HAMLET Around the World

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.162  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:    HAMLET Around the World




Their Hours Upon the Stage: Performing ‘Hamlet’ Around the World

By Stephen Greenblatt

April 21, 2017



Two Years, 190,000 Miles, 197 Countries, One Play 

By Dominic Dromgoole 

Illustrated. 390 pp. Grove Press. $27.


It began, we are told, as a whim lubricated by strong drink. In 2012 the management of Shakespeare’s Globe — the splendid replica of the Elizabethan open-air playhouse, built on the bankside of the Thames in London — was considering possible eye-catching new initiatives. In the midst of the merry collective buzz, the theater’s artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, impulsively said, “Let’s take ‘Hamlet’ to every country in the world.” No doubt even crazier cultural ideas have been proposed, but this one is crazy enough to rank near the top of anyone’s list. Yet it came to pass. An intrepid company of 12 actors and four stage managers, backed up by a London-based staff that undertook the formidable task of organizing the venues, obtaining the visas and booking the frenetic travel, set out in April 2014, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. They did not quite succeed in bringing the tragedy to every country — North Korea, Syria and a small handful of others eluded them — but they came pretty close. One hundred ninety countries and a series of refugee camps later, the tour reached its end in April 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

While helping to run the busy theater in London, Dromgoole managed to venture off and see for himself some 20 iterations of the production he had co-directed and launched. “Hamlet Globe to Globe” is a compulsively readable, intensely personal chronicle of performances in places as various as Djibouti and Gdansk, Taipei and Bogotá. The book is in large part a tribute to the perils and pleasures of touring. The Globe troupe had to possess incredible stamina. Keeping up an exhausting pace for months on end — Lesotho on the 1st of April, Swaziland on the 3rd, Mozambique on the 5th, Malawi on the 8th, Zimbabwe on the 10th, Zambia on the 12th, and on and on — they would fly in, hastily assemble their set, unpack their props and costumes, shake hands with officials, give interviews to the local press, and mount the stage for two and a half hours of ghostly haunting, brooding soliloquies, madcap humor, impulsive stabbing, feigned and real madness, graveside grappling, swordplay and the final orgy of murder. Then after a quick job of disassembling and packing, they were off to the next country. When one or two of the company became ill, as occasionally happened, the group had rapidly to reassign the roles; when almost all of them succumbed at the same moment, as befell them after an imprudent dinner in Mexico City, they had to make do with improvised narration and zanily curtailed scenes.


Dromgoole explains that he set the troupe up in the full expectation that not everyone would last the full two years. Hence his insistence that all the actors learn multiple parts so that they could switch around at a moment’s notice. As it happened, the same 16 people miraculously made it through the whole tour. Perhaps changing roles from time to time helped them build the collective sense of trust that sustained them. Perhaps too, as Dromgoole suggests, they drew upon “the gentle support of each line of verse,” so that even in the most trying of circumstances Shakespeare’s iambic pentameters “kept them upright and somehow kept them moving forward, into the story and towards the audience.”


[ . . . ]


Dromgoole heightened this adaptability by refusing to give the production any strong interpretive twist. “The best way to avoid a misconception,” he observes, “is to have no conception at all.” As a reviewer in São Paulo wrote admiringly, “The text was acted in plain mode — no verbal excesses or unnecessary shouting, just a harmonious recitation of words combined with essential corporal movement.” If there was a special emphasis at all, it was on the prince’s lightness and wit. Hamlet was less the melancholy Dane than the jester in a corrupt world bent on outlawing laughter. “Our show didn’t dazzle or explode,” Dromgoole concedes, “but it worked.”


Looking back on the initial motivations for his wildly ambitious project, Dromgoole ruefully notes two delusions: first, that “Hamlet” charted a journey toward peace, leading the troubled prince to a serene recognition that “readiness is all”; second, that it would have a comparably beneficial effect upon its audiences, leading them in some small way toward a resolution of their social and political problems. In reality, over the course of the two years, global problems only seemed to get worse, and the story of the prince, as the company performed it, seemed to tell not of spiritual enlightenment but rather of a bright young light that flamed for a moment only to fade and die.


[ . . . ]




Texts of King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.161  Thursday, 20 April 2017


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

Date:         April 20, 2017 at 12:31:09 AM EDT

Subject:    Two KING LEARs


“Sa sa sa sa”—or “Why Two KING LEARs are so much better than one.”


For springtime I offer you a better reason to turn away from gnawing debates over typesetting and transcribing to read instead a few juicy passages the early scripts of LEAR Q1 and F themselves.  And you might, for a lark, go also to the early scripts of those bad-bad-bad-maybe-not-so-bad multiple-text plays which display the same kinds of smart, beautiful, and theatrically exciting variations.  Spoiler Alert: I’ve made this general argument before, but this particular instance was published before many SHAKSPER readers were born.


I believe that Shakespeare repeatedly calls on us to appreciate and even to recapitulate the wild gyration of mental states happening when we are most alive, most stressed, indeed most human.  Evidence for this artistic summoning may be found particularly in textual variants in the Quarto and Folio KING LEAR.  Quickly-changing emotions occur in both substantive texts, but the later-printed version displays many moments where these gyrations are made more intense and difficult not only for the actor-characters playing the script but especially for us as witnesses in the audience. 



Okay. Quickly now.  Act IV scene vi:  Lear has just spun through his madcap exchanges with Gloster, “What was thy cause? . . . Are you there with me? . . . What, art mad? . . . If thou wilt weepe my fortune take my eyes,”  ending in a homicidal stratagem-excursion against son-in-laws to “kill, kill,” etc.  This is by turns wise and irreverent, comical, beautiful, horrible, empathetic, tender, calculating, and merciless. 


I have to underscore that here Shakespeare illustrates H.D.F.Kitto’s aphoristic definition: “Drama is the art of significant juxtaposition.”  We whipsaw through directions and dimensions of experience like Olympian emotion-athletes.  But after this bravura display, Shakespeare alters the rhythms and the social landscape of the scene.


The Quarto text for this next dramatic “beat” starts out, “Enter three Gentlemen.”  The tightly domestic trio of Lear, Gloucester and Edgar /PoorTom /Peasant becomes a new six-person crowd. The leader (and sole speaker) of the new threesome first calls his comrades’ attention to Lear: “O here he is.” He next commands them to restrain him, “lay hands upon him sirs.”  (Note the plural “hands” correlates grammatically with the plural “sirs”.) 


Then the Gentleman begins an address to the King : “your most deere “ which fails to include a completed subject or a verb. It is cut off by Lear’s outcries beginning, “No reskew”.  The Gentleman’s interrupted speech—an example of aposiopesis, or a broken off and incomplete sentence -- is a frequently used rhetorical device to indicate urgency and intensity within a single character’s speech or between characters in dialogue. Such interrupted speeches, where one character cuts into the speech of the person already speaking, require extra energy on the part of the interrupting actor.  These rhetorical figures frequently appear as textual variants at moments of intense confrontation in LEAR.   


In his speech beginning “No reskew,” Lear interrupts the Gentleman with a series of brief, separate (but unpunctuated-in-Q) sentences numbered here just to emphasize their abrupt and discontinuous energy: 


(1) No reskue, (2) what a prisoner,  (3) I am eene the natural foole of Fortune (4) use me well (5)you shall have ransome, (6) let me have a churgion (7) I am cut to the braines. 


Lear verbally leaps from assessing his military status (at 1 and 2), to pitying himself (at 3), to asking for good treatment (4 and 5), to asking for medical attention (6), and finally to reporting his mental pain (at 7). 


As earlier in the contrast between Lear’s speeches and those of Gloucester and Edgar, here the wild disconnectedness of Lear’s speech-acts tumbling one after another contrasts radically with the sequential orderliness of the gentleman’s addresses first to his fellows and then to Lear.


The Folio re-conceives the dynamics of this entrance and fine-tunes its language accordingly. Following “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill,” instead of three Gentlemen the Folio has “Enter a Gentleman,” a single new player rather than three at once. As in the Quarto, the Gentleman calls out, but in the Folio he must address offstage-imagined fellows when he says, “Oh heere he is.”  (Note:  This kind of calling out to the offstage folks ain’t theatrical rocket-science, but it seems to be beyond the imagination of many contemporary editors and textual scholars who won’t abide an unaccompanied Gentleman here.)  


Without onstage backup present from his own team, the Gentleman’s next command reads differently (i.e. the similar words indicate quite distinct speech-acts): ”Lay hand (singular) upon him, Sir.” This call in the Folio for a gentler, one-handed restraint of the “kill-kill-kill”-ing King can only be addressed by the Gentleman towards Edgar, since only he, blinded Gloucester, and Lear are on stage to be addressed.  Again, not rocket science, but we have here two different instances of distinctly plausible theatrical practice. “Sir” may seem too formal as a way for the Gentleman to address Edgar in his Mad Tom peasant-supplied duds, but when asking for his aid the Gentleman is not breaking any severe rules of social language.


Note here that many editors in the not-yet-ready-for-theatrical-rocket-science Editorial Community alter the Folio’s eminently clear punctuation to begin a new sentence with that “Sir” and use the word as the first of the Gentleman’s address to Lear. I would like to invoke the old “Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It” rule of textual non-intervention. The Q version works.  The F version also works.  The Editorial Version works too, but we don’t really need a KING LEAR by W S and Co-Equal Editor.  “Too complex for MY students to think about,” I’ve been told.   Get better students?  Better editions? A bigger Pedagogical Toolbox?


And finally the solo Gentleman’s speech shifts direction again, as it did in the Quarto.  This now-four-word interrupted address to Lear in the Folio still ends with an aposiopesis (only slightly modified by the added word) and with a more conventional three-em dash, a frequent but by no means consistently used mark: “Your most deere Daughter --- “ (Some critics suggest that Shakespeare wouldn’t make such a brief series of “inconsequential” changes found in this particular speech.  Why not?  I think he might, and I think it’s good for us to note them as they appear in the origenary documents.) 


Moving right along, the next few actions as the King exchanges words with Gentlemen or Gentleman pretty much match in the Quarto and Folio up until the King's jaunty run-away escape.   


The final piece of this “differential LEAR” landscape bridges what for the Gentleman plays out as a Sysiphian moment, just as Lear exits.  After his two buddies who (we should assume) have hot-footed after the King in the Quarto the Gentleman pauses (at 1 below) to think about what he has seen, (at 2) to address the fleeing King, and (at 3) to converse with Edgar instead of going out after his buddies and the King:


      Lear.  Then there's life int, nay and you get it you shall get it

    with running.    Exit King running.

       Gent. (1) A sight most pitifull in the meanest wretch, past spea-

    king of in a king: (2) thou hast one daughter who redeemes nature

    from the generall curse which twaine have brought her to.

      Edg.  Haile gentle sir. 

      Gent. (3)  Sir speed you, whats your will.   


In the Folio however the King more-enthusiastically bugs out—with the exuberant hunting cry of “sa-sa-sa-sa” -- but unlike the Quarto there are no other gentlemen to go after him.  The single Gentleman’s pause before he exits pursuing the King should seem more densely adumbrated than merely a moment for a quick revery before getting back to work.   (At least should for those of us who grew up contemplating the mysteries of Sartre’s MYTH OF SYSIPHUS.)  Folio Gentleman’s pause is more existential, more profound, more “I gotta look at this before I hurl myself back into the maelstrom” BECAUSE without the other gents it’s all on his shoulders.  Solo.


I may be blowing smoke here.  But there’s yet another hint that both versions of this Gentleman belong to Team Reticence, that Shakespeare built him as “The Hold-Back-Guy” rather than “The Go-Go-Guy.” Notice that in Q and in F, after the Gentleman satisfies Edgar’s inquiries about the forthcoming battle, Edgar has to prompt the Gentleman to carry on with his rescue of the King.  To end the conversation, Edgar first says, “I thank you Sir” and he adds, “That’s all.’  Like, “Go ahead!”  Gentleman don’t move. Instead he says, “Though that the Queen on special cause is here, / Her army is mov’d on.”  Then at last, finally, he exits, although Edgar still has enough time to say again, “I thank you Sir.”   Happens same-same in both texts, but weirder in F since Solo Gent. has that sole responsibility to catch the King.   (For a similarly disjointed action, and potentially disastrous discontinuity see Albany’s unexpected, and in F essentially unmotivated, turn from asking Edmund “Where’s the King? and where’s Cordelia.”  Rather than follow through to wait for an answer, Albany jumps to call Kent’s attention to the dead Goneril and Regan: “Seest thou this object Kent?”)


Some editors are happy to let the Folio version be as it comes from the Folio.  But many other editors won’t abide an unaccommodated bare forked gentleman without fellow gentlemen just watching and thinking about the “sa-sa-sa-sa”-ing King.  So, in many modern editions we get stage directions saying, “Enter Gentleman [and attendants].” 


Yes, it’s a little weird, the Gentleman being Philosophical rather than Immediately Pursuant.  But it’s only a very little little weird within a longer passage that is extremely weird. 


When editors don’t like this set of finely tuned alternative stage-actions, they often blame them on irresponsible, incompetent or actively malignant non-theatrical agents.   I have to repeat my jokey mantra that I’ve used since 1980:  Whoever made these changes or differently transcribed or memorially reconstructed or type-compressed or debased or enchanted these versions, that agent merits our closest attention.  


We can (and most do) fail to note that this set of variants forms a set of distinct theatrical patterns. And we can say that we have too much else to look at when we teach this play.  But then we lose this neatly “teachable moment.”  Our students, actors, and audiences lose the opportunity to see that scripts can indicate “funny” possibilities, and variant scripts indicate variously. In a world that has endured funny-money and alternate-Truths, we’ll only benefit if we can wrap our minds around Shakespeare’s textually funny offerings.


Steven Funnywitz

Professor Emeritus, English and Theater

City College of New York


Grammy Nominee for Early American Vocal Music, Western Wind Vocal Ensemble, 1973


Director, Romeo and Juliet, Prague Shakespeare Company, July 2017




From TLS: Too Too Solid

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.160  Thursday, 20 April 2017


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

Date:         Thursday, April 20, 2017

Subject:    From TLS: Too Too Solid




Too too solid

By Brian Vickers


April 19, 2017


William Shakespeare


The complete works: Modern critical edition

Edited by Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, Gabriel Egan et al. 

3,382pp. Oxford University Press. £50.


William Shakespeare


Third Edition

Edited by Walter Cohen et al. 3,438pp. £60 (US $91.25)


To publish a new edition of Shakespeare’s complete plays and poems is a massive and expensive undertaking. A team of general editors must be assembled, together with those who will edit the individual works. Experts in many disciplines will be needed, from textual criticism to theatrical history; musical and visual resources, maps, and other useful information assembled; and the whole apparatus made available in both print and digital formats. The year 2016 brought us new complete editions from Oxford University Press and W. W. Norton, the two great rivals in the lucrative student textbook market. They once shared this enterprise, for when Norton first published a one-volume Shakespeare in 1997, rather than commissioning a wholly new edition they reprinted the text of the Oxford Shakespeare of 1986, edited by Gary Taylor and Stanley Wells. Now Norton has freed itself by producing its own edition, and there is a quiet satisfaction as its editors record their independence.


The Oxford editors took it upon themselves, for example, to “improve” Pericles, co-authored by Shakespeare and George Wilkins, by versifying passages from a novella by Wilkins (which was probably written after the collaborative play) and inserting them into the text. Lois Potter removes their insertions as having “no textual justification”. Taylor-Wells had argued that the heroine of Cymbeline should no longer be known as Imogen, claiming that this name appears for the first time in the 1623 Folio, and was a misprint for “Innogen”. Ann Thompson in her edition of the play can draw on recent scholarship that has located Imogen in two previous books, a fifteenth-century chronicle and Holinshed. (The New Oxford retains “Innogen”.) These are welcome signs of fresh thinking, but Norton’s editors have had a failure of nerve regarding King Lear. Taylor and Wells made the much-disputed claim that the Folio (1623) version was Shakespeare’s revision of the Quarto (1608). In 1997 the Norton editors followed Taylor-Wells in printing both texts as supposedly separate creations, but hedged their bets by adding the “conflated” text, familiar to readers and theatregoers for 300 years, a compromise that undermined the whole point of the separate texts. In 2016, just when the “Two Versions” theory is losing justification, they retain separate Quarto and Folio versions, on facing pages, together with the conflated (now called “Combined”) version, but now helpfully use italic type to distinguish the passages missing from the Folio. Since the three Lears take up 260 pages, the next printing might choose differently.


In planning one-volume editions, many decisions must be made about the end-product and its format. In 1986 the Oxford Shakespeare appeared in a handsome folio of 1,432 pages, set in double columns, the standard format for most editions of the complete works since the First Folio. (It was subsequently issued as a reduced-size paperback.) In 1997 Norton preferred a smaller page, set in a single column, but now running to 3,420 pages, printed on thin paper, with attendant print-through. The new edition retains this format, but at 3,500 pages including appendices, it is an awkward book to use. If you open it in the middle it resembles two inverted halves of a melon; open at the beginning it curves like a rugby ball; either way it is hard to read or annotate the text in the gutter, as printers call the space between facing pages of an open book. The New Oxford has imitated Norton by choosing a smaller format than the first edition, also set in single column, slightly shorter (only 3,382 pages) but even heavier, weighing in at 5.8 kg, compared to the Norton’s 5.4 kg. We may wonder for whom these editions are intended. The paper in both editions is unsuitable for libraries, easily torn or frayed. As books, they are too heavy for students to carry around, and in any case the future of that market is said to be digital. At least the Norton print edition is available in paperback, either chronologically arranged (in two volumes) or by genre (three). In terms of usefulness the Norton is also superior, for its pages carry both marginal notes alongside the text, giving short glosses, and footnotes for longer explanations. The New Oxford offers less help with the text, for although it now has explanatory footnotes, the margins are reserved for “Performance Notes”, of which more later.


Complete editions of Shakespeare have usually carried prefatory material introducing such topics as Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre, and the nature of hand-press printing; Norton 3 devotes over 100 pages to these matters. The New Oxford seems determined to be different. Two of the General Editors, Gary Taylor and Terri Bourus, ignore this tradition and offer two prefaces, “Why Read Shakespeare’s Complete Works?” (including other important questions, such as “Why read dead white men?” and “Why read plays, when I can watch films?”), and “Why Read This Complete Works?”. As these formulations suggest, the editors choose to address their (presumed young) readers with such snappy utterances as “Shakespeare is the ghost with the most”; “his quotable-quote quotient is higher than anyone else’s”; “Shakespeare’s favourite subjects are monarchy, monogamy, and monotheism; not coincidentally, his most famous speeches and sonnets are monologues. He specializes in one-and-onliness”. Shakespeare may seem difficult – “So what? So is the universe”. In any case, “grappling with difficulty strengthens our minds”, and “the more you exercise those mind-muscles, those neural pecs, the easier it gets”. If our neural pecs aren’t up to it, “every reader can google their own favourite” topic.


The relentlessly up-to-date allusions create a bard for our times, or rather this decade. In 2014 “the influential radio commentator Ira Glass” (who he?), having seen a performance of King Lear, uttered what is here called “the virally retweeted epiphany, ‘Shakespeare sucks’”. “In 2016, a production of Measure for Measure in North Carolina was turned into a protest against the state’s new law banning transgender use of public bathrooms (with Mistress Overdone played by a transgender actor)”. Art had no need to imitate nature there. The editors devote about 1,400 breathless words (a quarter of the length of this review) to the 2016 hip-hop musical Hamilton, by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which “indisputably . . . belongs to the history of Shakespeare’s continuing influence”. Not only did Miranda accept a Tony award by reading “a sonnet (including the very Shakespearean tautology ‘And love is love is love is love is love’”), but his play includes two quotations from Macbeth, “Tomorrow and tomorrow” and “Screw your courage to the sticking place” – although Miranda revealed that “he first heard the phrase in the Disney musical Beauty and the Beast, and as a child had no idea that it came from a much earlier play”. (The editors comment, “We pick up scattered pieces of Shakespeare’s imagination without realizing it”.) Instead of providing help for readers, these prefaces are ephemeral, narcissistic self-display pieces, their main purpose being to appear cool to the presumed college student readership.


Two unusual features of this Modern Critical Edition have been introduced by Professor Bourus, who has also worked as a professional actor. She has provided “Performance Notes in the margin of the text to call attention to more complex staging possibilities”, with special “focus on ambiguous moments in the original text”, and on “choices that would have been possible on early stages”. In practice, these notes are often of the variety, “this scene can be acted slowly, or quickly”, and are thinly scattered. But the focus seems less on what was possible on early stages than on modern productions, as in this note on the Pyramus and Thisbe playlet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when Flute (as Thisbe) finds Pyramus dead, ready for “a tomb”:


In Hoffman’s (1999) film the campy, tongue-in-cheek delivery suddenly changed in mid-line to an unexpected and powerful seriousness. The young actor playing Thisbe removed his wig, lowered his voice to his natural pitch, and continued in his grief for the death of his lover and for his own suicide. The resultant silence in the onstage audience contributed to the heightened emotion of this scene.


That might be of interest in a separate section discussing theatrical interpretations, but it will seem rather irritating on re-reading the play. Some of these performance notes are truly distracting. Lear’s dying request, “Pray you undo this button. Thank you sir”, receives this note: “The button is presumably on the collar or chest of Lear’s garment, but might alternatively be the collar of Cordelia’s if Lear momentarily thinks she might still be alive”. Would Cordelia’s dress have buttons? Is this relevant?


Bourus is also credited with another “innovative” feature. All recent one-volume editions include a specially written introduction to each play, some of which – for example, those by Anne Barton and Frank Kermode in the Riverside Shakespeare – have permanent value. The New Oxford editors have “dispensed with scholarly introductions”, which they dismiss as “critical monologues”, in favour of “a bricolage: a creatively organized collection of quotations representing different critical perspectives” between 1592 and 2016. Or, as the preface invites us, “You may think of this as tapas Shakespeare, offering a small taste of many different dishes” so that we can discover which flavours we find most appealing, and explore them more fully in our own kitchen. (The editors have some problem with metaphors.) They see these snippets of critical opinion as providing “thousands of different gateways to Shakespeare”. Quotations have been chosen for their “style, memorability, concision, intellectual depth, originality, panache”.


Readers can judge for themselves their quality, such as these on Titus Andronicus. “[It] is, hands down, one of my favourite plays, mostly because it’s absolutely insane.” (Louise Geddes, 2014.) “The stage is piled with corpses, yet the horrible dance of violence has a viciously playful beauty.” (John Kerrigan, 1996.) “[Lavinia is] arguably the most arresting image of a female reader in early modern drama.” (Heidi Brayman Hackel, 2005.) Or this on Othello: “I want my Iago to be a really cool gay guy, an Iago who is all the more dangerous because both Othello and more than half the audience find him attractive”. (Stephen Orgel, 2003.) I have an idea for a new circle of hell, where all these thousands of quotations (“gateways”) are on a continuously playing tape, a cacophony of random opinions. Norton reprints the critical introductions to each play originally written by the general editors, now updated.


But the real justification for any new edition of Shakespeare is the choice and treatment of the text. Texts with such complex origins as these cannot be edited without some clearly articulated theory justifying practice. The New Oxford editors announce that “this Modern Critical Edition . . . builds upon the text established by the Critical Reference Edition”, to which all textual matters, and much else, are postponed. Norton 3, in welcome contrast, presents a “General Textual Introduction” by the newly hired textual editors, Suzanne Gossett and Gordon McMullan, which includes a useful, if brief account of early modern hand-press printing. They explain their concept of “single-text editing”, which requires an editor to maintain differences between texts of the same play that have reached us through different processes of transmission, but “not at the expense of sense”. They illustrate this principle with two unfortunately chosen examples. At the end of the tumultuous first scene of King Lear, Goneril and Regan, beneficiaries of their father’s disinheriting Cordelia, compare notes. Goneril speaks first, in the quarto text: “You see how full of changes his age is, the observation we have made of it hath not bin little”. The Folio text, however, removes the “not”, a claim justified by Gossett and McMullan as showing the daughters’ “expression of regret for not taking notice of these mood swings before they led to the present crisis”. But they overlook several other signs that these daughters have long been observing their father critically. Goneril knows that their father “always loved our sister most, and with what poore judgement hee hath now cast her off, appeares too grosse”. Regan agrees: “Tis the infirmitie of his age, yet hee hath ever but slenderly knowne himselfe”. Goneril reiterates her view, that “The best and soundest of his time hath bin but rash”, drawing a lesson for their future behaviour towards him. The Folio alteration gives the opposite of Shakespeare’s meaning.


Their other example of two readings, both supposedly equally valid, is Othello’s final speech recognizing his fatal error in killing Desdemona. In the quarto he compares himself to “one whose hand, / Like the base Indian, threw a pearle away, / Richer then all his tribe”. The Folio, however, reads “Iudean”, which the editors gloss as “probably being associated with Christ’s betrayer, Judas Iscariot, and thus, for Shakespeare’s audience, with Jews in general”. This facile interpretation ignores the cogent arguments of the late Richard Levin, that “it would be very inappropriate for Othello to compare himself to Judas, whose action was regarded as a conscious choice”, quite unlike the casual indifference with which American Indians valued their precious stones and metals, a fact often noticed in contemporary literature. In Pierce Penniless (1592), Nashe complained that “Artists for the most part are base-minded and like the Indians, that have store of gold pretious stones at command, yet are ignorant of their value”. The Folio compositor could have confused n for u in the manuscript copy; and in any case the metre requires a stress on the first syllable, not the second. For all these reasons “Indian” is the correct reading, not “Iudean”.


Norton 3 comes in both print and digital versions, confronting the material limits of the book with the infinity of cyberspace. Professors Gossett and McMullan are frank about their relative priorities: “we set out to invert the prior hierarchy of page and screen by creating an edition that would reach its fullest potential in digital form”. That is no doubt a future-proof decision, but it down-values the printed edition. At least its editors have the luxury of being able to choose between quarto and Folio for their copy texts, while placing the other version in digital space. In his new preface Stephen Greenblatt promises that the digital edition offers “multiple versions” of the fifteen plays for which “more than one authoritative text exists”. There we can read five of the six “Bad” quartos, unauthorized texts which are heavily cut and contain much non-Shakespearian material, including lines quoted from other plays, probably due to the actors’ failures of memory. The unauthorized 1603 Hamlet, however, is included in the main text, newly edited by Greenblatt himself, who shares the common misconception that it was merely “drastically . . . cut” for performance. It is indeed half the length of the 1604–05 Quarto issued to replace it, but it adds more than 400 non-Shakespearean lines, including several echoes of Othello, which help to date that play. It is certainly a great advantage to have these and seven other variant texts (four “Good” quarto plays and three Folio versions) included in the digital edition, with some passages in facing-page versions. There are two omissions: the Folio text of Romeo and Juliet and the 1598 quarto of 1 Henry IV.


In two instances Norton 3 privileges the digital version. The contents page of the print edition lists both Edward III and Sir Thomas More but in fact the book only includes introductions to the plays and to the texts, the first edited from the quarto, the second from manuscript. Another smaller but troubling omission concerns a scene (3.ii) not present in the quarto editions of Titus Andronicus, and first printed in the First Folio. At a banquet Marcus, Titus’s brother, kills a fly that has landed on his plate. Titus, maddened by grief at the rape of Lavinia, upbraids him for killing “this poor harmless fly”, but when told that it was “black, ill-favoured”, like Tamora’s servant Aaron, he strikes it again. Readers missing this scene will find it in the digital version.


Norton (an employee-owned publisher) has taken great pains over this edition. More than eighty scholars are thanked for providing critiques, and a fresh team of editors has been assembled for the thirty-eight plays. Twenty of them are women, an admirable innovation, for textual criticism has long been a mostly male domain. They have been given some of the hardest texts. Gretchen Minton, editing Troilus and Cressida, estimates that there are 5,000 minor textual variants between the 1609 quarto and the Folio, and 500 substantive ones – that is, with different wording. Clare McManus notes “thousands of differences” between the two versions of Othello, most of them small, but the Folio has around 160 lines not in the 1622 quarto, which has several unique lines. Both editors are more than equal to the challenges, as are Line Cottegnies for 2 Henry IV, Trudi Darby for Much Ado about Nothing, Lois Potter for Pericles and Hannah Crawforth for The Two Noble Kinsmen.


Of the male minority, Anthony Dawson contributes a judicious edition of Hamlet, based on the quarto but incorporating passages from the Folio in italic type. He is the only editor to give serious attention to the notion of a Bad Quarto (a category that these days ranks with Basil Fawlty’s “Don’t mention the war!”). In his edition of Julius Caesar James Siemon defends the apparent anomaly that Brutus twice refers to the death of Portia in the same scene as Shakespeare’s way of showing “Brutus’s character under the stress of the moment”. The most original scholarly work is done by Matthew Steggle in addressing some notorious textual problems in Measure for Measure. When Angelo has pronounced the death sentence on Claudio for having made his fiancée pregnant, Escalus comments (in the Folio text) that some people “rise by sinnes and some by virtue fall: / Some run from brakes of Ice, and answere none”. Nicholas Rowe emended “ice” to “vice” in his 1709 edition, and Steggle checked this reading against the Early English Book Online database, a tool unavailable to previous textual scholars. There he found “brakes” (thickets) collocated with moral states such as “vanity” or “sensuality”, justifying Rowe’s emendation.


The New Oxford Shakespeare employs fewer editors, who are not allowed to introduce the plays they have edited, having been supplanted by the “tapas” of snippets. The absence of textual notes is one of several features suggesting that this “Modern Critical Edition” regards serious scholarly issues as of no interest to its intended audience, who are demoted to second-class citizens. Norton 3 treats its editors, and its readers, with more respect. Each editor contributes a textual introduction for the print edition, and adds longer notes on textual cruxes in the digital version. The print version of Norton 3 also includes a brief performance note to each play by Brett Gamboa, who discusses specific production problems in the digital version. In further side-by-side comparisons Norton 3 comes out ahead. Both editions are profusely illustrated, but those in the New Oxford are marred by the paper’s excessive print-through. Norton’s typeface is clear and legible, New Oxford’s (printed in Italy) is elegant, but small and tiring to read; the editorial matter enclosed in boxes, printed in grey, is scarcely legible. Even worse, the designer has set the prelims and prefaces in a smaller font with tiny margins and single spacing, cramming about 1,000 words on the page. The New Oxford includes the music for the songs “wherever a reliable original score is available”. This is commendable, but they should have been collected in an appendix. It may be disconcerting, on re-reading Twelfth Night, to find five songs inserted into the text of one scene, or the Willow Song in Othello. Norton 3 (digital) provides recordings of all sixty-six songs in the plays.


In its choices regarding the text, the New Oxford Shakespeare makes two decisions, one questionable, the other disastrous. In cases where Shakespeare plays exist in both a quarto and a Folio edition, the 1986 predecessor made much of its preference for the latter, as being “more theatrical”. This decision ignored the fact that the Folio is an edited text, meant for readers (better described as “post-theatrical”), and it resulted in some strange choices. The 1604–05 quarto of Hamlet runs to 3,800 lines; the 1623 Folio text is 230 lines shorter but adds seventy lines. The original Oxford editors, bent on proving that the Folio was Shakespeare’s revised version, chose to omit passages found only in the quarto, printing them as “Additional Passages because we believe that, however fine they may be in themselves, Shakespeare decided that the play as a whole would be better without them”, so they were relegated to an appendix (and should rightly have been called “Subtracted Passages”). This decision raised any number of questions, but, thirty years on, the New Oxford editors abandon that reasoning, since it depends on “fiercely contested aesthetic preferences about which version is the more satisfying work of art, or which version is more ‘literary’ or more ‘theatrical’”. Their new principle is “to choose the version of the work that contains the most Shakespeare”. So now the 1604–05 quarto gets the nod, while the 1603 quarto and the Folio are dismissed. The downside of this new policy is that, as the editors acknowledge, this Complete Works is in fact incomplete, “since the longest version might omit certain lines found in a shorter version”. The reader will look in vain for passages of Hamlet found in the Folio, or those found only in the quarto of Othello. These editors refuse to conflate texts or to assume that “Shakespeare intended to combine all the material ever printed in any existing text”. But to assume the opposite is an assumption, too.


This textual principle is coherent, but can have unfortunate consequences. The text of King Lear, edited by John Jowett, is based on the 1608 Quarto, “which gives the longest eqarly [sic] text”, since it only lacks 102 lines, compared to the Folio’s 285. The New Oxford editor follows the quarto’s reduction of Lear’s “Never, never, never” to three repetitions, leaving an incomplete verse line. In the Folio, his last words are:


Do you see this? Looke on her! Looke her lips, Looke there, looke 

thereHe dies.


Jowett gives us the Quarto’s inarticulate groans “O, o, o, o”. In both texts, Edgar exclaims “He faints my Lord, my Lord”, but the Quarto allots Lear an extra line, to urge a cardiac arrest on himself: “Break heart, I prithee break”, a speech that the Folio rightly gives to Kent. For many readers who experience King Lear for the first and perhaps only time in this edition, this may seem like a botched ending. In the Folio, the Duke of Albany (i.e. Scotland) addresses Kent and Edgar as “you twain”, urging them to “Rule in this kingdom”, in which he has no legitimacy, and they reply alternatively, as they have done earlier. Kent declines, feeling himself near to death, while Edgar implicitly accepts, paying tribute to the suffering of Lear and Gloucester, which he has experienced at first hand: “The oldest hath borne most, we that are yong, / Shall never see so much, nor live so long”. The quarto assigned these lines to Albany, one of several mistaken speech prefixes in this final scene.


Here is the problem for the textual purist: if you follow a longer text, known to be badly printed, do you include all the errors? Or only some? In the text Taylor has adopted dozens of Folio readings which give the correct sense. To ignore its authority here may be the last gasp of the Two Versions theory that these lines were Shakespeare’s first thought, which he later amended to change the balance between Albany and Edgar.


The other, disastrous New Oxford decision concerns Shakespeare’s canon. Answering the question, “Why Read This Complete Works?”, Taylor and Bourus declare: “Our goal is to provide the most and best Shakespeare ever available”. That goal sits oddly with Taylor’s statement to the Guardian last October that their first edition had “underestimated the amount of Shakespeare’s work that’s collaborative. In 1986 eight of the 39 plays were identified on their title pages as collaborative, a little more than 20%. In 2016, 17 of the 44 plays are identified, a little more than 38%, close to two-fifths”. Taylor presents this as an advance, made by “new scholarship, techniques and resources”. To most other people it will seem like a grievous loss – always assuming that the attributions and de-attributions are justified.


It has long been evident that Taylor suffers from Shakespeare envy, an odd mixture of acknowledging his greatness while attempting to whittle away at the canon or introduce foreign bodies. In 1986 he inserted the dismal lyric “Shall I die” (attributed to Shakespeare by one copyist only), which is retained here, albeit with the defensive note “A lyric perhaps written as a poetic exercise” (perhaps?). In a separate note Taylor acknowledges that the poem “has not endeared itself to anyone. I, too, dislike it!” Yet he celebrates its virtuoso “internal rhymes and avoidance of the article the”, adding: “And if (as Donald Foster suggests) the verses belong to a musical-comical-sexual stage jig, performed by a singing and dancing clown at the end of a play, they are far and away the most interesting – and literary – specimen of that dramatic genre”. Can anyone believe this?


In the Oxford Middleton (2007) Taylor appropriated parts of Macbeth and Measure for Measure, plays here described as “adapted by Middleton”. Now he adds All’s Well that Ends Well, claiming over 100 lines for Middleton, who is also credited with adding the “fly” scene to Titus Andronicus. The purchaser of this Modern Critical Edition who might wonder why she is given no evidence for these attributions is told that “you are not, at this moment, looking at the Critical Reference Edition”, where the editors’ reasons will be revealed. Their most contentious decision is to ascribe all three Folio plays of Henry VI to “Shakespeare, Marlowe, and Anonymous, revised by Shakespeare”, with Nashe (rightly) credited as having written the first act of Part 1. As anyone who has studied Marlowe knows, his dramaturgy is wholly unlike Shakespeare’s, his vocabulary is far more Latinate, he seldom wrote prose, and his prosody is completely different, as quantitative studies have shown. If he had in fact written hundreds of lines of verse for these plays, his presence would be detectable by traditional observation. The New Oxford ascriptions are based on some recent hi-tech computerized tests which are not beyond criticism. In this edition we are often told that “stylometric evidence” favours this or that attribution; but there are many kinds of stylometry, some of them unreliable. A proper investigation of these claims must await publication of the arguments and evidence, but it is already evident that Taylor and his colleagues are making a reckless gamble in elevating Marlowe to this position. It is like staking all your money (and your publisher’s) on 17 red. What if black comes up – as it will? For the time being readers should treat with scepticism the claims regarding Henry VI, also Edward III and Arden of Faversham, here credited to “Shakespeare and Anonymous”. In a recent paper given to the London Shakespeare Seminar, Taylor warned that we will be hearing much more about Anonymous in future. Perhaps he hasn’t yet finished with the Shakespeare canon.


I turned to the digital versions rather warily, as a man who has always loved his books. At present, the New Oxford offers a page-for-page rendering of the print version, in a more legible text and with full quality illustrations. Most plays appear in three columns: first, the text (rather cramped, causing many verse lines to be turned over); then both the footnotes and performance notes, keyed to the text; finally, “extras”, which in some cases means illustrations of the Folio text in several versions, from the Bodleian and the Folger Library (the rationale for this is unclear). There are no other special features. Norton 3 has stolen a march on its rival by fully embracing the new possibilities of digital publication. A click on an underlined phrase produces a gloss or a longer note, and a marginal icon brings up longer comments on textual and performance problems. Appropriate points in the text offer links to facsimiles of the First Folio and to selected quarto pages, in some cases providing facing-page versions. In addition to the sixty-six songs, it includes over eight hours of audio recordings of crucial passages and scenes. Teachers can annotate a text for students, making it an invaluable pedagogical aid. The Norton Shakespeare even has its own YouTube channel, with a selection of video resources. Whatever the deficiencies of the print edition, this digital edition is going to be hard to beat.


With its combination of print and digital versions, Norton is complete in itself. The new Oxford Modern Critical Edition is just the beginning of a series. Two further titles have been published too late to be discussed here, an Authorship Companion (741 pages) and a two-volume Critical Reference Edition in old spelling (a further 3,600 pages). That is not the end, though. We are promised, in two or three years’ time, a two-volume set of the “Complete Alternative Versions”, many of which are already included in the Norton digital edition. Verily, of the monetizing of Shakespeare’s text there is no end.




Texts of King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.159  Wednesday, 19 April 2017


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

Date:         April 18, 2017 at 1:20:13 PM EDT

Subject:    Re: Texts of King Lear


Blayney includes textual analysis in his One Lear review, most of which I accept. However, his examples aren’t the best to convince readers of the relationship between Q1 and F. He argues against Vickers’s conflated text, not against authorial revision to an F-like text. He seems to air ‘original’ opinions rather than those of others.


[T]he influence of Q1 [on F] goes much deeper [than Q2], in that there are more than a few readings that seem to result from the miscorrection of Q errors . . . . (96)


All too often, textual conservatives depend on the belief that the Folio readings must be authoritative . . . . If the Quarto differs, therefore, it must be wrong. A good example of that attitude used to be provided by Edgar in 5.3 (here re-divided as in F):


   Edg.  O know my name is lost by treasons tooth.

Bare-gnawne and canker-bitte;

yet are I mou’t Where is the aduersary

I come to cope with all.  (Q1, L1v19–21)


 Edg.  Know my name is lost   (F, TLN 3073–76)

By Treasons tooth: bare-gnawne, and Canker-bit,

Yet am I noble as the Aduersary I come to cope.


[I]t was simply assumed that the Folio must be right (even though the sense requires . . . “with all”). So far as I have been able to tell, editors and textual critics simply dismissed “yet are I mou’t” as just another of the Quarto’s notorious garbles . . . . I can find no evidence that anyone before the early 1970s had noticed . . . the perfectly intelligible words, “yet ere I move it”—that is, before I tell you my name. Moreover, they are not merely intelligible: Edmund’s rash acceptance of a challenge from one described . . . as “an vnknowne opposite” displays even more overconfidence if that opposite has not claimed to be his equal in nobility.


Stone gives ‘ere’ to a “contemporary” manuscript correction in Bod2 (Q1 Bodleian copy); he emends, ‘mou’t’ to moot (= speak, put forward) (186). In my opinion, ‘I’m as noble’ is too much info and “move it = tell my name” isn’t perfect. Charles Jennens, 1770: “(I suppose) ere I move it.” Few now assume F authority prior to Q:


That example, of course, could be explained as a deliberate revision . . . traditionalists will also reject the following suggestion . . . . At the foot of uncorrected E4v Lear tries to persuade Regan that Gonorill has mistreated him shamefully and “is naught”:


I can scarce speake to thee, thout not beleeue,

Of how deptoued a qualitie, O Regan.    E4v37–38


In corrected Q “deptoued” is changed to “depriued,” but the Folio line reads “With how deprau’d a quality. Oh Regan.” . . . While “deplored” does not make the same kind of sense . . . the sense it does make fits the context just as well. And if the copy for Q read “deplored,” what does that say about F?


Stone emends, deplor’d . . . . Whereas ‘l’/’t’ errors are common in Q . . . ‘r’ for ‘t’ . . . is unexampled (180). He also observes that “inadequate punctuation . . . misled the reviser into . . . With for Of ” (269), a more significant alteration. These scholars independently agree, yet if readers aren’t aware of all the corruption, isolated examples won’t seem meaningful.


If we take a section of Edmund’s first speech, and divide the lines . . . the words Q actually prints are these:


why brand they vs with base, base bastardie?

who in the lusty stealth of nature, take

more composition and feirce quality,  (Q1,

then doth within a stale dull lyed bed  C1r18–24)

goe to the creating of a whole tribe of fops


                                 . . . Why brand they vs

With Base? With basenes Barstadie? Base, Base?

Who in the lusty stealth of Nature, take

More composition, and fierce qualitie,

Then doth within a dull stale tyred bed         (F,

Goe to th’creating a whole tribe of Fops  TLN 341–48)


. . . . Q’s “stale dull lyed” is obviously wrong, but if one allows . . .  “stale, dull-eyed” the line flows smoothly, and that epithet is surely more descriptive . . . than is the Folio’s less fluent “dull stale tyred.” If so, then somewhere . . . from Q to F, someone tried to emend the Quarto readings without having properly understood what was wrong . . .


Again Stone anticipates (a fair term?): “it would appear much likelier that dull lyed was a phonetic mistake for dull-eyed” (52). Between them, F’s dull stale tyred stab is discounted; yet Stone is aware that the “F reading . . . is not self-evidently wrong . . .” Conflation and revision will not be swayed. ‘Dull lyed’ is not phonetic error, but probable shorthand mistranscription.


Compositors capable of ‘deptoved’ may be suspected of less obvious readings, bad or good. When at 5.1 (K3r) Edmund remarks (at least to Regan):


   Bast. Know of the Duke if his last purpose hold,

Or whether since he is advis’d by ought

To change the course, he’s full of abdication

And selfe reproving, bring his constant pleasure.


Editors suppose he’s ordering someone to learn inconstant Albany’s ‘constant pleasure’ and that he’s ‘full of alteration’ (as Qc, Q2, and F). But Stone notes (and Oxford adopts) abdication as best. I read:


Or whether since he is advis’d by ought

To change the course[.] He’s full of abdication[,]

And selfe reproving[ being] his constant pleasure.


Conversely, Stone observes of 2.2.75, Q1’s ‘Bring oyle to stir’ (altered in F to ‘Being oile to fire’) that Bring is better and “more suited” to the context (Foakes and Jennens agree. Graham Kerr advised, bring oil to fire and stir. Q1 and F can be wrong almost at the same time. I’ll list better examples from Stone, where Q leads F into error—without authorial help.


Gerald E. Downs 





Shakespeare Dialogues with Samuel Crowl and Karin Coonrod

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 28.158  Wednesday, 19 April 2017


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

Date:         April 19, 2017 at 12:53:53 PM EDT

Subject:    Shakespeare Dialogues with Samuel Crowl and Karin Coonrod


Speaking of Shakespeare with

Film Historian Samuel Crowl

And Director Karin Coonrod


Wednesday, April 26, at 8 p.m.

The National Arts Club

15 Gramercy Park South, New York

No Charge; Open to the Public


In 1980, when SAMUEL CROWL wrote a seminal article for Shakespeare Quarterly about Chimes at Midnight, an Orson Welles adaptation of the two parts of Henry IV (with the director playing Falstaff to John Gielgud’s King and Keith Baxter’s Prince), this 1966 picture was considered a failure. It’s now regarded as a classic, and Crowl, an award-winning professor at Ohio University, is recognized as one of today’s leading film historians, with titles such as Shakespeare Observed (1992), Shakespeare at the Cineplex (2002), Shakespeare and Film: A Norton Guide (2008), and Screen Adaptations: Hamlet (2014) to his credit. We’d love to welcome you to an engaging discussion of a 453-year-old has-been who continues to amaze today’s screenwriters.  


Thursday, April 27 at 6 p.m.

The English-Speaking Union 

144 East 39th Street, New York

No Charge; Open to the Public


In July 2016 director KARIN COONROD mounted a stirring, bilingual Merchant of Venice in the original Ghetto, a site whose 500th            anniversary had been commemorated in a March 9 New York Times feature story. The Times returned to La Serenissima for the gala opening, as well as for a symposium at which F. Murray Abraham recited “Hath not a Jew eyes” and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over a debate featuring Stephen Greenblatt and James Shapiro. A few days later, during its Shakespeare 400 festivities in London, the International Shakespeare Association devoted a special session to this resonant occasion. We hope you’ll join us as Ms. Coonrod and several of her colleagues reflect on a historic event. 


For more about Shakespeare Guild offerings, most of them featuring conversations with John Andrews, visit www.shakesguild.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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