationship with the character.

Kittredge closes his introduction by arguing in favor of a challenging reading 
of _Julius Caesar_: Shakespeare does not take sides. "The verdict, if there must 
be a verdict, he leaves to history," giving all of the principal characters 
admiring eulogies (x). This reading is challenging because, although Kittredge's 
evidence clearly points to this conclusion, Caesar is an easier story to tell if 
it is about freedom fighters overthrowing a dictator, or a good leader viciously 
assassinated. Telling both stories -- and neither -- requires mental 
flexibility. Kittredge's introduction serves the commendable function of asking 
readers, before they even enter the world of the play, to work at holding both 
truths in their minds -- that Caesar was "the foremost man of all this world," 
and that Brutus was "the noblest Roman of them all."

Kittredge bases his introduction firmly in the text. His writing is clear and 
purposeful. He carefully chooses points that will enhance the reader's 
experience. Shakespeare neophytes will get a gentle introduction to the issues 
the play raises, but seasoned scholars will find new information and new 
perspectives on the play. The second introduction in the edition, by editor 
Sarah Hatchuel, is less clear. Hatchuel puts forward a mix of literary criticism 
and performance history that would not prepare a lay reader to engage with the 
play. She seems to have designed some sections of the introduction, such as the 
performance history, for people who are unfamiliar with theater history more 
generally -- a high school English class, perhaps. Other sections, such as her 
analysis of the symbolism in Antony's funeral oration, make sense in the context 
of a discussion among serious scholars. The tenth graders who would find the 
stage history enlightening would giggle helplessly when they read, "It is as 
though Antony's voice and tongue were now fertilizing Caesar's wounded, 
feminized body" (xiii).   

The text itself is easy to follow, with clear speech headings and stage 
directions and no awkward hanging lines. The page layout system separating 
Kittredge's footnotes from Hatchuel's is difficult to follow at first.  While 
Kittredge's footnotes provide glosses for words that have fallen out of usage, 
Hatchuel's describe film versions of the action. She accompanies these notes 
with stills from various films. As film is her particular academic interest, 
Hatchuel's focus on film adaptations is unsurprising. It might help readers who 
have limited access to staged performances of _Caesar_, which, unlike _Hamlet_ 
or _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, is not in heavy rotation.   

Most of the editorial stage directions are helpful, and the editors carefully 
bracket them. Generally, a reader can tell where Shakespeare leaves off and the 
editors fill in. One notable exception is the silent emendation in II.1.40, of 
Brutus' question, which appears in the Folio as "Is not to morrow (Boy) the 
first of March?" Kittredge, like many other editors, silently changes "first" to 
"ides." He also provides a note that I.3 "takes place on the night of March 14." 
This adjustment, which makes the play's chronology more sensible, is 
objectionable because of its silence.  Had the editors pointed out this change, 
the reader could have decided for herself whether Shakespeare meant to have 
Brutus so distraught that he lost two weeks, or whether the compositor made an 
error in setting the scene. 

Following the text, the editors provide materials that would help students 
envision the play, including a short essay on "How to Read _Julius Caesar_ as 
Performance." At the end of an edition that largely focused on filmed 
adaptations of the play, this acknowledgement of the theater audience as a vital 
part of the performance was a welcome surprise. Hatchuel paints a gorgeous 
picture of how "the audience at the Globe theater [ . . . ] could become part of 
the Roman crowd, totally immersed in the dramatic events" (104). Her assertion 
that the actor and the spectator "both were united in the same communion of 
entertainment and imagination" was genuinely moving (104). In writing about the 
power of theater, Hatchuel should not have couched it in the past tense. Actors 
and spectators continue to create theater because of that communion, and not 
just in "original practices" spaces. Hatchuel's homage to the theater is 
backhanded at best -- it was beautiful; too bad it is over.

The remainder of the end material -- a timeline of Shakespeare's life, a solid 
bibliography, and a collection of discussion questions on the play -- would be 
useful to a teacher in a high school or undergraduate classroom, but probably 
not of interest to a graduate student or serious scholar. This confusion of 
audience is the most pervasively unsatisfying element of the New Kittredge 
Shakespeare. Preserving Kittredge's distinctive voice is a worthy exercise for 
the scholarly community. Reprinting his editions directly, without all of the 
additional material (or with material more clearly directed to an audience of 
specialists) would have fulfilled this audience's needs quite well. A classroom-
oriented edition is also a creditable project. Many of the materials provided 
would be useful to a classroom teacher. However, undergraduate or high school 
students might find Kittredge's original material mystifying. Some of his 
footnotes, literally, have footnotes. A student audience would have an easier 
time with an edition that was not also attempting to preserve the scholarship of 
the previous century. Actors and directors would benefit from an edition with 
less cluttered pages. The New Kittredge Shakespeare is a well-intentioned 
project, but it stumbles in trying to be all things to all people.

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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