Previewing a BBC Documentary, “The King and the Playwright”


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0512  Wednesday, 12 December 2012


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

Date:         Tuesday, December 11, 2012 1:52 PM

Subject:     Previewing a BBC Documentary, “The King and the Playwright” 


Previewing a BBC Documentary, “The King and the Playwright,” with Columbia’s James Shapiro



Speaking of Shakespeare


After memorable conversations in September with JOHN LAHR, senior theatre critic for the New Yorker magazine, in October with Hunter College’s IRENE DASH, and in November with esteemed director NAGLE JACKSON, the Shakespeare Guild invites you to a special December 17 preview of THE KING AND THE PLAYWRIGHT, a new BBC documentary by Columbia University’s JAMES SHAPIRO.



James Shapiro’s BBC Series on Shakespeare


Monday, December 17, at 7:00 p.m.    

National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South 

No Charge, but Reservations Requested


As the author of such award-winning volumes as Shakespeare and the Jews (1996), Oberammergau (2000), 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), and Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010), Columbia University’s JAMES SHAPIRO has established himself as one of today’s most prominent scholars and reviewers, with frequent appearances on the Charlie Rose Show and other television and radio programs, and with numerous articles in periodicals such as the New York Times. On this occasion he’ll preview a riveting segment from his latest endeavor, a three-hour BBC documentary, The King and the Playwright, which has been shortlisted for a major TV award in the UK. After Mr. Shapiro screens his fascinating account of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot against James I and his court, and its impact on the chief dramatist for the theatrical company that profited from the monarch’s own patronage, he and the Guild’s John Andrews will join the audience for an engaging discussion of the episode.



Looking ahead, we’ll soon be announcing details about a special GIELGUD AWARD gala to take place on Sunday, April 14, at the GIELGUD THEATRE in London. This benefit will feature many of the luminaries who graced our April 2004 GIELGUD CENTENARY GALA, which occurred in the same venue and was co-sponsored by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. For additional information about these and other offerings, as well as about membership in The Shakespeare Guild, visit the website below or contact


John F. Andrews, President

The Shakespeare Guild 

Early Modern Sexuality


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0511  Tuesday, 11 December 2012


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

Date:         December 10, 2012 2:09:48 PM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Ven. Dedication


Gabriel Egan seems to dismiss Ian Steere’s hypothesis that Shakespeare was “either fully hetero (or thereabouts)” as out of the mainstream of current academic consensus: 


>One school of thought about sexuality that is widely given credit 

>in Shakespeare studies today is that early modern people didn’t 

>think in terms of being hetero- or homo-sexual.


While this may be true, it needn’t preclude us from trying to assess Shakespeare’s sexuality based on his work, nor positing opinions about it. Current science suggests that sexual preference is not environmentally determined, so what Shakespeare’s contemporaries thought of their own behavior, while interesting, is a different subject than his sexuality. One might as well suggest that possible mental disorders in early modern individuals are best discussed in terms of imbalance of the humours. I’m sure there’s an academic term for such a fallacy.

The Venus & Adonis Dedication


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0510  Monday, 10 December 2012


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

Date:         December 8, 2012 6:12:52 AM EST

Subject:     The Venus & Adonis Dedication 


Larry Weiss suggests that Shakespeare must have been supremely neurotic to have derived satisfaction from his unperceived insult. 


This is a possibility, I suppose. However, more likely he was just driven to relieve the frustration of having to kowtow to someone who had demeaned him (as are, I guess, most spitting waiters).


Let us consider this from another angle. Imagine that a Shakespearean play contains two characters: a vain peacock of an Earl and a humble, unknown author. The latter has been badly dealt with by the former, but is then obliged to produce a dedication to him. Shakespeare has him compose what is, in effect, the V&A address. It is read out to the strutting, young jackanapes (with suitable interjections or asides to clarify the wit to the audience). We would be enthralled. Most would think it a fine example of Shakespeare's wit and of how well he understood the human condition. 



The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0509  Monday, 10 December 2012


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

     Date:         December 7, 2012 11:51:54 PM EST

     Subject:     Shorthand and R&J 


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

     Date:         December 8, 2012 8:43:43 PM EST

     Subject:     Shorthand, R&J 




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

Date:         December 7, 2012 11:51:54 PM EST

Subject:     Shorthand and R&J


Over time, I’ve been interested in a couple R&J problems; one because (in my opinion) it is mistakenly cited as authorial revision, and the other because it's hard to figure. I treat them from the “memorial and reprint” view van Dam discussed in 1927. I refer to ‘through line numbers’ in Q2 and Furness numbering in Q1 at 2.2.182ff and 2.3.1ff:



   Ro. I would I were thy bird.

   Iu. Sweete so would I,                                   992

Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing:

Good night, good night.

Parting is such sweete sorrow,                          995

That I shall say good night, till it be morrow.

   Iu. Sleep dwel vpon thine eyes, peace in thy breast. 997

   Ro. Would I were sleepe and peace so sweet to rest

The grey eyde morne smiles on the frowning night,     999

Checkring the Easterne Clouds with streaks of light,   1000

And darknesse fleckted like a drunkard reeles,           1001

From forth daies pathway, made by Tytans wheeles.  1002

Hence will I to my ghostly Friers close cell,

His helpe to craue, and my deare hap to tell.

              Enter Frier alone with a basket.      (night,

   Fri. The grey-eyed morne smiles on the frowning     1006

Checking the Easterne clowdes with streaks of light:

And fleckeld darknesse like a drunkard reeles,

From forth daies path, and Titans burning wheeles:



   Ro: Would I were thy bird.                                       718

   Iul: Sweet so would I,                                             719

Yet I should kill thee with much cherrishing thee.          720

Good night, good night, parting is such sweet sorrow,

That I shall say good night till it be morrow.    (breast. 722

   Rom: Sleepe dwell vpon thine eyes, peace on thy

I would that I were sleep and peace of sweet to rest.   724

Now will I go to my Ghostly fathers Cell,                       725

His help to craue, and my good hap to tell.


                     Enter Frier Francis                   (night,

   Frier: The gray ey'd morne smiles on the frowning    727

Checkring the Easterne clouds with streakes of light,   728

And flecked darkenes like a drunkard reeles,               729

From forth daies path, and Titans fierie wheeles:         730


Comparing these passages to get the most probable Shakespearean text—the primary editorial assignment—depends not merely on one’s presumptions about the origins of Q1 and Q2 but on their relationship. If Q1 is an inviolate early version and Q2 its sacred revision, there isn’t much to study. But here and elsewhere, that position is untenable.


If Q1 is taken as a memorial reconstruction and if Q2 copy is assumed to be Shakespeare’s foul papers, as editors do, hypotheses may suffer even with recognition that Q2 partially reprints Q1. First, no matter how anomalous, Q2 is thought to be Shakespeare’s original composition and reporters are thought to transmit more knowledge than is transmitted.


By entertaining the probability of theatrical reporting one assumes less, even when positing a radical transmission. One may offer explanations rather than vague “revision” or “reconstruction” hypotheses falling short of explanation. The evidence and power of shorthand transmission may not only fit the circumstances of the rest of the playtext, it may get us nearer to knowing how any particular corruption occurred.


Q2 is corrupt (as all agree) in that Juliet is given two speech headings in a row (992 & 997). Q1 assigns Romeo the line (723) given to Juliet at Q2 997; one of these prefixes is wrong. Editors disagree, for good reasons, as to how all these lines should be divided. I haven’t a strong opinion but Q1 is not a guide if it is a shorthand report. In such cases, designating speeches is guesswork (editorial). The same is true of the following crux.


The grey-eyed morne smiles on the frowning night,

Cheering the easterne cloudes with streames of light;

And darknesse flected, like a drunkard reeles

From forth daye’s path-way made by Titan’s wheeles.


Here England’s Parnassus prefers Romeo’s quatrain to either Friar’s version (Q1 or Q2) of the same lines. Van Dam observes of the 1600 publication that if “fleckted was wrong . . . the collector or printer . . . would have changed it. He would have had more reason . . . than for his alteration of Checkring and streaks into Cheering and streames. . . . Flickted could be the aphetized form of afflicted. Spenser and Milton used the word afflicted . . . meaning of overwhelmed, overpowered.” Van Dam also convincingly cites A Mirror for Magistrates, 1610:


All jag’d and frounst, with diuers colours deckt,

They sweare, they curse, and drinke till they be fleckt.


This accepted usage confirms the general acceptance of Romeo’s Q2 speech instead of the repetition by the Friar (fleckeld, Checking). As van Dam observes, the Q2 Friar’s version repeats the transposition in Q1 (‘flecked darkenes’) and its last line. Though van Dam felt Romeo’s correct lines belonged to the Friar while I believe they are Romeo’s, I agree the second Q2 version derives from Q1 -- one of many reprinted portions of the text that show, some more forcefully than others, the Q2 compositor had ready access to (and willing, injudicious use of) the first edition alongside his “corrective” manuscript.


The two versions in Q2 are often cited as produced in Shakespeare’s foul papers (and as evidence of foul papers) where an altered version was meant to replace another, when Shakespeare is supposed to have forgotten to cross out the “deleted” lines. That unlikely event is coupled to desire for foul-paper copy and unhooked from Q1 to form a standard part of a circular rationale: oddities mean Shakespeare at Work.


I believe the Friar’s speech in Q2 was added from a corrupt Q1. Yet in a memorial reconstruction the reporter of 2.3 is presumed to know who was speaking. Short of reassigning lines in the theater or the printing-house, there seems (at first) to be no easy way to piece a sequence of error together. But if Q1 is a shorthand report, matters are simplified; if the actor portraying Romeo transposed his lines (as he was wont), they would have been delivered (accidentally or on purpose) in this order:


Hence will I to my ghostly Friers close cell,                 1003

His helpe to craue, and my deare hap to tell.               1004

The grey eyde morne smiles on the frowning night,      999

Checkring the Easterne Clouds with streaks of light,    1000

And darknesse fleckted like a drunkard reeles,            1001

From forth daies pathway, made by Tytans wheeles.   1002


Which is just how Q1 reads, corrupt as it is:


Now will I go to my Ghostly fathers Cell,                       725

His help to craue, and my good hap to tell.


                     Enter Frier Francis                   (night,

   Frier: The gray ey'd morne smiles on the frowning    727

Checkring the Easterne clouds with streakes of light,   728

And flecked darkenes like a drunkard reeles,               729

From forth daies path, and Titans fierie wheeles:         730


As proved by John of Bordeaux and Philaster, the clearest evidence of mistaken speech headings (and not to mention the numerous ascription errors in Q1 R&J itself), the stenographer had no time to identify or to assign speakers in his shorthand text. He marked changes of speakers, and pauses, just in case; but waited on transcription to match headings by inference from the dialogue. He may have left much of the job to the recipient of a pilfered text. In this instance, as with the preceding lines, mistakes were made. “Frier Francis” (whoever he is) got the checkeld and fleckered lines by accident.


After 2.2 the identical-enough-for-repertory-work verses were repeated to begin Q2 2.3. It’s no use applying Orenthal logic here (“Why leave a glove at the scene and another at home? Not guilty.”) The compositor did it all right; and he made a bit more money not asking reasons why. Considering the plentiful evidence of memorial reporting in Q1 and the evidence of how shorthand affects texts, I think this sequence is a likely alternative for how the Q1 & Q2 corrupt versions came about. It should be remembered that we aren’t discussing “plain text” but corruption, for which there are reasons.


Gerald E. Downs



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

Date:         December 8, 2012 8:43:43 PM EST

Subject:     Shorthand, R&J


Steven Urkowitz remarks:


> To return to my ongoing conversation with Gerald

> Downs. I’m pretty sure that he and I aren’t going to

> change one another’s minds,


I have no expectation of either event. My argument is to show others that Steven is wrong about the early texts of Shakespeare’s plays, at least partly in response to invitations to read his writings. I think most every scholar is wrong to some degree because shorthand was lost to consciousness sixty years ago. Steven is especially vulnerable. 


> I’ll not take on lots and lots of Gerald Downs’s points

> (as I have with similar arguments such as those of

> Peter Alexander).


Editors still agree with Alexander. No one likes to deal with every point of contention, but when denying memorial transmission unwanted evidence can’t be shunted aside without misinforming others.


> Gerald Downs accepts as possible my reading of a

> variant as a possible instance of authorial revision:


>> That is a conceivable possibility . . .


As I observed, the “conceivable possibility” is, after all, highly unlikely; the more of them gathered together, the more unlikely the hypothesis and the less likely the single instance. In contrast, memorial texts turn aloose categories of error that can be expected to recur, and they do. It is no coincidence that “revisions” begin on suspected corruption and end with sound text. That’s because Steven has it backwards. The problem is, for those less versed in the matter, it’s a pain getting versed. Over the years R&J has supplied many instances of corruption but in a bottomless pit one may not recall or even see them all.


> Further, if, as Gerald urges, a poet doesn’t go at his

> revisings repeatedly using a finite toolbox of patterns

> (as I imagine our WS did in the transformations of R&J

> from Brooks’ Romeus and Juliet to Q1 to Q2),


We agree the toolbox is imaginary. Erne suggests Q2 follows Brooks more than does Q1. That’s expected of a cut, memorial report.


> how can Gerald support his own claim that the

memorial transcribers will repeatedly make the

> same kinds of errors o-so-regularly as they moved

> from Q2 (or the unknowable text from which Q2 was

> also derived . . .) to generate the versions printed in

> Q1. Bad-guys can produce repeated patterns but

> good-guys can’t?


Memorial, scribal, shorthand, editorial, and compositorial errors are all categorized to some extent. We see (some of us) the same mistakes repeated in similar circumstances. It’s an inductive process that may even be experimental—with data collected at the turn of the sixteenth century. For example, after studying the graphically clear evidence in John of Bordeaux I turned to a play with which I had no familiarity that had its own Q2. Because the printer himself apologized for the bloody Q1 Philaster text I predicted—that’s what you do with hypotheses—shorthand symptoms would show. Maguire reported no speech prefix problems in Q1 but Q2 discovered sixty mistakes. The other categories are represented too. Q1 R&J is no slouch either.


> I project [Gerald E.'s] position would be that the

> author functioned in an artistic economy of scarcity

> where opportunities to change things were severely

> restricted.


My position is that the evidence supports memorial reporting and faulty printing, not authorial revision. “Artistic authorial economy” hasn’t much to do with it.


>I’m gonna have to apologize again.


No, the “moderator” must like it. I only point out that personal attack is not argument.


> At the end of R&J 4.2, Q1 shows us [the Capulets]

> exiting together:

>   Moth. We shall be short in our prouision.

>   Capo: Let me alone for that, goe get you in,

> Now before God my heart is passing light,

> To see her thus conformed to our will.

>                                            Exeunt.

> But Q2 gives a nicely different end of scene:

>  Mo.  We shall be short in our prouision

> Tis now neare night.

>  Fa.  Tush, I will stirre about.

> And all things shall be well, I warrant thee wife:

> Go thou to Juliet, helpe to decke up her, 

> Ile not to bed to night, let me alone:

> Ile play the huswife for this once, what ho?

> They are all forth, well I will walke my selfe

> To Countie Paris, to prepare up him

> Against to morrow, my heart is wondrous light,

> Since this same wayward Gyrle is so reclaymd.

> Exit


> I think Van Dam’s exercise won’t be able to reconcile

> these variant ends-of-scene.


This is a cut where Q1 loses some nice lines in the process. That probably happened every time a Shakespeare play was cut. There is no convincing evidence that Q1 was revised to Q2. Some passages demonstrate that Q1 loses sense with the cutting. For example, R.G. White observed long ago that “The text of Q1 . . . is so often incoherent that its great corruption is manifest; and on a comparison of the corrupt passages with the text of Q2, the corruption, in most instances, seems unmistakably due to an imperfect representation of that text . . . . He gives a number of convincing examples:


“Our wonder at Sh.’s ever describing an apothecary’s shop as stuffed with beggarly accounts of empty boxes is at an end when we . . . see how he was led to stuff the shop instead of the alligator . . .” Yet now I wonder how the modern director makes hay first with the stuffed gator and then with ye stuffed shoppe. And what was Shakespeare thinking? “I got it! Stuff the alligator for Q2! What will I (or Steven) think of next?” Let’s let Shakespeare off the hook. Q1’s stuffing is a memory turkey.


"Again, when, in the last scene of the play, Capulet, according to [Q1] exclaims,


   Capo: See Wife, this dagger hath mistook:

For (loe) the back is emptie of yong Mountague,

And it is sheathed in our Daughters breast.           Q1 2135


“we are at a loss to understand the phrase, ‘the back is emptie,” and no less to discern what connection there is between the empty back of Rom. and the dagger in the breast of Iul.” But Q2 helps us out of our trouble . . .”


   Ca. O heauens! O wife looke how our daughter

This dagger hath mistane, for loe his house

Is emptie on the back of Mountague,

And it missheathed in my daughters bosome. Q2


Is it really likely that Shakespeare wrote the Q1 version? Steven could deal with the many Q1 problems like this. “Why not?” Well, let’s face it; Q1 is a mess without the cherry-picking.


> . . . with van Dam and Gerald Downs . . .

> we must contemplate the kinds of mish-mash

> scrambling with agents and versions slip-sliding

> away from an Authorial Original.


The evidence insists. The agents existed.


Gerald E. Downs


Richard Strier on “Shrews and Jews”


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0508  Monday, 10 December 2012


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

Date:         December 7, 2012 4:45:08 PM EST

Subject:     Richard Strier on “Shrews and Jews”


Here’s Richard Strier’s 2012 University of Chicago Humanities Day Keynote Lecture on Shakespeare’s Prejudices: Shrews and Jews (c. 53 min long). After the four and a half minute intro by Dean Roth, Dr Strier explores the ironies of Shrew, then, about 30 minutes into the video, probes those of Merchant:



Joe Egert 


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