The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0491  Monday, 3 December 2012


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

Date:         December 2, 2012 1:29:23 AM EST

Subject:     Play Length


In his “play length” article Steven Urkowitz observes:


> . . . it is reasoned that the radically shorter . . . “bad” quarto

> versions of plays such as Romeo & Juliet . . . represent texts

> somehow derived from the supposedly cut down “originals”

> found only in . . . longer forms.


Having repeated some of the well-known evidence from which prior scholars reason in respect of Q1 R&J, I turn to some evidence that isn’t generally thought to support “derived, cut down” reasoning. Steven later (11/12) suggested that more than reasoning is involved:


> If we wish to cling to the idea that the shorter versions

> were derived from the pre-existing longer ones . . .


We should keep hypotheses not disproved, even if they compete with other clinging wishes. Wishing doesn’t make any one of them so but it’s in greater supply than reason. Alongside consensual certainty that Q1 R&J has a Q2-like progenitor, scholars find evidence in these texts to think they preserve evidence of “Shakespeare at Work” in the act of revising his holograph composition. Although I think that conclusion is more wish than true, its clinging power has lasted over a century. My belief: the same evidence points to memorial transmission and errors of transcription and printing.


In his article, “Did Shakespeare Revise Romeo and Juliet” (Anglia, LL, 1927, 39-62), B. A. P. van Dam takes on a number of quite interesting, familiar, and imperfectly deciphered passages. He gets little mention these days and I suppose few have read his arguments. He convinced me, however, and I will go over some of the material. The article in its entirety does credit to the author better than excerpts.


By revision in this case we are not questioning whether Shakespeare might possibly have revised R&J: rather we ask if the evidence of the two texts indicates such revision. Modern “foul papers” assumptions expect revision and find it in abundance, usually accompanying fine, or finely ballyhooed Shakespearean reasons for any alteration. But if one looks more closely, other factors show authorial revision is unlikely.


At 2.6 Juliet joins Romeo and the Friar in Q1 and Q2 versions strikingly different from each other. Editors (e.g. Gibbons) presume revision, and why not? Van Dam counters that “an alternative to the rewriting theory is . . . the lines of Q1 and the lines of Q2 are the scattered parts of one and the same original scene.” Van Dam uses bracketed vertical lines (I use ***) to indicate cuts from the ‘original’ text that are not in the shorter Q1. The ‘cuts’ themselves are Q2’s text. If the two versions were to be conflated  in printing, they weren’t. How do they fit (minus my typos)? From Furness line numberings:


     Rom: Now Father Laurence, in thy holy grant Q1 1024

Consists the good of me and Iuliet.

     Fr: Without more words I will doo all I may,

To make you happie if in me it lye.                           1027


*So smile the heauens vpon this holy act,         Q2 2.6.1

*That after houres, with sorrow chide vs not. 

*    Ro. Amen, amen, but come what sorrow can,

*It cannot counteruaile the exchange of ioy               5

*That one short minute giues me in her sight:

*Do thou but close our hands with holy words,

*Then loue-deuouring death do what he dare,

*It is inough I may but call her mine.

*    Fri. These violent delights have violent endes,

*And in their triumph die like fier and powder:          10

*Which as they kisse consume. The sweetest honey

*Is loathsome in his owne deliciousnesse,

*And in the taste confoundes the appetite.

*Therefore loue moderately, long loue doth so,

*Too swift arriues, as tardie as too slowe.              15


    Rom: This morning here she pointed we should meet 1028

And consumate those neuer parting bands,

Witnes of our harts loue by ioyning hands,

And come she will.

     Fr:    I gesse she will indeed,

Youths loue is quicke, swifter than swiftest speed.        1033


              Enter Iuliet

See where she comes. (Q1 / Here comes the Lady. Q2)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .* Oh so light a foote          Q2 2.6.16

*Will nere weare out the euerlasting flint,                         17

     [Rom.] So light of foote nere hurts the troden flower: 1035

Of loue and ioy, see see the soueraigne power.             1036


[Q1 1035 has no s.p., giving Romeo's reply to the Friar.]


*    Fri. A louer may bestride the gossamours,

*That ydeles in the wanton summer ayre,

*And yet not fall, so light is vanitie.                        2.6.20


     IulRomeo.                                                     1037

     Rom:  My Iuliet welcome. As doo waking eyes

(Cloasd in Nights mysts) attend the frolic Day,

So Romeo hath expected Iuliet,                             1040

And thou art come.

     Iul: I am (if I be Day)

Comme to my sunne: shine foorth and make me faire.

     Rom: All beauteous fairnes dwelleth in thine eyes.

     Iul: Romeo from thine all brightnes doth arise.    1045


*Good euen to my ghostly confessor.                   2.6.21

*. . . . . . etc., etc.,

Fri. Come, come with me, and we will make short worke 35


Come wantons, come, the stealing houres do pass   1046

Defer imbracements till some fitrer time,


[Part for a while, you shall not be alone,

Til holy Church have ioyned ye both in one. Q1]


[For by your leaues, you shall not stay alone,

Till holy Church incorporate two in one. Q2]


    Rom: Lead holy Father, all delay seemes long.     1050

    Iul:   Make hast, make hast, this lingring doth us wrong.

    Fri: O, soft and faire makes sweetest worke they say.

Haste is a common hindrer in crosse way.                1053


“When an author rewrites . . . it is next to impossible that the old and the new version joined together should produce a sound text [and it is] impossible that the combination of the two versions should be better than the rewritten text. . . . Romeo’s l. 1035 is good by itself, but it is much better when we read it in combination with and as a repartee to the lines 16 and 17, spoken by the Friar.” I agree with van Dam. The second effort to break a wanton clinch is good too, explaining the need for a chaperone.


If Q1 represents a performance version of this scene comprising lines retained from a fuller version and if Q2 contains the lines actually cut from the more complete version – but not the acted dialogue—then the strong implication is that the Q2 ms. printer’s copy is the very text from which the acting version derives, no matter how the Q2 printer failed to re-incorporate the lines saved for performance (a mystery in itself). The few Q1 lines that repeat Q2 dialogue in recognizable form (e.g. ‘See where she comes’/‘Here comes the Lady’) can be explained as pre-cutting leftovers, or more likely as lines lifted from the cut text during transcription. Q1 is corrupt in several ways, but it apparently saves genuine Shakespeare from oblivion (had Q1 been lost) and that text, strangely enough, is what the players preferred. Van Dam sees Q1


> as a skillfully abridged version of the original scene. . . .

> Q1 is announced 'as it hath been . . . plaid publiquely'

> and . . . [we] take the announcement at its face value

> and regard Q1 as a shorthand report of the play as it

> was acted.


> Q2, whatever else it may be, is a partial reprint of Q1.

> . . . [T]he printer, who having got an obviously better ms.

> text, reprinted Q1 and made use of his better ms. . . .

> Would it not be unreasonable to expect that an Elizabethan

> printer wholly disregarded the authority of a printed book in

> favor of a ms. whose unique value he was not acquainted with?”


When we see the extent of Q1 corruption vis-à-vis Q2 and recognize the reverse osmosis influence of Q1 on the Q2 reprint, we should feel no necessity to conjure authorial foul papers behind the “good quarto.” More likely, fair-written Q2 copy is spoiled by performance history and surreptitious transmission. But if that hadn’t happened, the play may not have been recovered in any form. After all, the Folio text reprints the corrupt Q2 (via Q3).


Van Dam cites other examples of the same phenomenon, the longest of which I reproduce, partly because he didn’t, and because it’s kind of screwy. The lamentations of Juliet’s supposed death have never been well received, though the literary dramatist outdoes himself, serio-comico-tragically. But the meat of the scene is quite different in each quarto, even though the tone is the same. I’ve interpolated Q1’s text into Q2 according to van Dam’s conjectures about 4.5, introduced by similar lines from each text. # marks the few similar lines thereafter:


Q1                  Enter Mother.


Moth:  How now whats the matter?       1831 (Furness)

Nur:  Alack the day, shees dead, shees dead, shees dead.

#Moth:  Accurst, vnhappy, miserable time.


                     Enter Oldeman.


Cap:  Come, come, make hast, wheres my daughter?

Moth:  Ah shees dead, shees dead.

Cap:  Stay, let me see, all pale and wan.

Accursed time, vnfortunate olde man.


                     Enter Fryer and Paris.


Par:  What is the bride ready to goe to Church?  1838

Cap:  Ready to goe, but neuer to returne.

O Sonne the night before thy wedding day,

Hath Death laine with thy bride, flower as she is,

Deflowerd by him, see, where she lyes,

Death is my Sonne in Law, to him I giue all that I haue.




Mo.  What noise is here?

Nur.  O lamentable day.          4.5.17  (Furness)

Mo. What is the matter?

Nur. Looke, looke, oh heauie day!

Mo. O me, O me, my child, my onely life.

Reuiue, looke vp, or I will die with thee:

Helpe, helpe, call helpe.


                  Enter Father.


Fa.  For shame bring Iuliet forth, her Lord is come.

Nur.  Shees dead: deceast, shees dead, alack the day.

M.  Alack the day, shees dead, shees dead, shees dead.

Fa.  Hah let me see her, out alas shees cold,

Her bloud is setled, and her ioynts are stiffe:

Life and these lips haue long bene separated,

Death lies on her like an vntimely frost,

Vpon the sweetest flower of all thefield.

Nur.  O lamentable day!

Mo.  O wofull time!

Fa.  Death that hath tane her hēce to make me waile

Ties vp my tongue and will not let me speake.


Enter Frier and the Countie.


Fri.  Come, is the Bride ready to go to Church?

Fa.  Ready to go but neuer to returne.

O sonne, the night before thy wedding day

Hath death laine with thy wife, there she lies,

Flower as she was, deflowred by him,

Death is my sonne in law, death is my heire,

My daughter he hath wedded. I will die,

And leaue him all life liuing, all is deaths.

Par.  Haue I thought loue to see this mornings face,


[#Par:  Haue I thought long to see this mornings face, Q1 1844]


And doth it giue me such a sight as this?     4.5.42


And doth it now present such prodegies?   Q1 1845

#Accurst, vnhappy, miserable man,

Forlorne, forsaken, destitute I am:

Borne to the world to be a slaue in it.

Distrest, remediles, and vnfortunate.

O heauens , O nature, wherefore did you make me,

To liue so vile, so wretched as I shall.              1851


#Mo.  Accurst, vnhappie, wretched hatefull day, Q2 4.5.43

#Most miserable houre that ere time saw,

In lasting labour of his Pilgrimage,

But one poore one, one poore and louing child,

But one thing to reioyce and solace in,

And cruell death hath catcht it from my sight.      Q2 4.5.48


Cap:  O heere she lies that was our hope, our ioy,   Q1 1852

And being dead, dead sorrow nips vs all.


             All at once cry out and wring their hands.


All cry:  All our ioy, and all our hope is dead,

Dead, lost, vndone, absented, wholy fled.            Q1 1855


Nur.  O wo, O wofull, wofull, wofull day,            Q2 4.5.49 

Most lamentable day, most wofull day

That euer, euer, I did yet bedold.

O day, O day, O day, O hatefull day,

Neuer was seene so blacke a day as this,

O wofull day, O wofull day.

Par.  Beguild, diuorced, wronged, spighted, slaine,

Most detestable death, by thee beguild,

By cruell, cruell, thee quite ouerthrowne,

O loue, O life, not life, but loue in death.           Q2  4.5.58


Cap:  Cruel, vniust, impartiall destinies,            Q1 1856

Why to this day haue you preseru'd my life?

Too see my hope, my stay, my ioy, my life,

Depriude of sence, of life, of all by death,

Cruell, vniust, impartiall destinies.

Cap:  O sad fac'd sorrow map of misery,

Why this sad time haue I desird to see.

This day, this vniust, this impartiall day

Wherein I hop'd to see my comfort full,

To be depriude by suddaine destinie.

Moth:  O woe, alacke, distrest, why should I liue?

To see this day, this miserable day.

Alacke the time that euer I was borne,

To be partaker of this destinie.

Alacke the day, alacke and welladay.           Q1 1870


Fat.  Despisde, distressed, hated, martird, kild, Q2 4.5.59

Vncomfortable time, why camst thou now,

To murther, murther, our solemnitie?

O childe, O childe, my soule and not my childe,

Dead art thou, alacke my child is dead,

And with my child my ioyes are buried.

#Fri.  Peace ho for shame, confusions care liues not,


[#Fr:  O peace for shame, if not for charity.  Q1 1871]


In these confusions heauen and your selfe

Had part in this faire maide, now heauen hath all,

And all the better is it for the maid:                     Q2 4.5.68


Your daughter liues in peace and happines,   Q1 1872

And it is vaine to wish it otherwise.                  Q1 1873


Your part in her, you could not keepe from death. Q2  4.5.69

But heauen keepes his part in eternall life,

The most you sought was her promotion,

For twas your heauen she should be aduanst,

And weepe ye now, seeing she is aduanst

Aboue the Cloudes, as high as heauen it selfe.

O in this loue, you loue your child so ill,

That you run mad, seeing that she is well:

Shees not well married, that liues married long,

But shees best married, that dies married young.

#Drie vp your teares, and stick your Rosemarie

#On this faire Coarse, and as the custome is,

#And in her best array beare her to Church:


[#Come sticke your Rosemary in this dead coarse, 1844

#And as the custome of our Country is,

#In all her best and sumptuous ornaments,

#Conuay her where her Ancestors lie tomb'd,    Q1 1877]


For though some nature bids vs all lament,        Q2 4.5.81

Yet natures teares are reasons merriment.

Fa.  All things that we ordained festiuall,

Turne from their office to black Funerall:

Our instruments to melancholy bells,

Our wedding cheare to a sad buriall feast:

Our solemne himnes to sullen dyrges change:

Our Bridall flowers serue for a buried Coarse:

And all things change them to the contrarie.

Fri.  Sir go you in, and Madam go with him,

And go sir Paris, euery one prepare

To follow this faire Coarse vnto her graue:

The heauens do lowre vpon you for some ill:

Moue them no more, by crossing their high wil.   4.5.95


Cap: Let it be so, come wofull sorrow mates,    Q1  1878

Let vs together taste this bitter fare.                  Q1  1879


> “Neither the versions separately nor the combination

> can be admired. . . . But if Shakespeare is the author

> of the Q2 lines . . . there is no reason why he should

> not be the author of the Q1 lines, and a reason why

> he should have rewritten the one version into the other

> is never found and far to seek. For the textual critic the

> combination forms a sound text, for the aesthetic critic

> it is perfect in its own way . . .”


It does seem that if an author were to rewrite the Q1 version it would somehow come out different in the new version; not different as the words are different, but in some artistic way while retaining more of the phraseology. Q1 is corrupt. Q2’s ‘Accurst, vnhappie, wretched hatefull day, Most miserable houre’ gets play in some form three times in Q1. The set direction ‘Oldeman’ probably just comes from the dialogue. The set direction ‘All at once cry out and wring their hands’ and the prefix ‘All cry‘, sandwiched between ‘And being dead, dead sorrow nips vs all’ and ‘All our ioy, and all our hope is dead,’ has no other rationale than all the ‘alls.’ Capulet is given at least one of Paris’s speeches. Still, it appears that the text behind Q2 was at one time even longer than it is now. This and other evidence indicates that a Q2-like text was cut for performance and that a performance reflecting the cuts was recorded.


Gerald E. Downs


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