reply to post by poet1b
Hi again, Poet1B --
I certainly have to agree with your general point about Elizabethan-Jacobean plays (c. 1575 -1615) going through a vast number of impromptu changes
over time before they get 'fixed' into their printed editions - certainly the more verbose of the London actors (like the witty comical actor-farmer
Wm Shaxberd of Stratford who aappeared not only in plays later attributed to 'Shakspere' but also appeared as an actor in other plays e.g. by his
sometime drinking partner Ben Jonson e.g. Sejanus in 1603) were prone to ad-libbing their assigned lines at times to suit a new production or
specific audience (i.e. adding or changing or deleting those specific words that are deliberately written in the scripts to be placed into their
mouths as 'spoken' ) by various playwrights, and then in the end, the new / adapted /changed/ transmorphed dialogue of various actors later gets
gradually placed into the acctual body of the play by the time they appear in their various printed editions of the plays.
We see this 'gradual solidifying of the received text' trend in the Hebrew biblical and para-biblical literature when closely comparing the
'marginalia' of the earliest known copies e.g. the Dead Sea Scroll material which was hand copied c. 350 BCE to 68 CE (and included hundreds of
variant readings and many comments/addditional words /phrases deliberately placed into margins of various families of old testameent texts by various
copyists - and then copied into the body of the text by later editors, often for a variety of reasons) when compared with the later 'clean' copies
of the later (and since AD 100, 'official') pointed (vowelled) Masoretic text (c. 1000 CE) coming out of St Petersburg.
Here is a glimpse of the Insertion Process, which can be found in a later version of Hamlet (in thh 1623 First Folio printed Edition)
HAMLET: Wee'l ha't to morrow night. You could, for a need, study a speech of some Dosen or Sixteene Lines, which I would set downe, and insert
in't? Could ye not?
PLAYER: Aye, my Lord---
HAMLET: Very well. Follow that Lord, & looke you mock him not...
Here (below) is an example of what the earliest known version of the opening lines of the famous TO BE OR NOT TO BE speech (as purportedly
written/adapted by the actor Wm Shagsberd c. 1590s) as it appeared in a printed edition by one of the actors who spoke the lines from an earlier
version of Hamlet (aka Ur-Hamlet) Act III scene i
HAMLET - To be, or not to be, aye, there's the Pointe:
To Die, to sleepe, is that Alle?
No; to sleepe, to dreame - aye, marry, there it goes
For in that Dreame of Deathe, when wee awayke
And borne byfore an Euerlasting Iudge
From whence no Passynger euer return'd
The undiscouer'd Countrie, at whose Syghte
The happy Smile, & ye acccursed Damn'd
But for this, th'Joyfull Holpe of this,
Who wu'ld beare ye Scornes & Flatterie of ye Worlde
Scorn'd by ye right-riche, the riche-curssed of ye Poore? &tc.
The above earlier version of the play certainly sounds a lot less like the later famous Hamlet play we have come to revere - the question is...who
changed it into the more familiar version by 1623?
Certainly, it is obvious, that by 1623, the text had enlarged iteself immeasureably and 'morphed' quite drastically into something far more
'University-literate' with a much more extensive spoken vocabulary and much less ham-actor-Stratford school boy-limited 'style of utterance' -
HAMLET - To be, or not to be, that is the Question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the minde to suffer
The Slynges & Arrowes of outragious Fortune,
Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to dye, to sleepe
No more; and by a sleepe, to say we end
The Heart-ake, and the thousand Naturall shockes
That Flesh is heyre too? 'Tis a consummation
Deuoutly to be wish'd. To dye to sleepe,
To sleepe, perchance to Dreame; I, there's the rub,
For in that sleepe of death, what dreames may come,
When we haue shufflel'd off this mortall coile,
Must giue vs pawse. There's the respect
That makes Calamity of so long life:
For who would beare the Whips and Scornes of time,
The Oppressors wrong, the poore mans Contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd Loue, the Lawes delay,
The insolence of Office, and the Spurnes
That patient merit of the vnworthy takes,
When he himselfe might his Quietus make
With a bare Bodkin? Who would these Fardles beare
To grunt and sweat vnder a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The vndiscouered Countrey, from whose Borne
No Traueller returnes, Puzels the will,
And makes vs rather beare those illes we haue,
Then flye to others that we know not of...&tc.
How much of the later (better) version is the product of more educated persons, or just talented and highly creative actors (who themeslves were often
playwrights !) adding and deleting those originally choppy lines?
Of course we have to realise that there WERE several plays that WERE in fact collaborations e.g. Henry the VIII (aka 'Alle is True', c. 1609-1610)
where the Shaxberd actor (or his literary 'source') seems to have added a number of scenes to a play of John Fletcher.
We can clearly discern TWO different 'styles of utterance' - the more fluent or 'witty' lines seem to be the following - and ccould
(theoretically?) be attributed to the actor Wm Shaxberd as his own separate contributions)
The Booke of HENRIE EIGHT (aka Alle is True)
Act I scene i and ii
Act II scenes i, iii, and iv
Act III, the opening lines of scene ii only
Act IV scene ii
Act V scene i
The rest of the play of Henrie Eight seems to have been written mainly in John Fletcher's less fluid style with some additional minor contributions
by George Wilkins - so in this one play, we have at least THREE different hands at work.
So not only do we see actors changing - morphing - adding to lines in plays as they evolve, but even from the very beginning, we see several
playwright collaborators at work - on a common goal - i.e. to produce what we to-day would call a 'hit'...
The question is....should clearly 'collaborative plays' like Henry VIII (to which we may add more e.g. Pericles Prince of Tyre, whose confused and
sometimes choppy and unorganised text is mainly by men such as Gower, George Wilkins and John Fletcher with only random additions and changes by the
actor-producer-farmer Wm Shaxperd) be considered 'Shakespeare' or not?
...'that is the Question' !!!!!