The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0443  Monday, 5 November 2012


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

Date:         November 2, 2012 9:20:01 AM EDT

Subject:     Reading Upsy Downs and the Pathologies of Argumentation


Hello, out there, all you (both of you?) continue readers! I do gamely hippity-hop along, Mr Bluebird on my shoulder, cheerfully hoping that laughter will bring its healing sense of reconciling incompatible oxymorons. (“Who you calling an oxymoron, Urkowitz? I’m a textual scholar, see?”)?   Out of disagreement, after turns in different directions, there may come a return, a reconciliation, a joining of hands, salutations, and departures towards other pleasures.


Whatever. Gerald Downs deploys several fascinating argumentative tactics in his latest contribution to our dialogue. One is really cute. Where the Oxford/Norton text of LEAR ascribes to Peter Blayney the “authority” of its creative speech prefix in the speech in 5.3, “All.  Save him, save him” where Q and F have instead “Alb” I pointed out that Blayney’s speculative “ALL” just ain’t a bibliographical argument, nor has Peter’s explanation for his suggestion been published anywhere. So, in a seeming chunk of explanation, Gerald Downs suggests that the Oxford Little Rascals “may have got it from Halio.”  


I rummaged through my KING LEAR shelf-o’-editions and came up with the longer equally non-bibliographical but quite a bit more detailed explanation offered by Stanley Wells: “HalioQ and Weis retain Q’s ‘Alb[any]’ though Halio F admits that Alb could be a misreading of All, which could also make sense dramatically. Edelman [pp.156-7] pointing out that interference with a battle of chivalry was strictly forbidden, is ‘led to agree’ with Theobald’s suggestion that ‘the words are meant to be spoken by’ Gonoril since it is logical for her ‘emotionally to beseech her soldiers to step in at a moment when Edmund appears to be in danger” (in Wells’ single volume Oxford KING LEAR p. 165n). Don’t you love these guys? Knock’em down with any huge pile of basic data contradicting their speculations and like bantam roosters they’re bounding back up, bloody but unfazed. (Hey, wait just a sec’: I do that too!)  


We just have to believe now that whoever wrote down the lost or mis-read ALL somehow was REALLY intending to inscribe “Gonoril”? Or wanted to somehow indicate that Shakespeare meant for Gonoril AND a posse of her supporters were to say SAVE HIM SAVE HIM? “Wheeee!  All aboard for the net train to Cloud-cuckooland!” (A lot of traffic on that line, getting closer to the Election Day.) But that’s how conspiracy theories work, and there are all too many souls locked up in maximum security prisons for us to take such reasoning as an innocuous scholarly foible. (Urk, you said you were hoping for reconciliation? Oops. In the Bronx, we’re still fighting the War of the Spanish Succession. Never Forget. Never Forgive. JOKING.)


One last bit. Gerald Downs announces, “Q1 gets lots of speeches [i.e. speech prefixes] wrong, many of which are followed by or mishandled in the derivative F.” “Lots” by my count equals “zero.” There’s one speech prefix in Lear’s role that is printed in the middle of a continuing speech, and then there are many that in one text go to one character and in a later text go to a different character. In each case, both versions make sense. But such a coarse judgment as “making sense” is no qualification for accepting an argument, as Marion Trousdale herself attests in her denial of authorial revision in LEAR. (Nice lady, Marion is, but last time we spoke I failed to notice her Aura of Infallibility.)


I have to go about today’s business, but if Gerald will please repeat Stone’s analyses of the “lots of” speech prefix errors in Q1 (since I can’t find ‘em, and it would likely help the others equally bewildered in this fog o’ argument), we can carry on this mental tai chi exercise.  





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