The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0366  Tuesday, 4 September 2012


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

Date:         September 3, 2012 5:48:23 PM EDT

Subject:     King Lear Analysis: F 2.1


Although eyeskip is most evident in Q1 Lear, I noticed an instance in F that Stone (and others) overlook. At the top of qq6r these lines occur:


But that I told him the reuenging Gods,

ʼGainst Paricides did all the thunder bend,

        (F 2.1.47–48 [TLN 981–82; qq6r1–2])


The qq5v catchword read “ ‘Gainst” until corrected at press to “But”. Stone rightly doubts eyeskip in compositor E’s reading of Q2 prose, where “gainst” and “but” are unlike and not placed (relative to each other) to induce an omission causing the catchword error:


       Bast. Perswade me to the murder of your Lordship, but that

I tolde him the revengiue Gods, gainst Paracides did all their

                 (Q2 2.1.47–48 [D1r36-37])


Stone proposes that E’s eye could stray from “but” to “ ‘gainst” if copy was lined as verse (as in F). But he doesn’t consider the probability of eyeskip caused by nearly identical phrases in the preceding lines at the bottom of qq5v:


Bast. Fled this way Sir, when by no meanes he could.

Glo.  Pursue him, ho: go after. By no meanes, what?

Bast. Perswade me to the murther of your Lordship,

       (F 2.1.44–46 [TLN 978–80; qq5v125–27])


After setting “by no meanes” at 978, E returned to his copy (likely Q2, identically lined here) a line below at “By no meanes,” when one line and a speech heading were omitted (“he could…meanes”). TLN 981 (“But . . . Gods,”) became the last line of qq5v and “ ‘Gainst” the catchword. On restoration, 981 was forced to qq6r, when E forgot to change the catchword to “But”, an oversight corrected at press. With this sequence, Q2, compositor E, and foul-proofing explain the evidence.


Charlton Hinman denies significant proofing before press-correction in The Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare, vol. 1 (London: OUP, 1963), 228. He addresses the consultation of copy necessary for this correction (306), but he does not account for the catchword error likely caused by restoration. Hinman wrongly asserts that the catchword “does not affect the text proper and hence barely deserves mention at all” (331). Cumulative evidence of eyeskip is important; Moxon describes restoration overrunning the sheet that “at last perhaps Drives out a Line to Come in in the next Sheet  (Mechanick, 236).


Without the mistaken catchword there is no obvious evidence here of foul-proofing. Yet that which doesn’t fit, ‘barely worth mention,’ can be key to understanding ‘the text proper.’


Gerald E. Downs


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