The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0908  Monday, 16 October 2006

From: 		Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Monday, 16 Oct 2006 02:17:49 EDT
Subject: 17.0812 Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0812 Ron Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars

In his review of The Shakespeare Wars John Simon suggests that Ron 
Rosenbaum "has also read an enormous amount of secondary material"; I 
suppose this statement is more relative to Simon's own interests than 
absolute. I got a different impression; for example, I would have 
expected Rosenbaum to avoid his mistake and to expound on his correct 
observation about the text of Lear, had he been a little better informed:

    And it was legendary textual scholar Peter Blayney whose book
    on the printing of the 1608 Lear restored the Quarto to the status
    of a text - however badly printed - based on a Shakespearean
    manuscript, not on a "memorial reconstruction by actors."
    Blayney's 1982 work laid the basis for the claim that Shakespeare
    both wrote and revised the 1608 version (41).

Rosenbaum seems familiar with the book and seems to know, as John Jowett 
puts it, "The revision theory would be vulnerable without Blayney's 
conclusion". But he resists explanation of this important issue, when 
readers will get little meaning from the comment. More importantly, 
Rosenbaum's phrasing implies that Blayney argued his opinion in 1982 
when in fact he reserved the topic for his Volume 2, which Rosenbaum 
tells us (three times) has never appeared. Blayney's readers know this. 
However, close students of the Lear text also know how purveyors of the 
revision theory have relayed Blayney's conclusion as certain for 
twenty-four years now (Erne passing the baton to Rosenbaum). Blayney 
himself insists on an integrity that has been ignored:

   The first point . . . is that no conclusion concerning the authority
   of the non-Quarto source of F can in any way predetermine the
   authority of Q. The second is that whatever is concluded about
   the non-Quarto source, no conclusion can be drawn about the
   Folio text as a whole without a prior and independent knowledge
   of the authority of its other source, namely the quarto (6).

Because Q1 was printed first, the nature of its source is fundamental to 
any theory recognizing its extensive influence on F. To assume the 
nature of Q1 copy leading to conclusions about the authority of F is to 
risk utter mishandling the case. Gary Taylor gives the rationale for 
taking that risk in the preface to Division (1983):

   First, we chose to focus on the Folio text. We knew from the outset
   that Peter W. M. Blayney was preparing a two-volume study (half of
   which has since appeared) which concentrates heavily on the Quarto,
   exhaustively investigating the printing of that text and the great 
   of non-literary evidence that points to its having been set up from
   Shakespeare's own draft manuscript. It would have been foolish -
   and unhelpful - to attempt to duplicate Blayney's research. (vii)

Duplication of research is not foolish and is helpful. Rather, the 
failure for a quarter-century to investigate more fully - to find "the 
great variety of non-literary evidence" no one has ever seen - invites a 
permanent charge of foolishness. Again, Blayney issues a warning against 
misplaced trust that may be applied to subsequent scholarship:

   It is one of the contentions of the present study that the problem
   has been obscured and further complicated by the methods and
   assumptions of the principal investigators, with the result that many
   supposedly unchallengeable pronouncements concerning Lear are
   far less soundly based than their almost unquestioned acceptance
   might suggest. That claim will be elaborated in the second part of
   the study, but a few essential points need to be made . . . . The first
   of these is the difference, and the confusion, between bibliography
   and textual criticism. . . . I shall hereafter use 'bibliography' as 
if it
   meant 'the study of books as material objects'; 'textual criticism'
   as if it meant 'the study of the transmission of literary texts; (2-4)

Premature acceptance of Blayney's own unargued conclusions may be seen 
in the writings of Taylor, Howard-Hill, Foakes, Halio, Jowett, Knowles, 
and other Lear scholars. Often their comments imply a bibliographical 
leg up enjoyed by Blayney that he categorically denies. Determination of 
authorial copy is primarily an exercise in textual criticism and as far 
as I know Q1 Lear as a material object does not identify the direct 
source of the copy.

I believe that at least four events have raised the difficulty of 
'proof' that Shakespeare's rough draft is behind the corrupt Q1. Whether 
they contributed to the delay (or abandonment) of Blayney's Vol. 2 
(beyond animosities reported by Rosenbaum), I have no idea. First, 
Blayney may have been anticipated in some of his conclusions in 1980, in 
ways that presented problems to his own thesis. Second, Werstine's 
extensive, convincing campaign against the likelihood of 'foul papers' 
as printer's copy will undoubtedly have been taken seriously by a 
scholar of Blayney's integrity. Third, some issues of transmission have 
been raised recently. Fourth, his proposition had been co-opted by the 
extremely sloppy revisionists, when his own conclusion was that 
Shakespeare was not responsible for F Lear, as reported by Rasmussen: 
"suggested to me privately that the revisions are non-authorial" 
(Companion to Faustus, 1993, 7).  Halio's 2005 updated Lear edition 
seems to treat Blayney's Q1/F transmission hypothesis as still current:

   In the still unpublished second volume of his study. . . .[Blayney]
   argues that the manuscript [copy for F] was neither the original
   prompt-book nor a transcript of it; it was a transcription, rather, of
   an annotated exemplar of Q [Q1: not Q2, as Foakes misstates
   Blayney's conclusion] either annotated by the reviser or altered by
   the reviser as he copied it out. . . . After considering other kinds of
   evidence, especially the spellings of abbreviated speech headings
   in both Q2 and F, Blayney concluded that the copy for F probably
   derived from a transcription of Q [Q1] (73).

In his introduction Halio reports that part two of Blayney's study "has 
necessarily been delayed to take into account new work on F by other 
scholars" (67). Little new work has been published for two decades now; 
but I wonder how scholars trust Blayney's judgment enough to base their 
theories entirely on one announcement while they reject his own 
conclusion. If he is wrong about F, why must he be right about Q? He has 
argued neither.

Rosenbaum credits Richard Knowles for "almost single-handedly" combating 
the revisionists; this being somewhat exaggerated, considering Knowles's 
citations in his own good articles. Instead, the most influential Lear 
scholar is probably T H Howard-Hill. His initial reviews of Division of 
the Kingdoms were powerfully negative, as in his rating of Taylor's 
'purely bibliographical evidence': "Rarely 'pure', often not 
'bibliographical' and generally not evidence at all but hypothesis 
heaped on hypothesis" (Challenge of King Lear, Lib., 1985, 170).

However, numerous scholars demonstrate the shortcomings of the 
revisionist case. Howard-Hill is more significantly influential with his 
attempt to spare criticism of the Folio text as a derivative of Q1; 
uncritical acceptance of which allows Shakespeare-revisionists, 
not-Shakespeare-revisionists, and not-enough-for-two-Lears-revisionists 
to co-exist without confronting the more important issues. I was a bit 
disappointed then to see Rosenbaum cite two Knowles articles without 
comment on the Variorum editor's serious misstatement (repeated four 
years later) of Howard-Hill's 1986 contentions, which showed that all 
the readings in F supposedly deriving from Q1   could as well have been 
derived from Q2 . . .(1997, 75; 2001, 269).

A 'general reader' cannot protect himself from errors like this and one 
wonders how this one occurs in a book also sporting a review article by 
Howard-Hill. However this sign may be taken, another in the same 1997 
paragraph might have been noted. Knowles refers to the recent handling 
of the question of F's derivation from Q1 as "the chief 
bibliographically based argument for revision." The argument is 
bibliographically assisted, but it is based on the decidedly 
un-bibliographical supposition of foul-paper Q1 copy.  How this 
assumption underpins Lear scholarship may be seen in Howard-Hill's own 
1997 review article.

1)	"Usually the playwright's first draft would accompany a fair copy to 
the playhouse" (32). Rosenbaum spends time on Werstine's studies of 
'foul paper' theories, who essentially denies evidentiary support for 
any rough draft retained by players (in any postulated form, which 
varies by the text it is meant to explain): Rosenbaum calls 
Howard-Hill's article a "useful clarification." Why is "usually" not 
explained and how is it useful, if not to avoid clarification?

2) "The consensus established by Warren, Urkowitz, Taylor, Blayney, and 
others understands that Q1 prints Shakespeare's early draft of King 
Lear" (35). The reason Blayney is often cited alone is because the 
arguments by the rest of the list were not convincing; even to those 
willing to buy another, sight-unseen.  Blayney makes no argument. What 
kind of consensus is this?  And how fair is the wrong use of that word 
in an "introductory essay"? In "The Integrity of King Lear" (MLR, 1990), 
Sidney Thomas shows the extent of the 'consensus': "the kind and number 
of errors are such as to destroy the theory that Q was printed from an 
authentic Shakespeare manuscript, no matter how illegible it is presumed 
to have been" (578-9). This echoes many other objectors, including Van 
Dam in 1935, who adds: "If a scribe could make a fair copy, why could 
not the printer do it?"

3) "Once Shakespeare or another had transcribed the manuscript for use 
as the promptbook, the foul papers had no practical value in the theater 
save as printer's copy." How is circularity useful?

4) "Identification of Shakespeare's foul papers behind Q1 makes it 
logically impossible for a modern editor to conflate the two stages of 
composition, mingling Shakespeare's considered second thoughts with 
forms of expression he had rejected." Conversely, rejection of foul 
papers makes Shakespearean revision logically impossible. This crucial 
first question has not been answered in favor of Howard-Hill's assumption.

5) "The rehabilitation of Q1 as a corrupted but authorial text deriving 
from Shakespeare's early draft . . . . Close readers will have noticed 
that I have avoided the expression 'first draft' " (37 & 40). Closer 
readers may remember 1), above. What is an 'early draft'? 'Whatever it 
takes to fit the printed text' is no answer.

6) "This introductory essay is not intended to dispute or to advocate 
the revisionist cause . . ." See 4), above.

7) "Whether F1 incorporates revisions made in the process of composition 
or after the first performance makes no difference, so long as the 
revisions are authorial." As if that question has been answered in the 
affirmative. Howard-Hill's articles alluded to by Knowles are generally 
accepted as refuting the inference that F derived from Q1, which Blayney 
seems still to believe.  Yet Howard-Hill bases his case on Blayney's 
unargued case for foul papers. The whole of Lear scholarship is in 
disarray, and I wish Rosenbaum had pointed out some of these glaring 

Last, I should make my own textual position clear. As my idea of clarity 
sometimes differs from others, I will let Laurie Maguire speak for me, 
from Shakespearean Suspect Texts:

   I should make my own textual position clear. I do not deny
   the achievements of revision theories . . . (19).

Is that clear? Now, I wonder what those achievements are. Maguire 
doesn't say.

Gerald E. Downs

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