The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0434  Friday, 26 October 2012


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

Date:         October 24, 2012 8:10:45 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Lear 5.3


Steven Urkowitz continues:


> We were disputing around the last scene in LEAR where

> the line “Save him, save him” happens immediately after

> Edgar has mortally wounded Edmund. The Oxford/Norton

> texts . . . take the speech from Albany and give it instead

> to ALL, like, say, Albany and Goneril and the Herald and

> the soldier(s) . . . and who else?


As I’ve noted, STM has “all” twice in a row (after the eyeskip omission was interpolated), which prefixes reasonably mean (Melchiori) “some” and “others.” It would be up to the players to assign the speeches and to vary the exclamations. All though my hero van Dam suggested “All” in 1935, which suggests itself as a misreading to the unlikely “Alb”, both prefixes are probably mistaken (as I’ve argued).


> I was . . . surprised when I saw this ALL speech prefix,

> since Q and F both read, clear as clear can be, “Alb.”


Q1 gets lots of speeches wrong, many of which are followed by or mishandled in the derivative F. Agreement being neither here nor there, it comes down to textual criticism. The received speech headings of the corrupt texts have no more authority than the sense they make. It won’t do to tease a “Shakespeare moment” out of the text when another s.p. is more sensible; As Marion Trousdale observed years ago, just about anything can be tortured to a meaning (or spoken as if one cared). The evidence begins with the more clear examples of corruption, which in their numbers should encourage students (College students? Of course not!) to analyze more texts than the obviously erroneous.


> the Textual Companion sends one to Blayney, and then

> one finds that the cited Blayney work must be The Texts

> of King Lear and their Origins. So through Interlibrary Loan

> I got hold of Peter’s magnificent book. And then I spent quite

> a while with his index, trying to find where he discussed his

> bold choice of ALL over ALB.


I was going to suggest earlier that the answer wasn’t in Volume 1, but it’s always worthwhile to look into Blayney’s exceptional book. Blayney reserved almost all textual analysis for Volume 2, as it were(n’t). Stone doesn’t have an index, so watch out.


> [Blayney's] literary interpretation of Albany’s role, quite

> other than my own, led him to figure that of all the people

> on stage at that moment, Albany was the least likely to

> say about Edmund, “Save him.”


I agree with Blayney, as explained in another post, but I doubt he asks who was the most likely speaker, since he assumes, with Steven, foul-papers copy (a big mistake). Blayney follows van Dam in assuming a misreading.


> Now, yes, Peter Blayney knows more about Early

> Modern printing than anyone in the bibliographical forest,

> but his opinions about Albany’s characteristics and

> whether or not Shakespeare might have given that line to

> Albany or to ALL are based solely on his taste, not his

> immense bibliographical acumen.


That’s not quite true. Misreading is often judged by such acumen. And “taste” is not a very good substitute for “textual analysis.” Nevertheless, Urkowitz is right to observe that bibliographical expertise doesn’t confer bibliographical certainty on textual judgments.


> In citing Blayney’s . . . speculation without his own

> clear explanation that the idea is . . . speculation, the

> . . .  Oxford/Norton editions throw lit-crit dust as if it were

> (like so much of Peter Blayney’s published bibliographic

> analysis) textual gold.  (I don’t mean to disparage literary

> critical ideas, but we really should separate them from

> verifiable textual fact. ALL in this case is a neat idea; ALB

> is a fact, or rather several facts in Q and F.)


Actually, Blayney’s pronouncement of foul-papers is a literary judgment, though Wells and Taylor treat it as bibliographically founded. Steven took that misstep himself in this case, but he’s right that an incomplete citation is misleading. They may have got it from Halio. But in lieu of an explanation the citation belongs, apparently, to van Dam.


> Does Alb. / All matter all that much? As a director I say

> “yes.” It can, if you want to give the actor playing Albany

> yet another chance to demonstrate that Shakespeare is

> “working” this character richly, densely.


If you want to inform the actor you can tell him about the corruptions in Q1 and F that suggest the mis-ascriptions may not be Shakespeare’s work at all, dense or not.


> “Okay, Albany wants Edmund defeated but still alive . . .


Goneril has just murdered her own sister to get Edmund for herself. She’s the Queen of all the land. It’s far more likely that she stops the fight to preserve her hopes.


> Teach your students how to distinguish theory and evidence.

> Teach them to verify data.


OK. I’ve repeated some of Stone’s analyses of speech-prefix error in Q1. What is Steven’s take on them? Teach students to examine all the evidence and to consider opposing opinions as fairly as possible.


I’ll examine another Goneril/Edmund exchange corrupted in all the texts and suggest that it leads to another mistaken speech heading. Stone is the best place to start on that one, as usual.


Gerald E. Downs

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