Justin Alexander’s Reliance on Hibbard’s Hypothesis


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0286  Friday, 7 July 2012


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

Date:         July 5, 2012 11:47:07 PM EDT

Subject:     SHORTHAND - Justin Alexander’s Reliance on Hibbard’s Hypothesis


To the editor:


Justin Alexander, in his communication of June 29, relies on Hibbard’s hypothesis that the name ‘Polonius’ was changed due to similarity with ‘Polenius of Oxford’.


Your readers may care to consider an argument that the name change was a pun to mock Paulus Dzialinski, the ambassador who famously insulted Queen Elizabeth in 1597.


See: “Transition from Corambis to Polonius: The Forgotten Pun on a Diplomatic Scandal in a Hamlet Q2 stage direction” published in Hamlet Works (hamletworks.org) under the category “Hamlet Criticism.”


Abraham Samuel Shiff

Shakespeare and James I


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0285  Friday, 7 July 2012


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

Date:         July 5, 2012 3:20:24 PM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare and James I


Hey all,


I was recently watching Simon Schama’s recent Shakespeare documentary, and he essentially makes a point that, during an early production of Hamlet, you would have a staging of the dumb show prefacing The Mousetrap, within Hamlet, all watched by King James I, whose recent familial history would have given the scenes telescoping in front of him additional personal significance. 


It got me wondering more about Shakespeare’s relationship to James, and I thought that I might ask if anybody had any good recommendations for books that discuss this relationship, or just good books about the life of James.




CFP Shakespeare and Japan


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0284  Friday, 7 July 2012
From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         July 6, 2012 7:28:40 AM EDT
Subject:     CFP Shakespeare and Japan
Shakespeare and Japan: A One-Day Conference
Tuesday 26 February, 2013
De Montfort University, Leicester, England
This one-day event offers scholars an opportunity to contribute to the international journal Shakespeare’s special issue on ‘Shakespeare and Japan’, edited by Dominic Shellard. Papers are invited on all aspects of Shakespeare and Japan, ranging from performances, film adaptations, and translations to accounts of the plays’ critical reception in Japan. Abstracts (100-200 words) should be sent to Professor Deborah Cartmell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> and Professor Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> by 6 December 2012.
Gabriel Egan



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0283  Thursday, 5 July 2012


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

     Date:         June 29, 2012 2:27:23 AM EDT

     Subject:     Shorthand and the Big Loop of Hamlet Texts 


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

     Date:         July 2, 2012 1:31:23 AM EDT

     Subject:     Urkowitz Revision or Stone History? 




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

Date:         June 29, 2012 2:27:23 AM EDT

Subject:     SHAKSPER: Shorthand and the Big Loop of Hamlet Texts


On 6/25/2012 11:35 AM, Gerald E. Downs wrote:


>Q1 is a very bad quarto. Shakespeare is not himself this time. 


Ultimately this is the insoluble problem for those who want to maintain the Q1 (as published) has any real validity as a text: It is a play broken at both the macro level of the plot and the micro level of large chunks of dialogue. Nor is it the sort of broken that you see in a rough draft which is later revised and polished; it's the sort of broken you get when you take a story that makes sense and throw it into a blender.


If someone wants to posit an explanation for how the text of Q1 could have become so horribly mangled without being the result of memorial reconstruction, I’d certainly be fascinated to hear it. But until such an explanation emerges, memorial reconstruction remains the only reasonable explanation to my eyes.


With that being said, I think there is some potential interest in looking at the source of each extant text in addition to the actual texts themselves. Consider four key facts:


(1) Q1’s title page claims that the play has been performed in Cambridge and Oxford. If we take that at face value, in combination with Hibbard’s interesting hypothesis that the names of Polonius and Reynaldo were changed due to their similarity to Polenius of Oxford and Reynalds of Corpus Christi, then we could hypothesize that Q1-source (before memorial reconstruction or whatever force corrupted the published text) was a touring script.


(2) According to Arden’s third edition of the play, there are only three F1-ONLY passages. One was clearly omitted from Q2 by mistake (5.2.68-5.2.81) since it leaves behind a dangling and unresolved sentence fragment. And Bednarz in Shakespeare and the Poet’s War argues convincingly that the other two (dealing with the child actors) were cut because they were politically sensitive in 1604 (the Children of the Chapel having become the Children of Her Majesty's Chapel . . . with Queen Anne being from Denmark).


(3) According to Hibbard’s Oxford edition, there are eighteen Q2-ONLY passages of three or more lines. What I find interesting is that removing most of these passages from the F1 text requires mid-line cuts. It seems unlikely that someone adding lines to a play would slice a verse line in half and that fill from both ends, but people cutting verse plays will often mend an incomplete verse line created by their cut by matching it up with another half-cut line later in the text.


(4) Of the three F1-ONLY passages, two of them can be found in the Q1 text. (The third is missing from a scene which is badly mangled and heavily abbreviated beyond the absence of this passage.) More notably, none of the Q2-ONLY passages can be found in the Q1 text. In fact, many of the cuts are precisely mirrored (see 1.1.107 and 1.4.16, for example).


In other words, the F1-source text was created by cutting lines from the Q2-source text. Furthermore, the Q1-source text includes all of the cuts made by the F1-source, suggesting that our hypothetical touring script (or whatever other nature the Q1-source may have taken) must have been derived from the F1-source text.


Here’s where it gets fun, though: We know with a fair degree of surety that the Q2 compositors used Q1 as a reference. And also know that the F1 compositors used Q2 as a reference.


So Q2-source is cut to become F1-source which is cut to become the Q1-source. Q1-source is mangled and then published as Q1. Q1 is referenced by Q2. Q2 is referenced by F1.


Q2-source to F1-source to Q1-source to Q1 to Q2 to F1.


The textual history of Hamlet is basically a big loop.


Which goes rather a long way towards explaining why the text has been confusing editors for four hundred years.




Justin Alexander

American Shakespeare Repertory



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

Date:         July 2, 2012 1:31:23 AM EDT

Subject:     Urkowitz Revision or Stone History?


Steven Urkowitz commends his Shakespeare’s Revision of King Lear. Greg remarked in the 50’s that a busy 25 years left more to be done; he might have said the same after the mid-80’s activity and also after the relative inactivity up to the present.


A consensus formed that F Lear was essentially a revision; either of Q1 or of something akin to Q1 (on which there is no consensus). An added question is whether Shakespeare was the reviser. Urkowitz argues that he was responsible for most of the F variants. I disagree, but it isn’t practical to counter the heavily rhetorical whole of his book. I’ll focus on a particular topic—after a few observations.


Revision and P. W. K. Stone’s The Textual History of King Lear were published in 1980; independently, I presume. Two books on one topic could hardly be more different; by comparing them I don’t intend to discredit Revision so much as to call attention to Stone, whose work, despite some error, far outshines the rest. His analysis is perceptive, gentlemanly, and relatively unbiased. If Urkowitz’s book is flawed, the best way to find out is through Stone.


Revision ends with some generalities that shouldn’t pass unnoticed:


> 1. The Quarto [is corrupt.]


> Obviously corrupt passages imply that the copy used

> was indecipherable to the compositor . . . . Shakespeare's

> hand in [STM] is at times, by Greg's testimony, "sometimes

> obscure" and "indecipherable."


Q1’s corruption is multifaceted and wide-ranging. The compositors had trouble, but not nearly only because the penmanship was bad. Hand D is quite readable, everyone agrees, as far as the Secretary Hand goes. Look at Heywood’s The Captives; miserable fair copy, but the players read it all right. I won’t mention that Hand D is a scribal copy; reliance on it as evidence for Shakespeare is a huge (albeit shared) mistake.


> 3. [Bad spelling]


> [STM demonstrates] that his spelling is worse than "uninstructed."


At which no one bats an eye; that’s how the instructed ‘rest satisfied.’ But Lear and STM spellings are evidence against the hand of the most able of English writers. Richard Knowles argues as Urkowitz to counter Adele Davidson; her PBSA reply shows just how weird Lear spelling is.


> 4. [Bad Q1 punctuation].


Very bad. It slops over to the Folio. Some people believe Shakespeare didn’t care about punctuation, even when complexity demands careful pointing. A shorthand reporter, however, didn’t bother because he didn’t have time and his clients could do it themselves. I think Blayney said the Q1 compositor seemed to attach end commas for do-it-yourself use.


> 5. [Q1 mislines.]


And so it does, big time.


> 6. [Alice Walker found memorial error.]


It’s there, no doubt. But there is a terrific danger in citing scholarship founded on the assumption that Q1 badly reproduces F. No, generally speaking that’s backassward. F reproduces Q1, for better and (very often) for worse. I agree with Stone and Blayney: F derives from Q1 itself. If Shakespeare revised Lear, he revised Q1; who believes that?


If Q1 is a report we don’t know the text it represents. We don’t know the extent of its revisions and corruptions. The funny thing about the revisionist myopia is that it is limited to two stages: foul & final.


Speaking of Q1 error in another regard, Urkowitz takes no notice of the evidence found in Q1 stop-press variance (corrected and uncorrected text) and in Q2 influence on F. At times these bear importantly on the how and why of revision.


For example, Q1© at 3.6 has ‘take vp thy master . . . Take vp the King . . . .’ F at line 102 has ‘Take vp, take vp . . .’; which Urkowitz describes as “unrelievedly urgent, compelling, and threatening”.


That is, a Shakespearean revision; who else could be so quick on the vp-take? Well, Q1(uncorrected) has ‘Take vp to keepe’, an obvious misreading (the compositor elsewhere proves to be unconcerned with nonsense). F’s reviser, without recourse to the correction, sophisticated with a second ‘take up’; nothing to do with the author, compelling or not.


> 2. [Q1 misassigns speakers.]


As I argue on strong evidence in John of Bordeaux, a shorthand report (dependent on the dialogue, as in Q1 Lear), inevitably mistakes speech ascriptions, most often when more characters are in a scene. Q1 error of this sort is a little hard to spot because there is no true second text. Urkowitz takes speech heading differences as Shakespeare's changes; he's not looking for errors.


> The Quarto has not a single speech heading that

> might be considered "wrong."


With Stone’s help I’ll examine this statement. There are many altered speech assignments in F; obviously, one or the other edition “might” be wrong. To assume the changes were made by Shakespeare begs the question. Some alterations are indifferent and one may wonder why an author would bother. But there are instances (in one or both texts) that do seem “wrong.” Urkowitz finds one himself when he notices Albany addresses Edmund by “thou” and Goneril by “you.” Urkowitz assesses the pronouns at 5.3 to direct Albany’s remarks:


Shut your mouth Dame,     (F 5.3.153)

Or with this paper shall I stop it: hold Sir,

Thou worse then any name, reade thine owne evill:

No tearing Lady, I perceive you know it.


Stone observes that 'stop' comes from Q2 (Stop your mouth . . .stople it, Q1); ‘hold Sir’ seems an F metrical fix, not arbitrary Shakespeare; after all, the mortally wounded Edmund isn’t high-tailing it. ‘Thou’ may be meant for either character. Urkowitz says Albany had no motive to address his wife so (though he could shove a letter down her throat). But I’ll give him the point to get to the next: Q2 reads:


. . . Nay, no tearing Lady, I perceiue you know't.

   Gon. Say if I do, the lawes are mine not thine, who shal araign

me for it.

   Alb. Monster, knowst thou this paper?

   Gon. Ask me not what I know.             Exit Gonorill.


> At first glance it appears that Albany addresses

> Goneril in his first and second speeches here.


He addresses her at every glance, unless the s.p. is “wrong.”


> Albany has just said [of] the letter, "I perceive you

> know't," so if he should then ask her in his very next

> speech if she knows the letter he would be acting

> very strangely.


I agree with Stone that Albany is “perfectly consistent” in seeking to verify his perception; others are present who could bear witness to a verbal response better than a gesture. Besides, who would stop there?


> When pronouns of address are considered it seems

> more likely that Albany is addressing his question to

> Edmund, because he uses the familiar "thou." But

> Goneril, not Edmund, replies. It is conceivable that

> Albany does address Goneril, adopting the familiar

> form, but in this text the evidence is ambiguous.


Yet the text is not ambiguous. It is true that after calling one’s wife a monster it is impolite to say “thou,” but it’s more than conceivable; it’s right there in black and white—unless the s.p. is wrong.


> The Folio version clarifies the details of this exchange.

> Goneril's exit is advanced to come after her previous

> speech, and her line, "Aske me not what I know," is

> transferred to Edmund's part.

> Goneril is gone, so Albany's question about the paper

> can only be directed to Edmund, in this text at least.


Urkowitz rhetorically describes Albany’s “notably disjointed rhythm” and “delayed response” to Goneril’s exit, as if these were authorial-on-purpose. He doesn’t finish by saying Q1 is wrong; instead he suggests right & wrong hasn’t a place in ‘who wrote what’ polemic. ‘Shakespeare wrote both’ is polemic too; you can’t ‘clarify’ negative evidence merely by its revision. At least one of these passages “might be wrong”; if not the disjointed and delayed one because it is too Shakespearean, then it must be Q1.


   Lear. We that too late repent's, O sir, are you come? is it your

will that we prepare any horses, ingratitudeI thou marble har-

ted fiend, more hideous . . . then

the Sea-monster, detested kite, thou list . . .  Q1


   Lear. Woe that too late repents:       F, 1.4.254

Is it your will, speake Sir? Prepare my Horses.

Ingratitude! thou marble-hearted Fiend,

More hideous when thou shew'st thee in a Child,

Then the Sea-monster.

   Alb. Pray Sir be patient.


> The change seems at first minor, perhaps more in the

> nature of a textual correction than a theatrical elaboration.


> The addition of the speech for Albany helps the actor

> . . . . [It] gives Lear a point of "dramatic punctuation"

> . . . . Thus, the relatively simple polishing of the text

> also aids the dramatic presentation. (43-4)


Stone notes of Q1’s ‘O sir are you come? . . . horses,’ “Assuming that one of [Lear’s] gentlemen speaks at this point, we have a much more intelligible sequence of events . . . . Without the rearrangement . . . the text is very nearly incoherent, while the revision in F, it hardly needs adding, is entirely unconvincing. We are left with the problem of We that too late repent’s (= repent us). I am inclined to think that these are the last words of Goneril’s speech . . .” (231).


Alternatively, my idea is that ‘O sir are you come . . .’ was Albany’s line as Lear approached the stables, though Stone makes sense (in a long note (231, in his appendix, “ascriptions of speeches in Q1 and F”). Q1 needs an opening line for Albany; the F reviser added it, but one was already there, hidden in plain sight in Lear’s mistaken & senseless lines. They aren’t excused by appealing to Lear’s nuttiness; he wasn’t nutty. The change was an attempt at correction, utterly confused and no more meaningful than accident and insistence dictate.


> When Albany finally responds to the need to

> rescue Lear and Cordelia


Finally? The dying (takes a while) Edmund has only now informed the crowd: ‘. . . quickly send, / Be briefe, int toth’ castle for my writ, / Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia, / Nay send in time.’


> . . . he calls out an incoherent, effectively meaningless command


. . . Duke. Runne, runne, O runne.

   Edg. To who my Lord, who hath the office, send

Thy token of repreeve. (Q1; F reads essentially the same.)


The duke is not incoherent or meaningless. He can’t think of everything, having heard of the emergency two lines before. And Edmund—the bloody bastard—he didn’t think of it either:


   Bast. Well thought on, take my sword the Captaine,

Giue it the Captaine?    Duke. Haste thee for thy life.


F gives 'Haste thee . . .' to Edgar;


> The Folio variant serves again to leave Albany only

> the speech indicating his inner turmoil, removing the

> speech that in the Quarto indicates some degree of

> effective participation in the rescue effort.


Does adding ‘Hurry!’ effectively participate any more than ‘Run!’? Is his first comment only his inner turmoil? So much for “the role of Albany,” but Stone makes better sense: “Q marks no exit after these lines, but Edgar’s lines make it clear that the other speeches are addressed to him, and that it is he who hurries . . . . F, too, omits the stage-direction, but implies—surprisingly—the employment of a messenger. This . . . does not square at all with the drift of the earlier speeches” (57). “The change was made doubtless because Edgar speaks again within the next fifteen lines: the reviser may have assumed he was required to remain on stage. . . . Edgar is intended to leave the stage . . . and to return almost immediately with Lear . . .” (230).


So we have a bad s.p., this time in F. Stone’s analysis is much more persuasive. Would Shakespeare have been fooled by something he wrote in the first place?


I'll offer another example from Stone, whose opinions are bolstered by analysis, not overstatement. One should read his book to understand the full story of corruption in both texts:


   Corn. Come sir, what letters had you late from France?

   Reg.  Be simple answerer, for we know the truth.

   Corn. And what confederacy haue you with the tratours late

footed in the kingdome? (Q1, 3.7.42-7)


> It seems likely that answerer is a phonetic error for

answer her: F's emendation ['Be simple answer'd']

> . . . sounds too high-flown in a context of very

> forthright utterances. If this is so, the speech . . .

> must be ascribed to Cornwall. This resolves rather

> than creates other difficulties . . . . The third and

> fourth speeches contain a single question, not two,

> hence are more plausibly ascribed to one speaker

> -- which must again be Regan (Stone, 232).


“Only Shakespeare” is not the answer to questions of the King Lear texts. They are a bottomless pit of corruption; commentators could be warned of paroxysms of meaning. Extrapolating Steven Urkowitz’s less convincing treatment of one kind of corruption (speech ascription) to the rest of his argument, I recommend reading Stone; I would anyhow and by that I don’t mean to disparage other thinking unnecessarily. It’s just that Stone is way ahead of the pack and it’s too bad he died shortly after the publication of his monograph.


Gerald E. Downs

Julius Caesar / Himself


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0282  Thursday, 5 July 2012


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

Date:         July 1, 2012 7:53:39 PM EDT

Subject:     Julius Caesar / Himself


I have just come across Garry Wills’ recent book “Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar” [Anthony Hecht Lectures in the Humanities] (Yale, 2011). It was reviewed in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, of all places - quite possibly by mistake.


Anyway, Wills believes that whoever played Julius Caesar also played Cicero. What do people think? (I would be particularly interested in Steve Sohmer’s opinion.)


Wills thinks Burbage played Cicero/Caesar - which is nonsense, of course, as Burbage played Brutus (it is unlikely that Burbage ever doubled roles.) It is very probable that Shakespeare himself played Caesar - but did he also double as Cicero?


John Briggs


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