The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0255  Monday, 18 June 2012


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

Date:         June 17, 2012 6:44:31 PM EDT

Subject:     Phila(bu)ster


When Gabriel Egan suggests that shorthand theory could be decided by particular textual passages, I’m willing to offer some. Hypotheses are best served by convergent, supportive inferences; but that’s what test cases will provide anyhow.


Michael J. Hirrel recently argued in RES that the “Roberts Memoranda” on a fly-leaf of the Stationers’ Register is not indicative, as most have supposed, of an alliance between publisher James Roberts and the Lord Chamberlain’s Company, but an attempt to keep Roberts himself from publishing rights to the plays in question. Hirrel’s analysis is very good, though his story of playtext acquisition is entirely speculative. He does show players tried to protect their property. They often failed; a skip into other decades tells the same tale.


Philip Herbert (Earl of P & M, etc.) in 1637 wrote to the Stationers’ Company to remind it of his brother’s earlier complaints that playbooks were published against the players’ interests and that they “had . . . much corruption.” It was happening again; plays “having been lately stollen or gotten . . . by indirect means . . .”


If the reference is to William Herbert’s 1619 letter reported by Malone, it wasn’t too effective even then; Beaumont’s & Fletcher’s Drama (BFD) Philaster, a bad quarto of the first order, was registered in January of 1620. Thomas Walkley’s preface to the 1622 second edition speaks of “dangerous and gaping wounds . . . received in the first Impression.”


Scholars have never quite figured this out. Most ignore the play; editors are at a loss, despite the fact that Q2 benefits from better copy, though (as usual) Q2 is a partial reprint of the corrupt Q1. I think Q1 is pretty clearly a theatrical report. A late reader agreed that my “argument for shorthand reporting in Philaster is essentially sound,” though she didn’t care for my style; so much for publication. But the question is important after all (no matter who does the thinking). I’ll rerun a passage here, as a convincing example of shorthand reporting and to shed more light on the larger question.


When editor Robert K. Turner investigated Philaster, though “memorial contamination” occurs in “special circumstances,” he felt his description weighed against a report, “even one of an extraordinary species.” But he didn’t consider shorthand:


> Between 1619 and 1622 five plays belonging to the King’s

> Men were published—The Maid’s Tragedy (1619), A King

> and No King (1619), Philaster (1620), Thierry and Theodoret

> (1621), and Othello (1622). All these first editions, except

Thierry and Theodoret, were succeeded within a few years

> by second editions in which the texts were materially altered.

> All except The Maid’s Tragedy were published by Walkley. It

> is natural . . . to think of these texts as being somehow related,

> although the nature of the relationship is at present unknown

> . . . . None of these texts is as corrupt as Philaster Q1, but . . .

> it is possible that Walkley garnered five scribal copies which

> may have differed considerably in physical state but have

> come into being under the same or similar circumstances."


Turner’s insight is limited by “New Bibliography” preoccupation with memorial reconstruction—by one or two actors, or whole-cast—as the only species of reporting. When corruption in Philaster supports neither form, evidence of memorial transmission is laid to foul papers, scribes, or to dictation. But if Philaster is read in the shorthand light one may conclude it is reported.


Laurie E. Maguire recently diagnosed Philaster as “not memorial reconstruction,” by her criteria denying reporting of any kind. Her method dismisses the decisive evidence of Philaster’s second edition (Q2, 1622), which prior scholarship recognizes as necessary to understanding the origins of Q1. Without comparison to Q2, a probe of the Q1 wounds can’t divulge the repetitions, omissions, or insertions. Jerome W. Hughes, however, asserts from Q2 evidence that Q1


> mishears, substitutes, and omits words, phrases, and

> lines. Q1 is redundant, expanding the text by the

> introduction of exclamations, nouns of address, and

> connective words. Q1 distorts the meaning of numerous

> passages by attempted paraphrase, often missing the

> authors' subtleties and rhetorical effectiveness. Q1 is

> frequently confused by stage action and misassigns many

> speeches. Q1 transposes and repeats words . . .

> apparently resulting from the confusion caused by similar

> content and construction within the same or another speech

> . . . . Q1 simplifies. Occasionally Q1 anticipates a word or

> phrase. Q1 changes verse to prose, prose to verse, and

> evidences mislineation in almost every speech . . . .

> (Jerome William Hughes, "A Textual Study of Beaumont and

> Fletcher’s Philaster" unpub. U. of Iowa diss. (1948), 22-3.)


Here are two passages. Hughes’s analysis of fifty-seven extracts (or anyone’s close comparison) should satisfy skeptics that Q1 Philaster derives memorially from text closely related to Q2:


Phi. You will not kill me then?

Boy. Kill you,

Prin. Not for the world.

Phi. I blame not thee Bellario, thou hast done but that

Which gods would haue transformd themselues to do,

Be gone, leaue me without reply, this is the last             Exit Boy.

Of all our meetings, kill me with this sword, be wise,

Or worse will follow, we are two, earth cannot beare at once, resolue to do or suffer.

Prin. If my fortune be so good to let me fall vpon thy hand,

I shall haue peace with earth;

Yet tell me this, there will be no slanders, no iealousie, in the other world no il here?

Phi. No.

Prin. Shew me the way to ioy.

Phi. Then guide my feeble hand, you that haue power

To do it, for I must performe a piece of Iustice:

If your youth haue any way offended heauen,

Let prayers short and effectual, reconcile you to't.

Prin. I am prepard,    Enter a Countrey Gallant.

Covn. I will see the king if he be in the Forrest,

I haue hunted him this two houres, if I should come home,

And not see him, my sisters would laugh at me,

I can see nothing but people, better horst then my selfe,

That out ride me, I can heare nothing but shouting,

These kings had neede of strong braines,

The whooping would put a man out of his wits:

Theres a Courtier with his sword drawne, by this hand vpon a woman, I thinke.

Phi. Are you at peace?        Phy. wounds her.

Prin. With heauen and earth.

Phi. Nay, they diuide thy soule and body.

                (Q1, 4.3.56ff [G3v])

   Phi. You will not kill me then?

   Ara. Kill you?

   Bell. Not for the world.

   Phi.  I blame not thee,

Bellario: thou hast done but that, which Gods

Would haue transform’d themselues to doe: be gone,

Leaue me without reply: this is the last          Exit Bell.

Of all our meeting. Kill me with this sword;

Be wise, or worse will follow; we are two

Earth cannot beare at once. Resolue to doe,

Or suffer.

   Ara. If my fortune be so good, to let me fall

Vpon they hand, I shall haue peace in death.

Yet tell me this, there will be no slanders,

No Iealousie in the other world, no ill there?

   Phi. No.

   Ara. Shew me then the way.

   Phi. Then guide

My feeble hand, you that haue the power to doe it,

For I must performe a peece of Iustice. If your youth

Haue any way offended heauen, let prayers

Short, and effectual, reconcile you to it.

   Ara. I am prepared.   Enter a country fellow.

   Coun. I'le see the King, if he be in the forrest, I haue hunted him

these two houres : if I should come home and not see him, my sisters

would laugh at me: I can see nothing but people better horst then

then my selfe, that out ride me; I can heare nothing but showting.

These Kings had need of good braines, this whooping is able to

put a meane man out of his wits. There's a Courtier with his sword

drawne, by this hand vpon a woman, I think.

  Phi. Are you at peace?

  Ara. With heauen and earth.

  Phi. May they diuide thy soule and body.

                    (Q2, 4.3.56ff, [H3])


Q1 verse is mislined and the “country gallant” prose is printed as verse. Q1 omits (“meane”), adds (“to ioy”), and substitutes (“strong”). Hughes observes that Q1 alteration of Q2’s “peace in death” to “peace on earth” anticipates “With heaven and earth.” Compositors can’t commit such error when anticipated words or concepts are far from a mistaken insertion. Generic prefixes (“Boy” and “Princ.”) indicate dependence on dialogue for names. Though Bellario is identified in Act 2 and Arathusa is named near the end of Act 3, generic headings are kept until Bellario is designated in the last full page.


However, the courtiers and ladies must be differentiated. Bordeaux’s stenographer (call him a hypothesis if you like) marked changes of speakers but speech headings waited on transcription. Maguire reports of another suspect text “a great number of errors in [speech prefixes], (13 in all).” Q1 Philaster misassigns five times as many speeches, none noticed by Maguire. This play, by itself, shows how mistaken she is to forgo comparison to second texts.


Memorial reconstruction is stymied by the evidence. Turner sees “no indication in Q1 of a specific reporter or reporters”; the “variants from Q2 are scattered throughout passages assigned to all characters.” Turner suggests that prefix error occurred during dictation by principal players but he ultimately rejects communal reporting. Hughes suggests “Thrasiline” as a reporter, though it is hard “to account for the fact that fourteen of his speeches are misassigned.” He cites Kirschbaum on the futility of discovering the reporter’s identity. The evidence points to Q1 transmission by shorthand, where prefix mixups are inevitiable. There’s no reason to blame dictating / reconstructing actors, authors, or scribes for the confusion. In the example above, with two characters to choose, “Kill you” and “Not for the world” are misassigned. Elsewhere, courtiers Lyon, Trasaline, and Cleremon are given each other’s lines willy-nilly; few characters are left out of the mix-ups:


Q2 (I2 33–37, I2v 1–2):               Q1 (H2v 30–35):


K. Is the villaine taine.                  King. Is the villaine tane?

Pha. Sir, there be two . . .            Leon. Sir, . .

Phi. Question it no more, it was.   King. Question it no more,…

K.  The fellow that did fight…        Pha. The fellow…

Ara. Ay me, I know he will.           Princ. Ay me, I know him well.

K. Did not you know him?             King. Did not you know him?

With many players "on stage" the Q1 lines are dealt out: Leon (instead of Pharamond) replies to the King, who is assigned Philaster's admission; Pharamond asks the King’s question before the Princess’s inaccurate aside. Corruption so extensive is not explained by a “common habit of copying the dialogue first and adding the speakers’ names later.” Bordeaux’s misassigned speeches take on added importance by extrapolation from clear instances in Philaster. That might be said of other evidence if a bias against theatrical reporting were not evident (as in the Philaster scholarship). Although Ashley Thorndike concluded more than a century ago that the body of Q1 was “based on a copy made by some scribe in the audience,” editors ignore shorthand. Hughes (“convenient and interesting”) rejects it for familiar reasons; he thinks theorists assume one can differentiate “substitutions made by the actors and those made by the reporter.” Much evidence allows of no distinction, though some might. More tellingly, shorthand allows errors of stenographers, actors, and other agents to coexist: actors’ anticipations aren’t stenographer’s doings, though they easily misassign speeches. Transcription explains neither kind of evidence.


Hughes also believes that published systems were the only systems, and he asserts that shorthand “does not account for the differences between the two quartos.” Reports of imperfect performances need only to accommodate, not to account for imperfection. Still, Hughes finds the implication unlikely that the “best actors of the day,” with sixteen roles, performed only three minor parts at a high level. Part-perfect players are imaginary, yet even when Hughes determines that “whoever reported Philaster was fairly accurate,” he can’t imagine this text as a performance. But histories of line-accuracy may only be found in reports suspected because of their corruptions, or in “not-so-good” texts transmitted by “bad” methods. Bordeaux’s self-evident phonetic accuracy predicts that some well-performed plays are well-reported and “cur’d” (authoritatively or not) to seem “perfect of their limbes.”


If Philaster is accepted as a theatrical report the question is whether other Walkley Quartos “somehow relate” to stenography. All agree on Q1 inferiority, and Turner is convinced “that the Q2 annotator worked from authoritative papers.” Yet a corrupt text was good enough to allow Q2 compositors their indulgence in a trade preference for printed copy over manuscript copy. Turner believes that an annotated Q1 exemplar served the purpose; Gurr agrees that contamination “of Q2 by Q1 must be acknowledged.” Dramatic editions use bad copy similarly elsewhere, which indicates a less-than-total interest in repairs (and lack of authorial involvement). At times, this circumstance is important.


Because character names stem from dialogue in shorthand reports, spellings may vary more than in scribal copies (Cleramont, Clerimon, Clerimont, Gleremon). Designations can be made up (country gallant). Turner and Gurr may mislead readers with their Q1/Q2 comparisons. Gurr states that “Arethusa and Bellario are named only as ‘Princesse’ and ‘Boy’ until Act 3, and Cleremont and Thrasiline, not mentioned in the text by name at all, appear only as names in stage directions as late as Act 4” (lxxviii). But the beginning and end of Q1 differ considerably from Q2; comparisons are only valid for the “body” of the texts. Q1 begins with Lyon answering a greeting: “Noble friend welcome, and see who encounters vs, honourable good Clerimon”; who replies, “My good Lord Lyon, most happily met worthy [& slippery?] Trasiline.” Q1 dialogue supplies the names at once to the putative (not to me) reporter. It’s odd Q2 fails to identify these important speakers to its presumed audience, yet it assigns their speeches properly.


Shorthand explains these passages; I could have chosen others that do the same. How else can Q1 Philaster have come to be? It proves in turn that repertory actors strayed from their received texts over time. How else could it be?


Gerald E. Downs


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