Play Length


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0488  Saturday, 1 December 2012


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

Date:         December 1, 2012 1:11:41 AM EST

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Play Length


I wonder to what extent the issue raised by Steve Roth, inquiring whether the plays show signs that Shakespeare included matter that is only likely to be understood by a reader rather than an auditor, is informed by the fact that Shakespeare’s texts unquestionably were written to be read. They could not be performed unless they were first read by the players, even if they received only their individual parts. The prompter, of course, had to have a complete text, and it is likely that the plays had to be examined in full by at least most of the sharers before they were mounted.


Shorthanded yet again?


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0487  Saturday, 1 December 2012


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

Date:         November 30, 2012 4:36:42 PM EST

Subject:     Shorthanded yet again? More matter for a winter’s morning.


Changing venues away from “play length” for a moment, faithful readers, let’s put on our heavy gloves and trench-coats to patrol the now-wintry perennial-borders of Bad-Quarto Gardens, where the Daunting Gerald Downs once again is tossing the fetid fragments of “textual corruption” over our leaf-less hedges.


His way of working continues to match those of the old guard memorial construction gang he so respects. He looks at a Romeo and Juliet line from Q2. “That’s the real one (maybe).” And he points to the equivalent from Q1: “That’s an ERROR. I can tell. It’s maybe from transcription, or maybe memory, or maybe a ‘pirate’ or an actor grasping at straws, or shorthand. But Obviously it’s an error.” And he points to a similar line from somewhere else, another play, or another spot in the same play, or another author. “See, they’re similar. This one over here has to be the source misbegotten by the evil, stupid or desperate pirate, incompetent actor, or well-meaning but technically deficient stenographer. Can’t be anything else.”


I’m out here patrolling the perennial borders because for decades this kind of dystopic reasoning worked and worked and worked. Kind of like pre-Copernican “epicycles” that for centuries explained the observed motion of the planets. Then along came Copernicus to show that the apparent motion could be explained and predicted much more effectively and consistently using a different theory and a different point of view. The benefit of the Copernican solution to the explanatory issue was that the observations then fit into far stronger models of how and why objects actually move where we see them. But for generations lots of smart folk went on comfortably riding their epicycles hither and thither just like before. 


Like a well-maintained epicycle, the pirates / stenographers / rogue-or-forgetful actor theories work if and only if you don't look anywhere outside the limited box of smoke and mirrors the Bad Quarto Chorus holds up for us to view.  


Here’s one triplet of lines, cited as evidence for his theory by Gerald Downs, that I would say could very well be altogether the product of a certain vividly engaged actor who also wrote plays, the William Shakespeare guy, rather than a pirate / stenographer / actor / printer. Clipped from Downs’ last post, where he draws on Harry Hoppe:



From Hoppe’s 161-5.


TA 3.1.156

And that shall be the ransom for their fault.


R&J 1.1.90

Q1 Your lives shall pay the ransom of your fault.

Q2 Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.


Q2 does not echo TA. If Q1 is an early version with an authorial self-borrowing, why should this be revised?



Come along with me here: Say William rather than a collaborator wrote the line that Aaron the Moor says at Titus Andronicus, 3.1.156: “And that shall be the ransom for their fault.” And even if he didn’t, because William gets to hear this line whenever his company puts on that popular play, it sticks in his mind. So, further envision the possibility that William is writing another play, and suppose there he pens a line that goes like this: “Your lives shall pay the ransom of your fault.” Closely echoing the Titus line.


Now here’s the odd disconnect in Gerald Downs’ epicyclic reasoning, and I ask that you consider just how odd it is.  


The line “Your lives shall pay the ransom of your fault.” appears in print in the 1597 First Quarto of Romeo and Juliet: (at what in the Second Quarto is R&J 1.1.90). In the Second Quarto, not printed until 1599, the equivalent line reads like this: “Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.” “ransom” becomes “forfeit,” “fault” becomes “peace.” Out here on patrol, pretty much in contact with real authors who write things and then later revise them, or with seeds that when dropped into mud eventually turn into flowers, it seems to me that our guy William really could have written the Titus line, AND that he could have written the Q1 line. And (why not go for the whole hog?) he could have fiddled with it some more to end up with the Q2 line.  


But Gerald sees the Q1 line as an effort by the corrupting other (stenographer, actor, pirate) who was trying to recover the Q2 version that Shakespeare wrote.  Gerald says, 


“Q2 does not echo TA.” Okay. “If Q1 is an early version with an authorial self-borrowing, why should this be revised?”


Urk would say in response to that rhetorical gambit, “Why not?” (Oh, us pithy Bronx rhetorical counter-punchers!)


But I suppose that Gerald’s implied follow-on to his “Why should this be revised?” would be something like, “Our William wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t revise a line that he’s already changed once.” Thus, by default, Q1 since it couldn’t be on-the-way towards the Q2 version, in Gerald’s eyes “is manifestly corrupt.” The real William for Gerald Downs is capable of the Titus line, and he is capable of the Q2 line, but (if I’m following him here) he isn’t capable of writing the Titus line, then the Q1 line, and then the Q2 line. I would say instead, “No, it is manifestly an authorial revision of “an authorial self-borrowing”, and furthermore I can point to similarly-variant triplets which abound in our three-text play, Hamlet.”  (See my essay, “Back to Basics: Thinking about the HAMLET First Quarto,” in Thomas Clayton, ed., The Hamlet First Published (Q1, 1603), (1992), 257-91 (esp. 283-7).


Starting with E.A.J. Honigmann and running down through Grace Ioppolo many critics have shown that (contrary to Gerald’s belief) in fact authors do “self-borrow” and even “other-borrow.” AND they even revise what they so borrow.  


“Manifestly corrupt,” Gerald declares?  How about calling it, “Manifestly earlier and tentative, like a draft?”  


Gerald lists a series of these kinds of alteration, never allowing that William could have written things that looked sort-of-Shakespearean or on-the-way-to-becoming-truly-Shakespearean. After listing a lot of these, Gerald instead declares: “I wouldn’t characterize these examples as a berg-tip since the corrupt Q1 is wholly visible and described elsewhere. The memorial evidence is overwhelming in every category.”


If you look at the memorial / shorthand / actor / etc. arguments and accept them, then you are left with great piles of corrupt disjecta membra produced by malignant agents. But if you are (like me) underwhelmed by his “memorial evidence,” I’ll show you instead how those grotty bits in Q1 are really nascent flowers, later appearing in their fuller, blossomed glory in Q2.  You want to follow Gerald Downs along the hard paths of textual proctology? Fine, but don’t be surprised when everything you investigate starts looking like a rectum. Swift, I think, in the grand old days of public whipping said, “Last week I saw a woman flayed, and you will hardly believe how much it altered her appearance for the worse.” Flay them textual variants? If that’s your wish. But will you improve your understanding of how the variant texts actually work?  


For proctology, go with Gerald. Flowers? come with Urkowitz.


Or look at other critics work: most recently Elizabethan Zeman Kolkovich, “Pageantry, Queens, and Housewives in the Two Texts of The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Shakespeare Quarterly, 63 ( 2012), 328-54, where the “stuff” of the quarto and that of the Folio are both examined to great benefit.  


Let’s try to be nicer to those early quartos which we find whilst patrolling the perennial boundaries of our textual gardens; they don’t really do any harm, and they may yet grow up to be Later Quartos or even FOLIOS!   


Steve Gardenowitz


Shakespeare Apps


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0486  Saturday, 1 December 2012


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

Date:         Saturday, December 1, 2012

Subject:     Shakespeare Apps


[Editor’s Note: Herb Weil called my attention to this article that will appear in tomorrow’s New York Times. The Shakespeare and Shakespeare Pro app discussed below are the work of Ron Severdia and his Ron designed the Joomla template for the new SHAKSPER web site and graciously hosts SHAKSPER at Congratulations, Ron. —Hardy]



New Apps for Help Reading Shakespeare

By J. D. Biersdorfer

November 30, 2012


Like cat videos and political rhetoric, William Shakespeare is free online if you know where to look. Sites like and Project Gutenberg offer the full array of plays and poetry online or as free e-books.


Still, pure text from more than 400 years ago can be a bit bewildering to a modern audience looking to explain lines like “Prithee, keep up thy quillets.” But good cheer! It’s the 21st century, and modern technology has made wonderful advances in making Shakespeare’s plays and poems more accessible — even enticing — for an audience equipped with iPads and smartphones.


“Whatever your experience in reading Shakespeare, it is in performance that his words come alive,” intones Sir Derek Jacobi in a new interactive edition of OTHELLO from Sourcebooks ($5.99). This multimedia version for the iPad makes good on that introductory message. Video clips of selected scenes from a 1987 performance at the Market Theater in South Africa are interspersed with the play’s lines, allowing the reader to see the written words in action.


Photos from various productions over the years and audio recordings (including examples of Paul Robeson and F. Scott Fitzgerald playing the Moor) provide additional sight and sound to go with the words; the text itself has an iPad-friendly component as well: one-touch translation of 1,400 terms throughout the 3,560 lines of the play. Readers can press a finger to the iPad’s screen on select phrases to see a translation into modern English. Once the archaic vocabulary is explained, the reader can then tap back into the text and continue reading without having to leave the line, lose her place or start hunting around on Netflix for the best movie rendition.


Built as an iBooks-enhanced textbook (as opposed to a free-standing iPad app) and part of a series called “The Shakesperience,” this “Othello” takes a little getting used to, but it includes a short introductory section that explains its various features. These include an area to enter notes, and supplementary commentary from an array of academics and actors.


Plays aren’t the only form in which Shakespeare’s words come alive, as demonstrated by THE SONNETS BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, an app designed for the iPad ($13.99). The short poems, each a traditional 14 lines in length, appear in the app as both annotated text and as performance pieces.

Each sonnet has an accompanying video clip that shows an established Shakespearean actor (Patrick Stewart, Fiona Shaw and David Tennant among them) reciting the poem. Stage actors better known for their screen work, like Dominic West, Stephen Fry and Kim Cattrall, also help broaden the appeal for nonsubscribers to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Text and video for each sonnet can be viewed separately, or combined on-screen to highlight each line as it is read aloud, which very effectively displays the power of the poetry.

The overall design of the “Sonnets” app is clean and intuitive, with a simple menu to guide the user to other features, like notation by Katherine Duncan-Jones of Oxford University. Commentary by other scholars and a digital reproduction of the 1609 Quarto, the first published book of the sonnets, round out the experience. Tech-savvy English majors may also enjoy the Share-a-Sonnet feature, which allows the link to a Web-based version of a poem’s performance to be posted on Facebook or Twitter.


Those completists yearning for portable versions of all the plays, all the sonnets and the six long poems attributed to Shakespeare are in luck with a free app called, simply enough, SHAKESPEARE. The app is available for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, and Android devices. Well organized and smartly designed for touchscreens, “Shakespeare” offers menus for each play, and category headings for the sonnets and poems. Tap a play’s title to jump to the next screen, which offers submenus for the dramatis personae, the start of each act and a scene-by-scene breakdown with a detailed synopsis of the action.

For some, plowing through line after line of iambic pentameter on a four-inch screen may actually be a more comfortable way to focus on Shakespeare than grappling with the bulky Riverside edition. Font size can be easily adjusted in the app’s settings, as can the colors for text and background.


“Shakespeare” also includes a small glossary to help leap from Elizabethan to modern English, but to get the full 40,000-word integrated glossary, a $9.99 upgrade to the SHAKESPEARE PRO version is required; it is available only for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. “Shakespeare Pro” has plenty of extra features designed for students, including a guide to scansion, biographical information and a portrait gallery.


The text used in both versions of the app is provided by the site and was compiled from a combination of sources, including the First Folio of 1623 and the Globe edition of 1866. While no video clips are included, the app itself has been used in performance — in 2009, the Modern Shakespeare Company gave a dramatic reading of “Macbeth” at an Apple store in San Francisco using “Shakespeare” on their iPhones.


Perhaps all the world is a stage. Thanks to these ingenious apps, the world of Shakespeare is certainly much easier to comprehend.


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