Texts of King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.167  Monday, 24 April 2017


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

Date:         April 24, 2017 at 12:49:30 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Texts of King Lear


After comment on two interesting, dense prose pages (I3v–I4r) I’ll suggest (for no good reason) that an F addition could restore Q omission (in preparation for “good reason” examples). Coincidentally, 4.6 was cited recently, though without exhausting the issues. [F in Blue]:


[Lear.]        . . . giue the word ?    Edg. Sweet Margerum.

Lear. Passe.           Glost. I know that voyce. (Q1 4.6.90ff)

Lear. Ha Gonorill, ha Regan, they flattered mee like a dogge,


‘Ha! Gonerill with a white beard?’ [If that’s a restoration (and ‘ha Regan’ a Q cop-out), I suppose Lear recognizes Gloster but responds to the “blindfold” (bandage) as a reminder of his ‘unseeing’ daughter. Stone: “on the whole, Shakespeare is at pains to avoid portraying Lear’s madness as mere delirium” (209). Bordeaux writes ‘ha’ when modern ‘ah’ is appropriate; BQ spellings mean little.]  


and tould me I had white haires in my beard, ere the black ones

were there, to say I and no, to euery thing I saide, I and no toe,

was no good diuinitie . . .


To say I, and no, to euery thing that I said : I, and no too, [As usual, F mispunctuates: ‘they said I was wise young (Foakes): to say “aye and no” to everything I said “aye and no” to was irreverent’ (Matt. 5.36–37.) Shakespearians say Shakespeare didn’t punctuate only to excuse Hand D (a copy). Q1, Q2, and F Lear show that can’t be true.]


Glost. The tricke of that voyce I doe well remember, ist not

the King?

Lear. I euer inch a King when I do stare, see how the subiect

quakes, I pardon that mans life, what was thy cause, adultery?


[Lear has Gloster’s ‘Wanted Poster’ in his hand.]


                                                     . . . let copulation thriue,

for Glosters bastard son was kinder to his father then my daugh-

ters got tweene the lawfull sheets . . . 


[However, Lear must not yet suspect Edmund’s character; only Regan could “proclaim” Gloster’s death. Lear speaks of Gloster’s supposed “crime.”]


behold yon simpring dame whose face between

her forkes presageth snow, that minces vertue . . .


[Of ‘forkes’, Furness had “no inclination to emphasize an unsavory question by discussing it.” Snow is a bit ambiguous: Eskimos have a million words for it.]  


Glost. O ruind peece of nature, this great world should so

weare out to naught, do you know me?

Lear. I remember thy eyes well inough, dost thou squiny on

me, no do thy worst blind Cupid, ile not loue, reade thou that

challenge, marke the penning oft.


[Now the bandinage says Cupid. Lear again shows Gloster the “proclamation.”]


Glost. Were all the letters sunnes I could not see one.

Edg. I would not take this from report, it is, and my heart

breakes at it.


[Edgar reads his father’s death warrant and learns the cold, hard ‘facts.’]


            . . . Lear. Read. Glost. What! with the case of eyes

Lear. O ho, are you there with me, no eyes in your head,

                          . . . yet you see how this world goes.


[Hey, you really are blind!]


Glost. I see it feelingly . . .

Lear                        . . .  thou mightst

behold the great image of authoritie, a dogge, so bade in office,

 . . . through tottered raggs, smal vices do appeare, robes &

furd-gownes hides all, [Place sinnes with Gold, and the strong

Lance of Iustice hurtlesse breakes, Arme it in ragges a Pigmies

straw does pierce it. None does offend, none I say none Ile

able ‘em, take that of me my Friend, who haue the power to

seale th’accusers lips.] get thee glasse eyes, and like a scuruy po-

lititian seeme to see the things thou doest not . . .

Edg. O matter and impertinencie mixt reason in madnesse.

Lear.                                           . . . I knowe

thee well inough thy name is Gloster . . .

Gost. Alack alack the day.

Lear.                     . . . wee are come to this

great stage of fooles, this a good blocke. It were a delicate stra-

tagem to shoot a troupe of horse with fell, & when I haue stole

vpon these sonne in lawes, then kill . . .


[F corrects the spoonerism to ‘shoo . . . with felt.’ I guess blocke results from confusing shorthand b with p again; cke misreads tte. Read plot for block, for a theatrical ambush.]


Q1 evidence indicates omissions (restored or not) in its printing. F adds lines. It’s not difficult to imagine a Q1 omission about the size of the F interpolation above. However, I don’t suggest these lines were accidentally left out, or their independent excision. But if omission occurred elsewhere in composing the crowded pages, the printer’s options were limited: leave the lines out; adjust several formes to enable restoration; restore partially; or replace unimportant text with the omission (to its different spot.)


Stone observes that F additions are generally irrelevant to the sense or action of the play, so much so as to question their motives as revisions. He seems to go out of his way to fault the reviser. But on reading the interpolations as if they formed part of the “original” Q1 text, most are not noticeably out of place. Reading them as candidates for removal to gain space plausibly suggests investigation of nearby text for like-sized restorations in foul proofing. Results consistent with that hypothesis not only explain unlikely “revisions”; they establish a probability that even more F additions are restorations from Q1 copy or the printer’s records. Stone offers a number of instances of possible F recoveries (alongside failed correction of Q error) and Sir Brian Vickers supposes many F restorations.


Gerald E. Downs




Vickers' Review of New Oxford and Norton3 Shakespeares

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.166  Monday, 24 April 2017


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

Date:         April 21, 2017 at 12:20:30 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: SHAKSPER: From TLS (Vickers)




That Brian Vickers has bad things to say about the New Oxford Shakespeare is no surprise. He didn’t like the 1986-7 Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare either, although it was done along entirely different lines from the New Oxford Shakespeare and the two projects should not be conflated the way Vickers’s conflates them in his review.


SHAKSPERians with long memories may have noticed that Vickers tends to vehemently disagree with an idea right up until the moment he accepts it, at which point he flips into not only endorsing the idea but also pretending that he had endorsed it all along and that it was other people, not himself, who just could not see that it was correct.  He even gets exasperated by the blindness of those who just cannot see the truths that he himself not so long before had rejected.


Reviewing the 1986-87 Oxford Shakespeare’s Textual Companion, Vickers was scathing about its claims that Shakespeare co-authored a substantial body of his writing. He found that this claim relied on the work of “a very miscellaneous group of scholars who tried, over the last century, to quantify Shakespeare’s style” (Review of English Studies 40 (1989):

402-11, p. 410).


Which miscellaneous scholars exactly? Vickers was happy to name them and they included “E. K. Chambers . . . Karl Wentersdorf . . . [and] Ants Oras” (p. 410). At this point in his career, Vickers was deeply sceptical of co-authorship, which he found “so often bruited in the past and so often discredited for inadequate evidence” (p. 405).


Fast-forward 13 years, and Vickers signals his change of mind by publishing Shakespeare, Co-Author (Oxford University Press, 2002). But he doesn’t acknowledge that he has changed his mind. Instead, he laments “the ingrained resistance that still exists whenever the question of Shakespeare’s co-authorship arises” (Shakespeare, Co-Author, 43-4).


And what of that “very miscellaneous group of scholars who tried, over the last century, to quantify Shakespeare’s style”? Vickers now approves of them. E. K. Chambers is approvingly cited many times (on 21 pages, says Vickers’s index) and he provided “the most reliable data” (p. 127) for verse tests. Karl Wentersdorf is now credited with “providing convincing documentation” (p. 42) of Shakespeare’s collaborative writing and “recent research by [A. C.] Partridge, [David J.] Lake, and [MacDonald P.] Jackson has confirmed” (p. 132) what Wentersdorf found. Verse tests went out of fashion for a while, but “their validity was confirmed by the introduction of far more rigorous metrical procedures by Ants Oras” (p. viii), whose “work has many important implications for Shakespeare studies” (p. 54) and was based on “meticulous computation” (p. 55).


Same scholars, different Vickers review. I won’t be surprised if the new authorship attribution claims in the New Oxford Shakespeare one day get endorsed by Vickers and he complains about the “ingrained resistance” of those who resisted them.


Gabriel Egan

General Editor, The New Oxford Shakespeare




Crimes at Midnight

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.165  Monday, 24 April 2017


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

Date:         April 21, 2017 at 11:43:15 AM EDT

Subject:    Crimes at Midnight


“In 1980,...Chimes at Midnight...was considered a failure.”


Indeed it was, and for good reason.  When I first saw the film in the 1970s, I thought that it contained (a) a powerful battle sequence, (b) an impressive performance by Gielgud, and (c) nothing else of value.  Subsequent re-viewings have not altered my opinion.


--Charles Weinstein 




Rice’s Parting Words

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.164  Monday, 24 April 2017


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

Date:         Monday, April 24, 2017

Subject:    Rice’s Parting Words




Emma Rice, Shakespeare’s Globe Director, Offers Some Parting Shots

By Christopher D. Shea

April 21, 2017


LONDON — Emma Rice, whose short stint as the artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe ended with a spat with the board and a sudden departure from the role, wrote a spirited letter to her successor that was posted to the theater’s website this week.


In the letter, addressed to the as-yet-unnamed “future artistic director” of the theater, Ms. Rice described the position as the “most precious of jobs,” and suggested that her decision to leave resulted from disagreements with the theater’s board. “As important and beloved as the Globe is to me, the Board did not love and respect me back,” she wrote, adding: “They began to talk of a new set of rules that I did not sign up to and could not stand by. Nothing is worth giving away my artistic freedom for — it has been too hard fought for.”


Ms. Rice, who came to the Globe from the immersive theater company Kneehigh, swan-dived into her role in the spring of 2016, programming several tweaked updates of Shakespeare’s plays, including “Imogen,” a version of “Cymbeline” that reimagined the work as a female-driven play; and a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” starring the cabaret star Meow Meow. Before she took the job at the Globe, Ms. Rice had drawn headlines for comments including an oft-circulated statement that she became “very sleepy” when trying to read Shakespeare’s plays.


[ . . . ]


Ms. Rice will stay in her role until April 2018. Applications for the position of artistic director are being accepted until 5 p.m. on Monday, April 24, according to the theater’s website.




Riffs on Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.163  Monday, 24 April 2017


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

Date:         Monday, April 24, 2017

Subject:    Riffs on Shakespeare




Theater to Commission 38 Modern Riffs on Shakespeare

By Jennifer Schuessler

April 21, 2017


The yearlong celebration of Shakespeare’s 400th death-i-versary ends on Saturday. But before the clock strikes midnight, the American Shakespeare Center, a theater company in Staunton, Va., is announcing a future-oriented tribute: a 20-year contest to create 38 modern companion pieces to his plays.


The project, called “Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries,” invites writers to submit plays inspired by each of Shakespeare’s, on a schedule coordinated with the theater’s season. Two winners will be chosen each year, and will be performed in repertory along with the Shakespeare play that inspired them, starting in 2019. (Each winning playwright will receive $25,000.) The final year will consist of a retrospective of the best work from the project.


Jim Warren, the artistic director of the American Shakespeare Center, said in a news release that the company wasn’t looking for straight retellings but, rather, wider-ranging riffs that might include sequels or prequels; plays focused on minor characters or on the first productions of one of Shakespeare’s dramas; or plays that feature modern characters interacting with those from Shakespeare.


The goal, Mr. Warren added, was to create plays “that not only will appeal to other Shakespeare theaters, but to all types of theaters and audiences around the world.”


The project is only the latest to recast the entire Shakespeare canon in a modern idiom. The Hogarth Shakespeare, begun in 2015, has commissioned novelists including Margaret Atwood, Gillian Flynn and Jo Nesbo to write prose retellings of each play. And Play On!, a project of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, has commissioned 36 playwrights to create what it is calling line-by-line modern English translations of the plays.




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