The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0343  Monday, 20 August 2012


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

Date:         August 20, 2012 1:37:56 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: Shorthand


Gabriel Egan re-raised “take up” in response to my posting:


> I mentioned the claim that King Lear Q1(u)’s “take up

> to keep” could have been turned into F’s “Take up,

> take up” by Shakespeare himself when revising the

> play by annotating an exemplar of Q1 (one containing

> this uncorrected reading). Gerald Downs dismissed

> the possibility with “no author would revise other people's

> travesties”. So, I pointed out that James Joyce and

> Charles Dickens did, as shown by Gary Taylor.

> Downs now writes:


>> But Stone and I, if I may speak for him, are talking

>> about the many manifest errors in Q1. By "travesties"

>> I take the whole of the corruption into account.


> No, with respect Gerald, we were both referring to

> this one specific variant, not a set of others.


> I’d be grateful if you’d either acknowledge the

> possibility in respect of this variant, or else show why

> we shouldn’t accept the possibility in this case.


I’m willing to discuss a point or two. My earlier July 9 posting made my position clear: Shakespeare’s revision of the misprint was


>> Highly unlikely: for one thing, "take up" looks . . .

>> like emending . . . graphic error; achievable by anyone,

>> and not to be taken as evidence for Shakespeare.

>> Possibility? That's not argument. More important, this is

>> one of many shortcomings that Shakespeare (if the

>> reviser, which I don't believe) overlooks alongside,

>> and inside, his revisions. Followers of the Oxford

>> Shakespeare have to buy into that -- even to express it.


Proper argument must take into account the large number of errors in Q1 Lear that led not to correction, but to further error in F. An isolated example may be examined but not removed from the set as if that will settle any question. If Shakespeare revised Q1 he’s partly responsible for more than one compound error, often with lingering ill effect. When I refer to “take up” in this respect I include it in the plural—“travesties.”


Further, to grant one “possibility” is to grant all, supposing Shakespeare the reviser. Choosing to argue “take up” as an “acceptable possibility” is mistaken if other examples are ignored or treated singly. However, I don’t mind applying my statement to one instance, provided we grant a probabilistic notion of “never”; I mean, “fat chance.” Miscorrected “take up to keep” can’t be construed as evidence of Shakespearean revision; its worth is as negative evidence. Argument for Lear’s authorial revision is noted for overstatement; “accepting possibility” doesn’t help.


We should also understand that Q1 error and other faults made their way into F through agents other than the single reviser some suppose to have been Shakespeare. Again, I agree with Egan that F is revised from Q1 itself. Nevertheless, the “New Oxford Orthodoxy” adds (but doesn’t argue) the hypothesis that Q1 copy was Shakespeare’s foul papers. In other words, Egan begins at Square Two. Because features of F (including use of Q2 as copy) are so dependent on Q1, advocates of Shakespearean revision reject Q1 ancestry other than the author’s “difficult” rough draft. On this view, foul papers needn’t be argued: they simply have to be assumed. Otherwise, the “take up” rationale must be resorted to many, many times over.


Now to “take up” and Shakespeare’s willingness to revise others’ goofs. My first thought (are Egan’s objection) was that “it’s possible, therefore it is” is a logical fallacy. The very idea that Joyce’s behavior determines Shakespeare’s is obviously mistaken. The point can only be made by a statistical argument of some kind. I don’t recall how Gary Taylor spoke of Joyce’s & Dickens’s revision of misprints to something different from the originals. But I doubt he listed them as percentages of misprints not so altered. Without such a basis the instances are of no value. If Joyce wrote that way once in ten opportunities, that counts against someone else doing it in a single instance. If Joyce is one in ten authors acting so, that counts against other authors. Each Lear instance are subject to the same statistics. These odds (no doubt greater than ten-to-one) must be multiplied with each other.


The circumstances of Joyce’s altered misprints should also be noted. Were they amid scores of errors of every kind? Would restoration of an original reading be troublesome? Was he revising authoritative copy? Did he correct the other misprints, or did he revise many of them, as Shakespeare is imagined to have done?


One may as well cite Oscar Wilde: “A poet can survive everything but a misprint.” (Got this from the L.A. Times Crossword). Q1 Lear is one big misprint. Wilde or Joyce?


Gerald E. Downs

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