The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0207  Monday, 28 May 2012

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

Date:         May 27, 2012 6:27:41 PM EDT

Subject:     Pedestrians Crossing Cairncross


> Gerald Downs attributes an opinion to me:

>> I gather that Gabriel Egan agrees (finally!) with

>> Michael Egan and Steven Urkowitz that Contention is

>> not a memorially contaminated text but that it descends

>> by transcription from the hand of Shakespeare.

>> My essay (“Foucault’s Epistemic Shift and Verbatim

>> Repetition in Shakespeare”) that I pointed to, which

>> is available without cost, gives my view.

>> Memorial reconstruction and revision may both be

>> active in the differences between two early editions,

>> and a transcriptional link may be intermittent.


Transcription may be more than a link and “intermittent” may not mean “small.” The questions are whether a corrupt text corrupts another, and how much.


> My essay factors in an additional document not usually

> considered in this regard: the property document holding

> the Articles of Peace read aloud in the first scene of

> CYL/2H6.


It’s not really a document, of course, though I accept that players held a paper in their hands, each in turn.


> In F the words read aloud from this document by

> Gloucester are different from those read aloud from

> it by the Cardinal Beaufort, while in Q they are the same.

> That’s the “Verbatim” part of my title and I believe it may

> be relevant to our problem.  But I’d rather not rehearse

> the entire argument here since it’s easily accessed by

> any interested reader.


I tried to isolate the pertinent parts of Egan’s article for comment. The pendulous Foucault stuff didn’t do much for me.


“De Grazia’s works are concerned with the presence of non-authorial writing, with the ‘wide array of collective and extended contributions and transformations’ . . . which find their way into textualizations, and she refuses to demote these in relation to authorial writing.”


That’s better than promoting them to authorial writing. The problem is to tell the difference. Egan follows De Grazia in analyzing The First Part of the Contention / 2 Henry 6, where written matter is partially “read on stage” by two individual characters in each playtext.


“Where the two recitations overlap . . . the words in the quarto version are identical, although the punctuation and spelling vary. . . . More importantly . . . the two quarto readings are almost identical to the Folio’s second reading.”  That’s the set-up; it’s hard to tell where Egan stands as we proceed.


“New Bibliographical consensus is that the quarto text was probably based on a memorial reconstruction . . . and the Folio printing which was based on foul papers . . . supplemented by Q3, itself a Q1 reprint . . . . Without accepting this view . . .”


“Strong evidence that during performance actors read aloud the lines in their property documents (rather than memorizing them beforehand) is supplied by Edward Alleyn’s ‘part’ for the title role in Orlando Furioso lacking the verses he reads aloud, as Stern pointed out (Stern 1999, 231), so any authorial discrepancy between two readings of a document necessarily disappeared in performance.”


I haven’t seen Stern’s N&Q N, but Greg suggested as much 80 years ago, taking the absence of the two short verses as critical evidence. Michael Warren notes that memorizing ten verse lines more in a 500-line role is not significant. Van Dam (1930) observed that the speech prefix (Orl:) in Q after the reading of each roundelay is also no big deal, since they serve to differentiate the dialogue from the “reading,” much as italics do elsewhere. The passage in the player’s part provides a clue to an alternative supposition:


what [Italiano per dio]

dare Medor court my venus, can hir eyes

bayte any lookes, but suche as must admire


Which becomes (after the verses) in Q, “Orl: What dares Medor court my Venus?” I suggest the scribe copied ‘Italiano per dio’ into Alleyn’s part before noticing the ensuing Italian verses had been marked for deletion (to be replaced by English rhymes). The scribe continued, leaving ‘what’ reading as part of the following line. The added verses are then not “strong evidence” of anything important.


“There is an alternative explanation for the differences between Q and F concerning the articles of peace. . . . William Montgomery . . . decided [inferred?] that F’s second recitation derived not from the single manuscript used for most of the play, but from a quarto, probably Q3 . . . . [Montgomery] considered . . . that certain passages in the play show ‘extraordinarily close correspondence in Q and F’, so close that the memorial reconstruction hypothesis cannot provide the explanation because no-one’s memory could be so good. Peter Alexander’s answer was that the reconstructors had scraps of manuscript to supplement their memories, but R. B. McKerrow’s explanation has won out: F was intermittently set up from a copy of Q.”


We don’t yet know what Egan thinks of the view that “won out” or of Montgomery’s “decision.” Readers should bear in mind that while Q3 variants in F point to Q3 as F copy, a lot of evidence not exclusive to Q3 indicates some Q edition was F copy. It is not really a question of how good someone’s memory was; Q1 is so bad that we may suppose it is all bad. Memory is a function of time.


“Curbing the excesses of . . . Cairncross’s . . . edition . . . Montgomery observed that the only way to demonstrate the dependence of one edition on another is to show that the later maintains a clear error which is also in the earlier. It is no good showing that indifferent variants (that is, those which are equally as good as a different word which appears in a third text) agree since these can happen independently of one another and it is equally pointless to show, as Cairncross frequently did, that good readings agree since these can come from a reliable manuscript source and not the earlier printing.”


Readers may confuse “quarto influence” with “which quarto’s influence.” By “earlier edition” and “third text” we are discussing Q1, Q3, and F. A corrupt text may be “good” in that it conveys a rational meaning, but “a different word” in Q1 and Q3 does not address wholesale agreement between F and either quarto. The question is whether Cairncross was guilty of “excesses” in hypothesizing larger-scale Q influence, which doesn’t rely on “clear error,” but “extraordinarily close correspondence in Q and F.” It won’t do to insist on independent happenings and reliable manuscripts as alternatives to inference from evidence.


“. . . . Considering all the Q/F agreements in error, Montgomery showed that if a quarto was consulted to make F then it was probably Q3 . . . . In all Montgomery found 7 moments in the play where F seems dependent on Q, and he decided that because the link is transcriptional—Q3 was consulted to fill gaps in the copy for F—it was now reasonable for him to ‘extend these seven points of demonstrable transcriptional contact to include that portion of their immediate context in which Q and F, for the most part, verbally agreed’. . . . Starting from each moment of agreement in error, Montgomery worked outwards until F and Q3 ceased to agree, and because several of the 7 spots of agreement are close to one another, this ‘join the dots’ procedure makes them merge, producing 3 substantial chunks of F where Q3 was consulted . . . . Montgomery added two more where stage directions in F are so like those in Q that a transcriptional link was, he thought, certain . . . .” In other words, Montgomery uses Cairncross’s method. I don't know that there is any reason to assume gaps in the F manuscript copy. Compositors regularly used quartos                       gaps or not.


“Having noted that the Dutchesse/Dutches spellings were not strong evidence that F was printed directly from Q3, Montgomery admitted that the other evidence pointing to a transcriptional link between F and one of the quartos is even weaker. . . . This other evidence is 5 cases of mislineation of verse which F shares with all the quartos, and a speech prefix problem in F . . . . This error in F, then, seems to be at a point where F depends on Q, but of course the error could just as easily be an error in the authorial manuscript underlying F, as Montgomery observed.”


If we dismiss Q/F correspondences one by one, as Egan does, their cumulative effect will diminish until we are reminded; even one or two can be meaningful: “McKerrow’s alternative explanation . . .  won the day” (Robert Knowles); “McKerrow’s explanation has won out” (Egan). Coincidence? “Montgomery, who in a sense curbs the excesses of Caincross” (Knowles); “Curbing the excesses of . . . Cairncross’s Arden edition . . . Montgomery observed” (Egan). It’s likely a quarto influenced another. As for the Double-Dutch, we don’t need error to spot influence. From Cairncross:


                  Q1 (Q2)                 Q3                 F

1.1.50   Duches (Dutches)    Dutchesse    Dutchesse

2.1.25   doate (dote)              do’t              doe it (= dote)

2.3.34   erst                           ere               ere

2.3.67   affeard                      affraid          afraid

3.2.19   against                      ‘gainst         ‘gainst

4.2.48   for the                       the               the

4.2.142 testifie                       testifie it       testifie it

4.3.6     Thou                         and thou      and thou

4.10.41 neuer shall             shall neuer    shall nere


Of course this is not the only evidence. And don’t forget about The True Tragedy sisty ugler and all of its evidence. This business didn’t happen in a vacuum; F uses lots of quartos; if any evidence convinces, one has to realize that correspondence, error or not, couldn’t really (in the main) “be just as easily in the authorial manuscript.” We don’t know what that was like, but Q3 we know, and it was open at the compositor’s elbow.


As for ease; the idea was to facilitate the compositor's piece-work job. That is, he was paid to produce; in the real world that meant he would use printed copy, even to the extent (Heaven didn’t forbid) of spoiling Shakespeare’s text.


“The mislineation evidence Montgomery characterized as ‘not conclusive’ of Q influencing F, but he did not speculate how else the agreement in error might have come about . . . coincidence must be one [remote] possibility.”


Coincidences are not like Ronald Reagan’s redwoods (“see one, seen ‘em all”); each has its own, unknown history. As the numbers mount it is easy to see that quarto copy (a common, single cause) is more likely.


“The New Bibliographical consensus that Q1 represents a necessarily imperfect memorial reconstruction of a play better represented by F was attacked by Steven Urkowitz who saw Q1 as an equally viable dramatic version (Urkowitz 1988), but Roger Warren’s response convincingly countered with a series of moments for which a conjecture of garbling best explains Q1’s relation to F.”  But is Egan convinced?


“Warren did not, however, explicitly counter Urkowitz’s observation that Q1’s stage directions contain verbal parallels with F’s, which ought not to be the case in a report since these elements of the script are not spoken, nor memorized other than as actions. . . . How can memorial reconstruction explain actors remembering not only their lines but the exact phrasing of a play’s stage directions?” I’ve already noted the obvious mistake here; who needs to remember stage directions when anyone can write them? Van Dam notes: “That a fragment, containing nothing save a stage direction, could have been religiously or casually preserved and used in the right place in the fabrication of Contention is nothing short of a miracle.”


“Montgomery had spotted these parallels in the phrasing of stage directions . . . . In any case, all but one of the stage directions . . . fall in sections of F which Montgomery had decided were directly copied from Q3, this being Montgomery’s explanation of the Q/F likenesses.” Cairncross, among others, spotted and decided the same things.


“Montgomery’s claim of an F/Q transcriptional relationship for Beaufort’s reading of the articles and the following twelve lines is unconvincing because of the small differences listed above.” Small differences are of little moment. They crop up in all such instances, for various reasons. King Lear has a jillion. Reasonably, the 2nd passage in F agrees with Q3 rather than its own first version because it derived from Q3, just as Cairncross and Montgomery suggest. That is all the more credible because of other evidence of like usage. 


That ends Egan’s rundown. His style here (and in his Struggle) is to present a scholar’s case with seeming approval before repeating a counter-argument approvingly. He does not clearly express his own opinion. However, I still like my guess that he wishes to push the text closer to foul papers and farther from memorial reporting. Now there isn’t really any evidence of the former, but plenty of corruption; which the example he analyzes shows, as do the derivative set directions. I wonder: Why did 2H6 need those crummy set directions?


Just to be clear, I would like to ask Gabriel if he thinks Contention is a memorial reconstruction. Does he think Q3 supplemented F copy? I couldn’t get his views from the article.


I believe Contention is a shorthand report of a memorial reconstruction; a textual double whammy. That appears the case (to me only, surely) for True Tragedy, Q1 Hamlet, A Shrew, and some others. None of the texts are printed from foul papers copy, in my opinion.


Gerald E. Downs

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