The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.176  Friday, 27 April 2012


From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         April 22, 2012 12:23:10 AM EDT

Subject:     Pedestrians Crossing Cairncross


If textual scholarship gets misdirected, earlier investigators whose work is better (and on the right track) may be treated more harshly than they deserve. That has happened to A. S. Cairncross; I’ll note some instances and implications.


Perusing Michael Egan’s Woodstock (4 volumes in 3 books, or vice-versa), I saw he dismissed any text’s chances of being a bad quarto, citing Urkowitz’s prophetic “If I Mistake” (ELR, ‘88): “among the most devastating critiques of ‘memorial reconstruction’ . . .” (206). Rather than assume naive opinion (it is), I looked up “Mistake,” which argues that Q Contention is an early version of 2H6, most often by rating Quarto (‘Merthfull King’) against Folio (‘rightful King’), where the one “sounds like a bit of Shakespearean exuberance” (Is there an echo in here?) and the “cooler, more exact” other “better fits the humorless” York. Alas, poor York. The rhetoric goes nowhere, but Urkowitz lodges a big claim against Peter Alexander, an early advocate (after Kenny) of bad-quarto status for Contention:


“Alexander buries or distorts . . . bibliographical data . . . . [He] quietly amends his hypothesis to account for occasional passages in Q and F which are nearly identical yet which could not be explained as . . . memorizing.


Stage directions and speech prefixes, for example, could not be memorially reconstructed since they were never said aloud during performance. The pirates could not memorize what they could not hear . . . . Nevertheless, the Quarto text of [Contention] has a large number of close correspondences in stage directions which ought to have proven terminally embarrassing to Alexander’s case” (252 - 53).


Actually, it’s the other way round, though the pejorative ‘quietly’ doesn’t apply to “Mistake.” I’ll note first that memorial reconstructions need only to construct stage directions and speech headings. Very often these betray reports. At any rate, ‘Enter one crying, A miracle, a miracle.’ doesn’t require the miracle author.


More to the point, close correspondences between bad quartos and later texts strongly indicate a common industry preference for printed copy to manuscript. Alexander did suggest that the F printers may have referred to Q, but ultimately he assumed the same as Urkowitz, that a direct line of manuscripts provided the correspondences. Doran, Greg, van Dam, and McKerrow saw the truth of the matter ('28, '30, '36): F is a partial reprint of Q.


Urkowitz buries or distorts that possibility in a short note: “Cairncross (Arden 2 2H6) argues that the Folio was set in part from annotated pages cut from copies of Q2 and Q3. This hypothesis accounts for many of the typographic similarities in these stage directions, but it then leaves the differences between them as an equally vexing bibliographical puzzle” (254).


Correspondences are not the same puzzle as differences. Crosswords don’t account for sudokus. The bibliographical fact is, Q influenced F. Cairncross solidified the finding, observing Q3 influence, whose arbitrary alterations found their way into F.


The “annotated pages cut from Q2 and Q3” is a bit misleading. In his SB 8 article on the use of quartos in the printing of H5 (available on-line), Cairncross describes a possibly “loose-leaf” method, but the concept does not depend on it. He demonstrates quite well that faulty quartos could be (and were) part of an efficient system whereby the compositor used a page corrected either in the margin or by pasting transcriptions from the manuscript copy-text onto the opposite Q page. In that manner compositors availed themselves of printed copy as needed (or not).


In the cases Cairncross discusses (H5 & 2H6), two quarto exemplars were necessary because pasting mutilated a page that was otherwise needed for copy. In each case, different editions (Q2 & Q3) seem to be in evidence. The full manuscript itself would remain intact and available.


Others don’t follow. For example, Ronald Knowles (Arden 3 2H6) has Cairncross proposing “cutting out one page and presumably sticking it on the manuscript.” No wonder Knowles finds the hypothesis absurd, blaming it on Cairncross’s imagination, rather than evidence and some imagination. It’s hard to know how a series editor could so misstate a predecessor. Corrupt copy continually augments better copy; workmen had reasons that non-workmen appreciate only by pretending to work. (Some confusion may be caused by Cairncross’s wording in describing a ‘modified’ instance of quarto use at sig. A4.)


Knowles adds: “It simply does not make sense. If the authorial MS was legible why use anything else, especially as all the various corrections and additions would have come from the MS anyway?” But what about F King Lear, Hamlet, H5, and other texts augmented by quarto copy? Knowles himself questions the provenance of the 2H6 ms. Maybe the printer considered Q and F-copy two p’s in a case.


Knowles states that Cairncross overlooks stage directions as evidence of quarto influence on 2H6, but his earlier article on H5 makes the point well enough. More important, Knowles notes that “much of Cairncross’s case for the contamination of F rested on the category of agreement in error. Believing that a few demonstrable instances of contamination indicated large-scale corruption, Cairncross confounded inductive and deductive approaches and duly discovered a large number of instances only a few of which were discovered by other editors” (134).


As I recall, Gabriel Egan’s new Struggle also faults Cairncross, not for relying on agreement in error (which Egan OK’s), but for taking general Q and F agreement as evidence of Q influence, thereby violating some bibliographic principle.


Comparison of the textual differences, the features of Contention itself, and inter-play borrowings show Q to be a very corrupt memorial report. It must differ from authorial text more than is indicated by F differences; there’s no chance they could agree over moderate stretches. A principle that agreements are not valid measures of influence may well apply to the histories of unbroken transcriptions, but not to memorial transmission of such obviously corrupting kinds. Cairncross realizes the implication:


“The result is that a F passage which looks ‘good’ on the surface, and has hitherto been accepted as good precisely because F and Q agree, is really ‘bad’” (xxxvii). It is a shame that sixty-five years down the rut editors are unable to come to grips with these matters.


Why is a reasonable view elbowed aside by Mistakes, Misdiagnosings and Struggles? Part of the problem is The Problem of Hamlet, wherein Cairncross went against the grain to follow evidence of corruption in Shakespeare’s texts. But that’s how beliefs are adjusted (except, of course, our own). Having learned from Caincross and his attitude, I’ll end on his (painful?) Problem Appendix, “Parallels between Q1 Hamlet, The Contention, and The True Tragedy.”


The key to understanding his listed parallels, which are numerous, is that “words within brackets appear also in the corresponding ‘good’ texts. All other words appear only in the ‘bad’ texts. The parallels illustrate the thesis that the same actor wrote all three piracies” (189).


Before pooh-poohing parallels we must grasp that they’re strengthened in significance by the fact that the more legitimate texts either don’t have them (at that spot) or they merely suggest the bad quarto parallels. It is unlikely that the author included them in ‘first shots’ only to excise them later. Cairncross gives chapter and verse, which I omit:


5.   Tr. Tr.   . . . in mind will beare himselfe a king,

      Ham.    him that bare a Monarkes mind,


10.  Cont.    bid (me comfort)

                    bid Buckingham and Clifford . . .

       Tr. Tr.   bid the Duke . . .

                    bid Richard Neuill . . .

                    bid her come,

                    bid you fight,

       Ham.    bid (him . . .)


18.  Cont.    I intreat (you to . . .)

       Tr. Tr.  (To) intreat a marriage

       Ham.    let me intreat you,

                   shall I intreate thus much,

                   let vs againe intreate . . . to


28.   Cont.   Forbeare . . . to urge

        Tr. Tr.  . . . to forbeare a while,

        Ham.   but forbeare a while,

                    Forbeare (the earth a while),

                    Forbeare Leartes,

                    forbeare . . .,


46.   Cont.    And take my leaue,

        Tr. Tr.  Ile take my leaue,

        Ham.   I . . . take my leaue,

                   So . . . doe we take our leaue,

                   wee'le take our leaue,

                   And take your leaue,


59.   Cont.   To plot these Treasons

        Ham.   are plotting Treasons,

                   Hath plotted Treasons,

                   . . . subtle treason that the king hath plotted,


70.   Cont.   I tell you, I'le tell you,

        Tr. Tr.  I tell thee,

        Ham.   I tell you, I'le tell you


Hamlet has numerous variations on ‘I tell you’; the other examples may be found elsewhere in the better texts. Yet these misplaced items are much like Alfred Hart’s listed repetitions and transpositionsonly less notable. Whether they indicate a particular reporter I don’t know, but they seem to be adopted phrases “going forward,” as they say now ad queasiam, and Cairncross rightly sees them as signs of reporting.


Gerald E. Downs

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