The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0303  Tuesday, 17 July 2012


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

Date:         July 13, 2012 7:22:20 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand


Steven Urkowitz objects by the numbers:


> But Downs is blowing smoke about the alleged

> stenographic source for speech prefixes designating

> actors by numbers rather than names: “1 Lo., 2 Lo. 3 Lo,“


I didn’t claim a stenographic source for the designations. Seems again uncareful reading of my observations.


> He claims, “At Q1 5.2 Richmond enters to address his

> ‘fellows in arms.’ Their prefixes are 1 Lo., 2 Lo., and

> 3 Lo. Why? They aren’t named in the dialogue, that’s why.

> F identifies them, but that’s F’s job. That would have been

> necessary also in any theatrical transcription.”

>  Nope. Not so.  Wrong-o.


That last is the kind of thing I wish I hadn’t written. Glad I didn’t. But of what I did write; Q1 R3 had no “identifiers” in its copy, either specific speech headings or dialogue indicators. Therefore, 1, 2, 3. That can happen in various ways, including shorthand transmission.


But that’s not the point. Jowett claims that Q1 derives from an F-like text by unbroken written transcription. If so, major characters named in F for that scene would have been transcribed accordingly. Q1 argues against that set-up.


> "Murderers Nominated by Numbers  in  2 HENRY

> VI and RICHARD III” . . . . I show that these pairs

> of . . . murderers in Q and F have only numbers,

> no names, in both versions.


The question is, whence these printed texts? Scholarship hasn’t really answered, though all before and after disagree with Urkowitz about Q.


> I . . . recommend Grace Ioppolo, DRAMATISTS

> AND THEIR MANUSCRIPTS . . . . I re-read this

> last month and feel much the stronger, wiser, and

> more familiar with the extant objects that contain

> the texts we talk about.   (Gerald, are you listening?)


Yes, to Carl Smith at the moment. On Steven’s recommendation some years ago I posted a review of sorts of Ioppolo’s book (“Understudies,” Thursday, 3 Jan 2008 17:04:44 EST). She does a shockingly poor job. The book was apparently turned down by her contracted publisher and her main adversary seems to be Paul Werstine, whose scholarship is much the better. I also wrote (2007) on this site of her STM opinions.


> You see . . . the noisiest folk get all the attention

> and hijack the discourse. That’s why I am on

> Gerald Downs’ case.


Shall we compare noise? If I’ve been getting attention it's news to me.


> Stenography? Well, I’ve been trying to track

> down English examples where we could compare

> a written composition and a later steno report of

> that written text.  I’d hoped to find one of Donne’s

> sermons transcribed while he spoke it and then

> later printed from his original. But it seems like it

> didn’t ever work out that way . . .


No one doubts the stenographic reporting of sermons. The best are those of Henry Smith, a truly gifted preacher who died young. Where Steven errs (this time) is to suppose sermons were written; as a matter of protocol, they weren’t. A preacher who read a sermon wasn’t worth his salt. That’s why Smith’s orations seem to be orations and why he first thought his sermons were reproduced from his own notes; there was no complete copy. That all changed with the printing of reported sermons, which proved to be marketable.


Scholarship did a good job showing the sermons could not have been taken by Bright’s system. That’s where scholarship folded its tent. My guess is that the phonetic talent was also directed to plays.


> So it isn’t that these things aren’t possible, it’s just

> that interested people ha[ve] to agree to the kinds

> of evidence that the community can find convincing.


Be careful. Once one allows shorthand a possibility a whole world of theatrical possibility opens. How about John of Bordeaux? I think its evidence (not me, not rhetoric) will eventually reach the community. For instance, the Lords got their numbers not from the scribe, but a reviser preparing the text for playing. It’s all there.


> Gerald Downs takes a tiny variant, “take up to keep.”

> . . . And he concludes that the repetition “ take up,

> take up” found in F was somehow so minor a change

> that it must be considered beneath Shakespeare’s

> magnificence.


Actually, Steven Urkowitz tries to make hay with the variant. My point was that the phrase is only one of many clear corruptions that found their way into F despite Q1’s revision. Magnificence hasn’t much to do with it. No author would revise other people’s travesties.


> Two points: (1) How does Gerald Downs know that

> Shakespeare wouldn’t make little changes like this?


I would bet Ward Elliott’s Thousand. It’s a matter of odds.


> the little change is part of a sweeping (not timid)

> change in the dramatic rhythms


Move over, Gary Taylor.


> If Gerald Downs would look at the abundance of

> evidence offered by Grace Ioppolo and others,

> he would see how flawed are his assumptions

> about how authors of the time actually marked

> up their own texts and texts of other writers.


I point up how badly Ioppolo misreports Heywood’s The Captives. That’s her primary manuscript for evidence but the reader is badly misinformed. It’s not a matter of opinion, but of clear mistakes.


Gerald E. Downs

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