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Preview: RSC Shakespeare Complete Works Edition: The Editor's Blog

RSC Shakespeare Complete Works Edition: The Editor's Blog

Copyright: (C) 2018


Tue, 03 Apr 2007 06:41:27 GMT

The website of the RSC Complete Works Edition is now live, so this blog is moving house. Past history is being carried over, but will also remain live here. There will, however, be no more new entries on this Warwick Blog site, so in the unlikely event that you have bookmarked it, please change your bookmark to
The Editors’ Blog
There are two new entries there already, one of them by my co-editor Eric Rasmussen.

Coountdown to publication by

Fri, 02 Mar 2007 15:32:40 GMT

We have spent the last couple of months building the edition website and writing an array of articles to appear around publication time in April. The big one is a massive essay on the justification for using the First Folio as base text for all the plays. But there’ll also be a podcast with actor Michael Pennington illustrating the workings of Shakespearean verse, something from RSC chief associate Artistic Director Greg Doran, a highly opinionated bibliography by me (on which comments will be very welcome!) and ‘RSC Stage Histories’ of each of the plays, drawing an amazingly thorough A-Z of Stratford productions, actors, directors and other personnel on the web, which is run privately and out of sheer love of the theatre, by Simon Trowbridge – well worth checking out at Stratfordians: A Dictionary of the RSC.

Obsessing about minutiae by

Wed, 10 Jan 2007 14:42:20 GMT

RSC Chairman Christopher Bland points out that in correcting Christopher Ricks’ error in a famous line of Housman’s at the very end of my last (very long) blog entry, I introduced a new error: it should be “of lost content” but I typed “of the lost content”. I promise that this was not deliberate: rather it is a perfect illustration of how easily error creeps into texts (and in this case destroys the rhythm of the line of poetry). Dealing with questions of this sort – is that extra ‘the’ an error or not? – is one of the main tasks of the Shakespearean editor. Here’s an example: The first printed text of Much Ado about Nothing was the quarto-format edition of 1600. Since it is a good quality text and since the 1623 Folio text derives from it, all modern editors use Quarto as their ‘copy-text’ for Much Ado (on the nature of ‘copy-text’, see previous entry). But it is in the Folio text alone that we find a very nice Dogberryism (malapropism) -“statues” in place of “statutes”. The quarto, presumed to be based on Shakespeare’s original manuscript, has “statutes”, which is semantically the right word but dramatically the wrong one. We simply do not know whether the folio editor restored a Shakespearean joke that had been obscured by a quarto misprint or inserted a joke that Shakespeare should have made but didn’t. Shakespearean editors agonise about this distinction and 10,000 others like it. Because textual orthodoxy demands that they follow quarto, they leave out the joke. I say relax: it’s a good joke, it’s there in the Folio, an editor should print it and an actor should speak it. If that means accepting the anonymous folio editor of Much Ado as one of Shakespeare’s ‘co-authors’, along with his actors and the other dramatists with whom he sometimes worked in collaboration, then all well and good. To give an idea of what has been involved in preparing a new edition of the Complete Works, here is the list of queries that my textual editor, Eric Rasmussen, raised for just one play – Hamlet – and which we then had to resolve together. Textual editing: not a game for the faint-hearted or easily distracted … 1.1.125 The cock could crow at any point along here, might be a good place for a double-headed arrow (which my version of Word doesn’t seem to have) 1.1.152 cap ‘Saviour’s’? 1.1.157 Any reason to consider F’s ‘No fairy talks’? 1.2.0 SD I don’t see any textual warrant for deleting Ophelia from this scene, as Hibbard does 1.2.65 Some early editors marked this as an aside. Worth a question marked ‘Aside?’ ? 1.2.70 for ever or forever? 1.2.118 I assume this is not an Oxford comma? 1.2.160 I’m not convinced that ‘my heart’ is vocative, so haven’t used the F4 comma. 1.2.206 I’ve followed F’s punctuation, although most editors render the line ‘goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walked’ 1.2.255 I’ve tentatively emended to ‘walk’ but F’s ‘wake’ is certainly a provocative reading 1.3.18 This is the first of many instances in which the F compositor apparently anticipates a word from later in the line and repeats it earlier: ‘feare … feare’. I think in all such instances we’re justified in importing the Q2 reading, but it’s difficult to say what we’d do if we didn’t have Q2! 1.3.121 F’s ‘Giues’ works in context — indeed, one could argue that if the soul’s being prodigal it’s giving rather than lending — but the compositor probably picked it up from ‘Giuing’ in the next line. 1.3.124 F’s ‘For’ is universally emended to ‘From’ but isn’t ‘For this time’ idiomatic for ‘For the time being&rsqu[...]

What is it and where did it come from? by

Wed, 06 Dec 2006 10:18:48 GMT

THE BACK STORY This entry was originally written as a diary from the origins of the project through to the delivery of the book, but I’ve now turned it around to make it conform with the reverse chronology that is characteristic of blogworld. Query: if everybody starts blogging and gets used to reading personal histories backwards, as the form dictates, how long will it be before biographies begin to be written in reverse chronology? 1616-1564 instead of vice-versa would at least be a novel way of writing the life of Shakespeare … In a sense, what I’ve tried to do in a lot of my work on Shakespeare’s ‘afterlife’ is a kind of reverse chronological biography, treading the road back from Shakespeare Now to Shakespeare Then … So, read on, for the journey from delivery back to conception (gestation metaphor intentional – cf. figure of ‘begetting’ in dedication to WS Sonnets). 6 12 6: we’re only days away from the moment when the files are sent from the typesetter in India to the printer in China (ah, globalisation…), and I’ve just discovered that in the revised proof of The Rape of Lucrece line 731, which was fine in the first proof, but just needed an extra indentation, now begins “gl-end rid=“templ01118”/>”, which doesn’t actually sound like Shakespeare’s most elegant line of verse. What has obviously happened is that the setter failed to hit the ‘<’ key, with the result that the code for the indentation has gone into the text. It’s alarming that this has happened so late in the day—but this kind of thing happened in the Folio back in 1623, where there are examples of the compositor going in to make proof corrections and in so doing introducing new errors. In the end, editors are powerless to stop this sort of thing, because it’s the typesetter who is the last person to handle the text. I remember the fiercely accurate Christopher Ricks being shocked when I showed him that his Penguin edition of A E Housman printed that poet’s most famous line as “This is the land of lost content”, when it should have been “That is the land of the lost content”. He swore that it was correct on the proofs. December 2006: the introductions are written, amounting to the equivalent of 350 page book in themselves. The texts are done: nearly a million words of Shakespeare, thousands of textual notes, some 300,000 words of explanatory notes on language. Tables, charts, key fact boxes which I’m particularly proud of (especially the lists of parts in descending order of size – who would have guessed that Sir Toby Belch has the largest role in Twelfth Night?). 2550 pages. Proofed, revised proofed, press proofed. Great pics of RSC productions, beautiful production values. Yummy jacket, especially – see it on the Amazon link ... and Amazon offering a 30% discount: over two and a half thousand pages of Shakespeare freshly edited, in readable single column format (not ghastly double column like some competitors), with introductons, illustrations and amazingly detailed exlanatory notes all for £20 in a handsome hardback … I’m pinching myself to find the catch. I must stop: this is becoming a commercial, not a blog. When I recover, I’ll offer something more analytic. March 2006: one of the things the press got interested in at the launch was my suggestion that we’re not going to be coy when it comes to the ripe seam of bawdy innuendo in Shakespeare: this has now been followed up with a story in The Observer under the rather lurid headline Bard’s Secret Sex Text Message ... I guess all publicity is good publicity, but I want us to become known as the Folio-inspired Shakespeare and the theatre-focused Shakespeare, not the filthy Shakespeare. We’ve actually been rigorous in EXCLUDING many purported double entendres, particularl[...]