NOS Alternative Versions

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.293  Saturday, 18 November 2017


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

Date:         November 16, 2017 at 2:38:25 PM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER


As if we don’t have enough alt-fact to deal with in the world, John Briggs blithely recalls to mind the zombies of memorial reconstruction. Ah, RICHARD III Quarto!  you poor mis-attributed thing.  Now, I am fully aware that mere correction of an erroneous belief with real-fact will not deter its continuation in the mind of a believer. And I’ve learnt after decades in this batty marketplace of ideas that Gresham’s Law applied to Shakespearean textual studies may be paraphrased as “Bad textual thinking drives good textual thinking out of circulation.”  


Nevertheless, I point you towards my carefully argued, extensively illustrated and jauntily written analysis of the theatrically interesting textual problems of Q and F RIII.  


Just fetch this in:


Steven Urkowitz, “Reconsidering the Relationship of Quarto and Folio Texts of Richard III,” English Literary Renaissance 16.3 (1986), 442-466.


If you can, print it in an expanded typeface. The original printing ran the whole long piece in the font usually reserved for footnotes.  


Step by step I show that all the textual variants ascribed to erroneous memory are actually more simply explained as normal and typical authorial revision.  The Bad-Q / Good-F binary doesn't hold up to any expanded viewing of context and simple close-reading of the alternatives.  But 1986 was a long time ago, so the Memorial-Reconstruction-by-Actors-zombies are back.  Remember Voodoo Economics and the Trickle-Down theories of the widespread benefits of untaxing the rich?  Same-same return of baseless theory trumping careful evidence.  


So take a look at my nice essay.  Write to tell me what you think.



Steve  Alt-Zombiewitz




B&L 11.1

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.292  Saturday, 18 November 2017


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

Date:         November 17, 2017 at 2:56:32 PM EST

Subject:    B&L 11.1


The General Editors of Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation are delighted to announce the release of Volume 11.1, “Global Shakespeares in World Markets and Archives,” edited by Alexa Alice Joubin


This multimedia-rich issue includes a musicological explanation of world music in contemporary productions of Elizabethan Drama, by Kendra Leonard; an exploration of “post-race” Shakespeare in South Africa, by Adele Seeff; Sujata Iyengar’s discussion of the life of objects in three international screen versions of OthelloJeff Butcher’s exposition of Hamletism and Leftism; Richard Burt’s analysis of “Unread ‘Letters’” in Shakespeare; and Christy Desmet’s essay on digital Shakespeare curation. We also publish review essays about Peter Sellars’s Midsummer Chamber Play (Carol Mejia LaPerle) and Five Kings (Fiona Ritchie and Jennifer Drouin), and a book review by Alexa Alice Joubin of Emily Sun’s Succeeding King Lear.


Sujata Iyengar, Professor of English

Co-general editor of Borrowers and Lenders: The Journal of Shakespeare and Appropriation

Department of English

University of Georgia

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (editorial correspondence)



NOS Alternative Versions

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.291  Thursday, 16 November 2017


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

Date:         November 14, 2017 at 11:16:51 AM EST

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: Richard III


I would endorse Gerald E. Downs’ attempts at research into Richard III. I did a quick review of the issues, and the thing that stood out is that the play in F1 is divided into acts and scenes - and it has been “expurgated”. This means that the F1 manuscript (FMS) is transcript, made c.1622 in the circle of Ralph Crane, either as a playbook or for publication. This, of course, raises the issue of post-Shakespearean revision.


There is a suggestion that at least part of the play in F1 was set from a quarto (Q3 or Q6?) - this suggests that FMS was not divided between the two compositors. Now, what was FMS a transcript of? What needs to be established is whether one (or more) quartos was transcribed. This would mean that FMS lacked independent authority, so this point needs to be determined first.


As to the nature of the first quarto copy (QMS), memorial reconstruction raises its head. I have a soft spot for the slightly bonkers suggestion of the entire cast reconstructing their playbook - I still think (pace Jerry Downs) there is scope for shorthand recording in such a scenario.


John Briggs




From TLS - 'Both, both, my lord'

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.290  Monday, 13 November 2017


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

Date:         November 12, 2017 at 8:50:36 AM EST

Subject:    From TLS - 'Both, both, my lord'


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in the 26 September 2017 TLS. I will provide excepts here; and if anyone wishes the entire article and does not have access to TLS, please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. -Hardy]


'Both, both, my lord' 



SEPTEMBER 26, 2017


Edward St Aubyn


224pp. Hogarth. £16.99.


Preti Taneja


503pp. Galley Beggar. Paperback, £9.99.



Both, both, my lord



In one respect, at least, there are unarguably two King Lears. Before the 1960s, the play was seen as a coherent, often explicitly Christian narrative of educative consolation and personal regeneration. At the beginning of the twentieth century, and at the beginning of English Literature as an academic discipline, A. C. Bradley mused, “should we call this poem The Redemption of King Lear?”, and the generations schooled on his great Shakespearean Tragedy tended to agree that we should.


Things changed around the time of Larkin’s liberating moment between “the end of the Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP”, as theatre and criticism both began to decentre Lear himself, and tell instead an absurdist, post-humanist parable of political grievance and brutality. The Polish critic Jan Kott drew on Samuel Beckett’s Endgame in his provocative Shakespeare Our Contemporary (1964), which argued that the play was neither affirmative nor transcendental, nor even tragic, but, rather, grotesque: “the theme of King Lear is the decay and fall of the world”. W. R. Elton’s sceptical account of the critical adherence to a “sin-suffering-redemption” paradigm in the face of Act V’s shattering “of the foundations of faith itself” (King Lear and the Gods, 1966) drew on a different, historicist methodology – and came to similar conclusions. The convergence of these approaches was already evident in what Barbara Everett, in a landmark essay of 1960, dubbed “the new King Lear”: less a morality play than a study of negation and cessation, anatomizing materialist absence, rather than redemptive plenitude. “Nothing shall come of nothing” became the play’s own watchword.


The old and the new King Lear provide the inspiration for two contemporary prose reworkings by Edward St Aubyn and Preti Taneja. St Aubyn’s Dunbar is a salvific story of familial breakdown animated by decadently wicked rich people on the one hand and the fragile optimism generated by expensive psycho­therapy on the other. The elderly media mogul Henry Dunbar is reunited with his beloved Florence (Cordelia). Even as she is assassinated in Central Park by a poisoned dart fired by her sister Megan’s lover-bodyguard, the story ends with hope. “All of us will be blown to dust”, the loyal Wilson (part Gloucester, part Kent, part escaped Polonius) tells Dunbar over Florence’s hospital bed, “but the understanding won’t be destroyed, and it can’t be, as long as someone is left standing who still prefers to tell the truth.” The closing chords of the redemptive King Lear sounds clearly here: “speak what we feel, not what we ought to say”.


Taneja takes her title from the same speech, given either to Edgar or to Albany – “we that are young / Shall never see so much nor live so long” – but the ending of her novel is deeply pessimistic. The compromised Jeet (Edgar) emerges from the wreck of the Devraj family and their vast and corrupt corporation known as the Company, inspired with terrible messianic zeal. He vows to end “the blind age” symbolized by his father Ranjit (Gloucester), who has his eyes ground out, and, as “a pure leader of men”, “to leave a legacy so strong that none will be able to erase it”. The last words – “it is time to begin” – echo with the ominous inevitability that nothing has changed except the face and fascistic vigour of the dictator. These two adaptations thus offer quite different versions of what King Lear might signify: the ultimate triumph of self-knowledge, love and integrity in an ordered universe, or the self-perpetuating madness of a hierarchy in which “humanity must perforce feed upon itself, like monsters of the deep”.


[ . . . ]


Few Shakespearean adaptations achieve an independent claim on our attention. The pleasure of St Aubyn’s Dunbar is its triangulation of delicious aphoristic ruination from the Melrose novels with familiar tropes and scenes from King Lear. With less to prove and more to offer, Preti Taneja’s ambitious We That Are Young cuts rage with poetry to produce a flawed but memorable national epic.




From TLS: Hogarth Othello: New Boy

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.289  Monday, 13 November 2017


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

Date:         November 12, 2017 at 8:37:08 AM EST

Subject:    From TLS: Hogarth Othello: New Boy


[Editor’s Note: The following appeared in the 5 September 2017 TLS. -Hardy]


In Brief

September 5, 2017


Tracy Chevalier


192pp. Hogarth Shakespeare. £12.99





“Because I can” is Ian’s motive for evil in New Boy, Tracy Chevalier’s transposition of Shakespeare’s Othello from 1600s Venice to a middle-school playground in 1970s Washington, DC. Despite the difference of setting, Chevalier’s novel is a surprisingly close retelling of its tragic ancestor. Osei – “O” as he asks his new classmates to call him – joins the school a month before the end of term. His father is a Ghanaian diplomat, and O has moved schools numerous times, studying in Rome, New York and London, just as Othello fought in Rhodes and Cyprus. He is regarded with suspicion by his Waspish playmates. Ian – Chevalier’s take on Iago – is particularly enraged by the new boy’s presence; he manoeuvres O through spasms of adolescent jealousy by prodding him to believe that Dee, the golden-haired girl O asks to “go with” on his very first day, is more interested in the “appealing face and bright blue eyes” of Casper.


The tightness of Chevalier’s version is admirable. The action takes place over one day, split into five acts, from before school through morning recess and lunchtime to afternoon play and after school. She is careful to make this a book full of movement and observation. In the morning Dee watches “[t]he spinning and the stillness”. Her friend Mimi (Emilia’s counterpart) sees “the playground and its players as strings randomly crisscrossing all over it”. When Dee and O are alone together, they act “as if there were no audience but the two of them”.


Rather than Desdemona’s famous handkerchief, a gaudy strawberry pencilcase is the prop that, to borrow Shakespeare, turns Dee’s “virtue into pitch”. Iago’s “hot as monkeys” becomes children making “hooting noises like monkeys” when O passes them. Ian, too, sees “the poison . . . taking hold”, where Iago observes, “the Moor already changes with my poison”.

The plot works terrifyingly well in a playground. Fifteen-year-olds are brutal, especially when fired by the conflicting aches and desires of puberty. They absorb adult habit – here, the ingrained racism of Nixon-era suburban America – and reproduce it with innocence. Prior knowledge of Othello’s ending makes the final act, played out over monkey bars on a jungle gym, all the worse: such adult consequences to the actions of those so young makes the outcome breathtakingly sad.




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