The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0356  Wednesday, 29 August 2012


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

Date:         August 28, 2012 8:13:48 PM EDT

Subject:     King Lear Analysis: 2.4


Some confusions in King Lear can outlast early and modern attempts at correction. Rather than rely on F’s authority in these cases it’s better to assume both authority and corruption in Q1 and its printer’s copy. That may be as close to Shakespeare as we get. At 2.4.91–105 (outer E), Q(corrected) reads:


   Glost. My deere Lord, you know the fierie qualitie of the

Duke, how vnremoueable and fixt he is in his owne Course.

   Lear. Vengeance, death,plague,confusion,what fierie quality,

why Gloster,Gloster, id’e speake with the Duke of Cornewall,and

his wife.

   Glost.  I my good Lord.

   Lear.  The King would speak with Cornewal, the deare father

Would with his daughter sp eake,commands her seruice,

Fierie Duke, tell the hot Duke that Lear,

(Qb 2.4.91–105 [TLN 1161–69])


Qa and Qb each seem to influence F with “incompatible variant pairs”:


come and tends seruice,    (Qa TLN 1168

The fierie Duke,                                1169)


commands her service,

Fierie Duke,                        (Qb and Q2)


commands, tends, service, (F TLN 1378           

Fiery? The fiery Duke,                     1380)


Comparing F, “Fiery? The fiery Duke, tell the hot Duke that—” to Qa, “The fiery Duke, tell the hot Duke that Lear”, I tend to agree with Stone that Qa “represents the authentic text”, since it is metrically acceptable. Qb 105 begins, “Fiery”; that’s OK if a trisyllable, but no better than Qa. Blayney speculates that “fierie the duke” was in Q1 copy unpunctuated, which a compositor (purposely or not) transposed to “The fierie Duke”. Next, unclear foul-proofing instructions to reverse the transposition (as per copy) caused “the” to be dropped in Qb, where miscorrection made an otherwise unnecessary change (245). These suggestions plausibly assume “good” copy. Yet the notion that F’s “collator” found Qa’s “The fierie Duke” in need of correction is unlikely unless something indicated that his ms. copy was imperfect. Blayney credibly takes Q2’s “Fierie Duke” (with no definite article) to be that something; the elements of F’s redaction of line 1380 are then in Qa and Q2 (F’s supplementary copy). That would also be said of F’s “commands, tends, seruice,” if it derives not from an authoritative source, but a similar conflation.


Qa reads “The King would speak with Cornewal, the deare fate / Would with his daughter speake, come and tends seruice,”. If Qb’s “commands her seruice,” is conjectural sophistication, then F is faulty. The King’s momentary lapse into third-person conciliatory phrasing is a facetious second request for the presence of both Duke and daughter, where Qa’s “come and tends service” may accurately reproduce copy: Contracted “his” is common in Shakespeare; e.g. Q1 reiterates Lear’s order: “Tell the Duke and’s wife, Ile speake with them / Now presently, bid them come forth and heare me,” (1179), where an apostrophe is more apparently needed. Qa’s “tend[’]s” is sensible (Q2 Hamlet, “The time inuests you goe, your seruants tend.”) But without the contraction mark the meaning was lost in print (and after). Phonetically correct but under-punctuated copy solves the crux; consequences of miscorrection credibly stem from the first reading. What kind of Q1 copy might lead to so much corruption?


Gerald E. Downs


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