Hebrew Verbs


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0209  Tuesday, 29 May 2012


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

Date:         May 29, 2012 4:32:55 AM EDT

Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs


I very much take Hamlin’s point,


But perhaps we should remember that Iago is an ‘Ensign’, the biblical reference notwithstanding. The question is: what meanings are active at this point in the play? Is it legitimate to enlarge the biblical context to cover the exchange between Moses and God in Exodus 3 to cover authenticating and legitimising ‘signs’? None of the dramatic characters in the play exemplifies ‘presence’ - even Desdemona, whom we recall, saw ‘Othello’s visage in his mind’. And Iago is inscribed within a form of paranoia that we can link directly to the workings of patriarchal authority. He is as much a victim of its logic as he is a perpetrator of it.  This is how he hooks Roderigo, Brabantio, Cassio, and finally Othello. He turns their minds “the seamy side out”.


Another important context, it seems to me, involves the issue of ‘Who is who’ in a republic such as Venice where ‘strangers’ are claimed to be treated equally. Iago’s objection to both Othello and Cassio is a that they are strangers and that the Venetian state gives them power. So the ‘motiveless malignity’ really does have a foundation, and no matter how improbable Iago’s justifications may be, they are rooted in a pathological suspicion that Venice’s own institutions breed. This extends also to the shaping of female subjectivity, as Aemilia points out to Desdemona in Act 4.


One of the play’s supreme ironies is that the stranger is and is not, a corrosive logic that spreads across Venice and that very few escape.  Only the Duke, who combines military theory with empirical evidence seems to be above this, and even he can acknowledge the contradiction that Othello represents. There is something deeply amiss in Venice when for the most part the relation between moral judgement and empirical evidence is reversed: “It is too true an evil, gone she is.”  We never find out if up to this point Brabantio has encouraged Othello’s courtship of Desdemona, so we can’t judge the ‘truth’ or otherwise of this inverted combination of empirical ‘fact’ and moral judgement. Othello’s case is a more extreme version of this, since he ‘knows’ what disloyalty and evil are but he refuses (presumably on the basis of the experience’ of what we know to be Iago’s show of ‘love’) to accept that Iago’s reservations expressed at 3.3. are anything other than “close denotements from the heart” that presumably occupy a position beneath that of signification. God’s ‘I am that I am’ is comparatively simple compared to its echo in the much more complex secular political contexts of republican Venice that ‘is not what it is’. In terms of meanings we might say that the play exists at the point where the Bible meets Machiavelli, where sacred and secular meanings meet and collide.


We could say the same about Shylock, the ‘Jew’ in Venice who demands to be treated equally but who is caught in a biblical narrative from which he cannot escape - even if he only imitates the Christians. This play is cast in a slightly different register from the later play, although the connections between the two (and indeed, some of the incidents) resemble each other. ‘Othello’ is what happens when Morocco marries Portia, and Jessica’s elopement is a much cruder version of the Brabantio-Desdemona situation. In the earlier play the ‘Jew’ is converted forcibly to Christianity, at one level  the validation of a Christian objective that may never come to pass, but at another level offering a very critical glimpse of the ‘equal’ treatment that any stranger may expect from Venetian law. In the later play the eponymous hero enacts a ‘justice’ upon himself in what must be the most curious suicide in all of Shakespeare. We do not need to invoke Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’ to see what is going on here, do we?



John Drakakis



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0208  Tuesday, 29 May 2012


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

Date:         May 28, 2012 9:29:05 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Maria


Pete McCluskey wrote:


>The actor playing Maria could double as Antonio; Maria leaves 3.4 with

>enough time for a quick costume change to Antonio, and since his

>presence is needed in 5.1, Maria doesn’t appear.


No, that’s a worse doubling suggestion than Sebastian. Antonio and Sebastian exeunt together at the end of 3.3, and Olivia and Maria immediately enter together at the beginning of 3.4—that’s what I mean by “impossible exits/entries”. (Similarly, Maria, Sir Toby and Fabian exeunt at the end of 3.2, and Antonio and Sebastian enter together at the beginning of 3.3.)


John Briggs

Pedestrians Crossing Cairncross

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

Richard III and Jowett


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0206  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 7:11:40 PM EDT

Subject:     Richard III and Jowett


On the "Pedestrian" thread Gabriel Egan responded to my statement,


>> Of course, since R3 is probably a memorial report

>> the same questions may arise.


> See John Jowett’s elegant proof that Q1 R3 can’t be

> based on a memorial report (“’Derby’, ‘Stanley’, and

> Memorial Reconstruction in Quarto Richard IIINotes

> and Queries 245 (2000): 75-79.)


I’ll look that up. In the meantime, I think R3 is probably a memorial report but probably not a memorial reconstruction. So I may agree with Jowett and maintain my opinion. Gabriel Egan seems to use the terms interchangeably; I try not to.


I have reread Jowett’s extensive piece from two years before N&Q, “Richard III and the Perplexities of Editing,” from which I’ll quote.


“Of course certainty is impossible.” Now he’s done the impossible with a proof, and elegantly yet. I might agree; Jowett is a good scholar (all the more reason for my disappointment in his Arden3 STM.)


“The Folio is agreed to have been set from printed copy—apparently a complex mix of Q3 and Q6 -- that had been heavily annotated from a manuscript. There are strong indications that this manuscript was not in Shakespeare’s hand, and parts of it may have been defective. Although the marking-up seems to have been relatively thorough, there are two substantial sections where the Quarto copy is reprinted without evident modification with reference to the manuscript. As a partial reprint, F is therefore immediately compromised . . .”


Sound familiar? Q3 sure gets around. I would ask, if all the perceptible shared errors were removed would we take the identical “substantial sections” of Q and F to be coincidental? No; we should agree with Jowett, van Dam, Cairncross and Montgomery


“Yet memorial transmission cannot be discounted entirely. . . . Kristian Smidt’s prolonged and detailed examinations led him to change his mind from scepticism of memorial transmission to acceptance, and the one and only recent systematic study of the textual problem [Davison ‘96] strongly affirms the theory of collaborative reconstruction by actors on tour.”


“[T]he theory of a collaborative reconstruction by actors is no better than possible, and there is a dearth of plausible circumstances under which such an activity might usefully take place.”


Statements like this always get my attention. If shorthand reporting were not so far from their consciousness, scholars might see their own words for what they are—descriptions of dramatic performance (the reason for actors and the thing we are talking about). Performances aren’t useful now (now we have reality TV) but there weren’t enough bears to go round back then. Touring has never been much of a reason for these texts, but it serves to keep the city plays perfectly acted (in scholarly imaginations). Shorthand (if one acquiesces) recorded plays in performance, a plausible (real life) circumstance.


“Davison’s study still has the merit of examining every variant  with a trained bibliographical and theatrical eye, and for this reason it is not lightly to be dismissed. Memorial transmission in some shape or form may well influence the text.”


“This kind of lapse does not, admittedly, require a full-blown theory of memorial transmission as it falls within the scope of scribal, or even perhaps compositorial, error. Nevertheless, as variants like this accumulate, sustained memorial intervention becomes increasingly likely. Other such cases do . . . occur.”


“Nevertheless, for a residual number of variants, no alternative clearly outbids memory. If these variants are after all scribal, one can only say that they lie outside the parameters of professional and dedicated transcription as they are usually understood. Perhaps we need a typology of transcription itself that would open our awareness of the range of transcriptional effects.”


These quotations are quite insightful; yet Jowett's suggested types do not include stenographers. But shorthand covers the whole range of effects: memory, revision, etc. (and etc.).


“It can hardly be supposed that the manuscript would have been prepared for circumstances in which it had no efficacy.”


True, but the quarto ran to at least six editions before the F reprint. That's efficacy up the ying-yang. I tend to agree with van Dam that it began as a shorthand report but was subsequently reprinted with help from better copy, much as has been observed of other playtexts. I may as well quote a bit from van Dam, writing 80 years ago:


“But when we know that there are no good texts in which the synonyms crop up in such royal abundance as in the parallel texts of Rich. III, two conclusions may be drawn [1] it is improbable that any adapter, revisor or rewriter would be so madly disposed as to make these needless changes [2] it is improbable that a scribe’s or compositor’s memory is responsible for the bulk of them. The . . . divergencies . . . indicate the failing memory of some one whose memory is more heavily taxed . . . . the only one who comes into consideration . . . is the actor.”


“ . . . Elizabethan actors did not greatly care to be part-perfect, and at times deliberately made free with their texts. Certainly, this is no sign of their incompetence . . . on the contrary, it shows how clever and gifted they were. In our opinion (me & him, we reckon), nothing can be further from the mark than an aprioristic acceptance of the players' part-perfectness as an argument against the shorthand theory.”


“The F Richard III is, like the F Hamlet, a reprint of the Q, corrected in a slovenly manner by the help of a good text, modernized by the printers, and in various places corrupted by . . . those good intentions wherewith hell is paved.” 


The editor knows how reluctant I am to prolong a posting, but neither do I like to pass over a good comment. On reporting Laurie Maguire’s assessment of Q R3 as not MR, Jowett remarks that her reason is “not least because in her study [Suspect Texts] evidence arising from comparison between texts is discounted entirely. Maguire’s approach . . . aims to adopt rigorous criteria . . . but, if one wishes to address in full the question of the transmission of Q and F, the variants between them are primary and unignorable data, no matter how tricky and undefinitive their interpretation might be.” Because Maguire rejects the evidence of multiple-text comparisons her conclusions are unwarranted and by extension a refusal to learn from multiple texts invalidates her other judgments. Although her book is a handy reference list, I think her pronouncements should not be cited without caveat similar to Jowett’s. Because she also mistakenly excludes other forms of evidence her book itself needs better examination than it got twenty years ago.


Gerald E. Downs

Hebrew Verbs


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0205  Monday, 28 May 2012


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

     Date:         May 25, 2012 2:12:28 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs 


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

     Date:         May 25, 2012 10:40:00 PM EDT

     Subject:     Hebrew Verbs--I am and God 


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

     Date:         May 26, 2012 3:20:58 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs 




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

Date:         May 25, 2012 2:12:28 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs


I should let Joe off the hook and take credit or blame for hauling in Coleridge. I do think the “motiveless malignity” idea has merit, even if it seems over Romantic. Sure, Iago mentions several motives, but some of them are absurd (Othello and Emilia?) and none of them seem sufficient to justify (dramatically, psychologically) his behavior. And the fact that he tries out so many of them suggests that he’s not convinced himself, perhaps looking for his own motivation (I think here too of Shylock’s rejection of motivation in the Venetian court, when he likens his hatred of Antonio to the inability of some to hold their bladders on hearing the bagpipe). On the matter of Iago and Satan, I don’t want to push this too far. He certainly isn’t Satan, any more than Desdemona is Christ or Othello Judas. Biblical allusions draw the characters parallel, and the interpretive task for the playgoer-reader is to determine how far the parallel is viable or to what dramatic purpose it is made. I might add too, at the risk of repeating myself, that “I am not what I am,” at least in Iago’s mouth, seems more complex than the “I am not what I seem,” which we might expect. For one thing, having “am” rather than “seem” is necessary to make the allusion to Exodus, but it also suggests a more essential problem than mere dissembling, especially with the implications of the biblical allusion in mind.





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

Date:         May 25, 2012 10:40:00 PM EDT

Subject:     Hebrew Verbs--I am and God


The King James Version had it right. Present tense only. Though this assertion may remain debatable, the God of the Old Testament, and the New, exists outside time, in eternity, where past and future tenses are a nullity. I think this is so as a theological construct whether you are a believer or not. 


My impression is that Viola’s “I am not what I am” is a wink to the audience regarding her gender, and the actor’s gender, while Iago’s is a wink to the idea of evil as an animate force.



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

Date:         May 26, 2012 3:20:58 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Hebrew Verbs


Or:  “I will be being what I am being.”


John Crowley

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