The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0267  Monday, 25 June 2012


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

Date:         June 25, 2012 1:06:58 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand Example (Egan, Davidson)


Steven Urkowitz responded to my shorthand example from Q1 Hamlet:


> I’d have us imagine that a certain playwright had . . . a

> sentence which . . . reads as if it is incomplete.


The Laertes sentence is complete enough; it doesn’t make any sense because it belongs to another scene.


> And I’d have us imagine that he disported this device at

> the occasional moment when he wanted to create a


We imagine that he used this device when we need to account for an insensible line to preserve the idea that Shakespeare designed Q1. But that kind of coincidence is highly improbable.


> So, in the instance cited below in a cut-and-paste from

> Gerald Downs’ post, I offer as a possible generative

> narrative that Shakespeare (himself, why not?)


Q1 is a very bad quarto. Shakespeare is not himself this time.


> “[By] My will, Not all the world [shall let my revenge].” with

> the “By” and the “shall let my revenge” being explained as

> implied,


“There shall be no let for revenge” means ‘no hindrance,’ In which case, “I don’t need no no hindrance” isn’t very sensible.


> such an explanation plausibly


Well, “plausibly” is bad argument if that’s all you have. We have Q2 telling a different story, where “My will . . .” fits.


> My point is that just because something illogical or

> ungrammatical appears in a text, we can’t just declare


It's not merely illogical and it's not ungrammatical. It's insensible and in the wrong place, demonstrably. Are we to suppose that Shakespeare rewrote the line later, this time to make sense?


Steven Urkowitz proposes an alternative to van Dam’s explication. But R. S. Crane observes that


> We must be guided . . . in choosing among alternative

> hypotheses [by] . . . economy: that hypothesis is the

> best . . . which requires the fewest supplementary

> hypotheses to make it work or which entails the least

> amount of explaining away.


I don’t know who Crane is, but that’s good advice. I got it from Steven’s

Shakespeare’s Revision of King Lear (148). Who’s ‘explaining away’ the evidence here? And who’s not counting ‘supplementary guesses’?


The fact is, playwrights write sensible dialogue most all the time (even Shakespeare!). When it isn’t, probability (math) says it’s corruption. The evidence agrees: transpositions (plenty more); borrowings; repetitions; you name it; etc. Q2 proves these things.


Gerald E. Downs

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