The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0372  Monday, 26 July 2013


[1] From:        Anthony Burton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 26, 2013 10:48:04 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Editing 


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

     Date:         July 28, 2013 8:30:18 PM EDT

     Subject:     Who Edited Shakespeare?




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

Date:         July 26, 2013 10:48:04 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Editing 


I’m not much into the business of studying textual transmission, editing, collaboration and the like, though I admire the energy and ingenuity displayed by the scholars who are.  Yet the thought has always lurked in my mind that Ben Jonson, the opinionated, argumentative and surely envious author of the encomium in the first folio, would have been tempted to meddle.  He couldn’t even stay on good terms with Inigo Jones in their joint projects, and Shakespeare was a rival, not a partner, and more acclaimed to boot.  Jonson’s pride in his own classical learning and churlish dismissal of Shakespeare’s lesser accomplishment - “small Latine and lesse Greeke” - shows that Shakespeare’s death did not for him put an end to the rivalry.  And so I wonder if the classification of Shakespeare’s plays into the categories of Histories, Comedies and Tragedies, so convenient and gratifying to a doctrinaire classicist, might not be evidence of Jonson’s thumbprint on the scales of history.  The Bard himself seems top have thought those strict categories artificial and ludicrous, as we see in the send-up description by the foolish Polonius - “tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral; scene indivisable, or poem unlimited.” 


Of the fourteen plays listed in the folio table of contents (itself necessarily the creation of someone other than Shakespeare) as comedies, none is described as a comedy in its title caption except as part of the title The Comedy of Errors.  Of the of the ten listed as Histories only Henry VIII is called a history in its title, while Richard III is specifically called a tragedy, a choice then overruled by the table of contents.  Of the eleven plays listed as tragedies (Troilus & Cressida is in the folio but not the table of contents), Timon is called a “Life,” a word otherwise indicating assignment to the “Histories;” the others are indeed called tragedies.  


Who would have had an interest in the neat realignment of plays into categories not used by the author, but so neatly evocative of the classics?  Ben J. is my candidate for prime suspect.  And if he did what I suspect, wouldn’t he also be the first candidate for any comparable “improvements” in the texts?


No hate mail, please, but I invite constructive thoughts on the matter.


Still learning,

Tony Burton



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

Date:         July 28, 2013 8:30:18 PM EDT

Subject:     Who Edited Shakespeare?


John Briggs observed:


> I am somewhat irritated by the lunatic presumption, during the

> current bout of midsummer madness, that if Florio’s florid words

> appear in Shakespeare’s Folio texts, then Florio must have put

> them there.


There’s no need for “lunatic”; I hadn’t noticed any Florio “must haves.” There’s nothing wrong with posing Frampton’s hypothesis, even if it likely goes nowhere. He’s not well prepared but he is a product of the system, I see.


> As for 2H4, Eleanor Prosser’s suggestion that “somewhere behind

> the Folio text of 2 Henry IV lies a conscientious and exacting editor

> with literary pretensions” albeit one “more experienced in the

> transcription of literary than of theatrical works” can be answered

> by the recent attribution of that transcript to Ralph Crane.


Given the number of F texts attributed to Crane (usually assuming transcriptions of foul papers); and considering his own alterations to real manuscripts mirroring the foul papers ‘criteria,’ I appreciate John’s re-nomination of Crane as a Folio “editor” of sorts. Prosser rejected Crane 2H4 suggestions (up to her day), but not for very good reasons. I doubt that Frampton can connect Florio to that text without his misquotation.


For me the interesting questions are of Q1 copy. She lays the 2H4 corruptions to Shakespeare’s foul papers (What else is old?) and claims its F additions also derive from Q1 copy. That would explain why the rest of the F text seems to derive from Q1—unnecessarily, if a better text was available. But if the bad quarto features of Q1 should allow Q1 bad quarto candidacy, her suggestion that Q1 was corrected from its own printer’s copy is very much the same as Stone’s Lear hypothesis.


My opinion, in line with Blayney and Stone, is that F Lear is a non-Shakespearian revision of Q1—the printed text itself. I don’t see why the identity of its reviser(s) is off limits. Clues should be followed up but “must” is in no hurry. Half the F plays were derived from faulty sources, namely early editions. Why? If no one of them was recovered from a better source alone, why should we assume that F-only texts have the authority to excuse them from inquiry? It’s logical to think many F texts were more problematic than meets the modern eye before they got their own makeover. After all, if the quartos hadn’t survived, Lear and other corrupt texts would probably pass the straight-off-the-pen test—graded as it is on the foul papers, ‘easy A’ curve.


Larry Weiss replied:


> I posed a number of questions which I believe need to be answered

> as part of the inquiry into whether John Florio, or anyone else,

> served as a general editor of F1.  In response, Gerald Downs tells us:


>> F 2H4 is undoubtedly a non-Shakespearian preparation, 

>> as Prosser shows, but its oddities are indicative of F's 

>> uneven ability to reproduce Shakespeare’s text. There’s 

>> no problem getting text to compositors—that was their 

>> job—but smoothing only went so far. Usually, the copy 

>> was difficult.


> Thank you.  I reckon we can now all agree that my questions

> have been answered definitively and there is no need for

> further investigation.


Some questions can’t be answered definitively in general terms. Each text is different, but each got into print. “How was it done?” doesn’t allow an inference that it wasn’t done. I’m all for further investigation, which has to proceed text by text. I’ve discussed Cairncross’s theories about instructions to compositors, for example, which are pretty good.


> If he prepared new “edited” copies of the plays, why is there no

> hint of this in the F1 versions,


I thought the abundant hints in 2H4 answered Larry’s “no hint” question, which I may not understand. All the previously published F plays are edited. I don’t believe a Florio-type (as conceived by Frampton) was, or could be an ‘overall editor.’


> and why did he do nothing to smooth out the stylistic variants

> introduced by the compositors?


Here again I say the real general editor(s) sat at the publishers’ table. The textual corruption ending with the compositors began with the copy. Considering the money spent on modern editions without much to show for it, I don’t think we should ask too much of Jaggard & Co.


By the way, or about the way: it’s mistaken to think that the simplest explanation of a text is the be-all; insistence on simplicity almost always leaves out a lot of evidence. A good place to start is to examine the evidence for foul papers.


Gerald E. Downs


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