Thursday, June 27, 2013

Shakespeare Study: The Reign Of King Edward The Third

I'm nearing the end of my Shakespeare study. June 2013 was month number forty-two. This month I read The Reign Of King Edward The Third. (Yeah, I'm into the apocryphal plays, with just a few more to go.) The Reign Of King Edward The Third was published anonymously in 1596. A second edition, based on the first, was published in 1599. A modern spelling edition was published in 1760 by Edward Capell, who first suggested the play may be by Shakespeare. In Act II Scene I, this play includes the line “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” The line is spoken by Warwick. That line is also the last line of Sonnet 94.

The New Cambridge Shakespeare published an edition of King Edward III, edited by Giorgio Mechiori. And that’s the book I started with. It has a fifty-page introduction, lots of notes, and a textual analysis. In the introduction, Mechiori talks about a possible ban of the play as explanation of why it wasn’t included in the First Folio. Mechiori writes: “Critics have looked for some satirical comedy of the period as the occasion for the Scottish protest, but no certain identification has been made. Is it not more likely that the offence was caused by a revival on the London stage of the recently printed Edward III, where scorn is poured on the King and people of Scotland? The fact that this was not a comedy, but a history, and that the appearance of the Scots in 1.2 provided the only comical episode in a humourless play, was liable to stir the anger of the people so mercilessly satirised. The only solution was to have the play ‘speedily amended and stayed’, i.e. withdrawn from public performance” (page 12). And then: “There was of course no question of lifting the ban (if one existed) on the play after the accession in 1603 to the throne of England of King James of Scotland, who may have originated the veto five years before. So after a time, although some booksellers still had copies in stock, the play would have been completely forgotten. Under such circumstances, even if Shakespeare had had a hand in the writing of Edward III, by the time Heminges and Condell prepared the 1623 Folio they would hardly have remembered or thought of including, alongside the early histories and comedies which were still alive on the stage, a play which had totally disappeared from it a quarter of a century before” (page 13). This edition was published in 1998.

Related Books:

- Shakespeare’s Edward III  edited by Eric Sams  -  Eric Sams argues that Edward The Third is the work of William Shakespeare alone. This book contains the full play, with lots of notes, many of which compare phrases from this play with Shakespeare’s known work. In the “Synopsis” chapter at the beginning, Sams writes, “From now on, the main themes of love and war will be further intertwined by the presentation of each in terms of the other. The King will besiege a prospective mistress, yet woo France like a bride; ‘how gently had we thought to touch thy breast’ (1349) is addressed to that country, not the Countess” (page 5). Later in the same chapter Sams writes, “There is an overriding moral; those who make passionate vows are taught salutary lessons. Edward risks losing his queen, Warwick his daughter, John his kingdom, Charles his dignity and Salisbury his life” (page 12). In the chapter titled “Early Commentary, up to 1760,” Sams writes, “Indeed, the ‘private friends’ among whom certain sonnets had circulated (Meres 1598) would also know that Shakespeare was in Southampton’s service; so the Edward III episode where a poet-secretary is commissioned to write a love poem for his lord’s use would command special attention” (page 150). Regarding the authorship, Sams writes, “There was good reason for its lasting anonymity. It may well have been the play described in a complaint to Lord Burghley from an Edinburgh correspondent on 15 April 1598: ‘that the comedians of London should scorn the king and people of [Scotland] in their play; and it is wished that the matter should be speedily amended lest the king and the country should be stirred to anger’ (Chambers 1923, i.323). The king in question was James VI who only five years later would become James I of England and rule both realms until his death in 1625. No wonder that Edward III was never published under Shakespeare’s name, not even posthumously in the 1623 First Folio, although by then the correspondences among that play, the poems and sonnets, and the works in general had become complete, manifest and quantifiable” (page 150). In the chapter titled “The Case For Shakespeare,” Sam writes, “Scores of unusual words and ideas first recorded from Shakespeare and universally accepted as his typical coinages are in fact found earlier, throughout Edward III, long before there is any evidence that the canonical play concerned was written or performed, let along published” (pages 171-172). Sams is also convinced that Shakespeare is the author of Edmund Ironside, and devotes a section of the book at the end to this claim. In that section, Sam writes, “So the conclusion thus far is not an unknown Anon. but Shakespeare. The Ule concordance (1987) permits a direct comparison between Edward III and Ironside. The former (Ule 1987 I, 195), has a total vocabulary of 3,724 different words (counting each inflexion separately) in 2,646 lines (including stage directions); the latter (ibid., 469), on the same basis, has 3,036 different words in 2,157 lines. Thus the unusually large word-stock of Edward III works out at 1.41 per line; and this is exactly matched by the word-stock of Ironside, which is also 1.41 per line. The precise correspondence plainly points to the same playwright at about the same period; and Hart in effect identifies him as Shakespeare” (page 213). Published in 1996.

- Edward III  by William Shakespeare  -  This volume is The Royal Shakespeare Company Production of the play, this edition having been prepared by Roger Warren. In the introduction Warren writes, “Apart from an unreliable reference in a bookseller’s catalogue of 1656, the first suggestion of Shakespearian authorship did not occur until 1760, when Edward Capell included Edward III in a volume preliminary to his complete edition of Shakespeare (1767-8) on the grounds that ‘there was no known writer equal to such a play’ and to allow his readers to form their own opinion about whether the play was by Shakespeare” (page xv). This volume includes the line “Read, Lod’wick, read” in place of “Read, lord, read,” and as the line is spoken by King Edward, it actually makes more sense this way. This emendation was suggested by Karl Warnke and Ludwig Proescholdt. This volume also uses the word “armada” in place of “armado” (New Cambridge) or “Armado” (Eric Sams) in Act III Scene i. Published in 2002. 

Miscellaneous Book:
- Beginning  by Kenneth Branagh  -  This autobiography focuses on the early part of Branagh’s career, both on stage and on film. The book begins with a quote from As You Like It: “I will tell you the beginning, and if it please your ladyships you shall see the end, for the best is yet to do.” And then each chapter begins with a quote from a Shakespeare play. Early on he talks about seeing Derek Jacobi perform Hamlet, and then later of course he talks about his own experiences playing Hamlet on stage. There is quite a bit about the beginning of The Renaissance Theatre Company and its first season. The last section of the book is all about making his film version of Henry V. Published in 1989.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shakespeare in the LA Weekly, June 2013

There is always more Shakespeare in the summer, and this summer not only do we have several stage performances to look forward to, but there is also Joss Whedon’s new film version of Much Ado About Nothing.

The June 7-13, 2013 issue of LA Weekly has a review of that film (page 51), as well as a review of a stage production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (page 44). The following are photos of those reviews:

Then, in the following week’s issue (June 14-20, 2013), there is a Hamlet reference. Oddly, it comes in a review of the new Superman film. Stephanie Zacharek writes, “Zod kills Jor-El – though, like Hamlet’s ghost, he gets several convenient reappearances” (page 53).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shakespeare Study: The History Of Cardenio

I'm nearing the end of my Shakespeare study. I started with the 37 plays, then read the poems and sonnets, before moving on to the apocryphal plays. The first of those I read was The Two Noble Kinsmen, which is sometimes included in Shakespeare's complete works. And in May I moved on to The History Of Cardenio. So yes, I’m getting deeper into the apocryphal plays now. Of course, The History Of Cardenio is one of the lost plays, but there are a couple of books that claim to be that play.

Double Falsehood is a play by Lewis Theobald that was published in 1728. He claimed it was based on William Shakespeare’s The History Of Cardenio, which he said he had more than one copy of. Though when he died, no copies were found among his possessions.  The History Of Cardenio is considered one of Shakespeare’s lost plays, along with Love’s Labour’s Won (though I personally believe that the latter is simply another title for The Taming Of The Shrew). That play was based on a story within Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

I read the Arden Shakespeare Third Series edition of The Double Falsehood Or The Distressed Lovers by Lewis Theobald, edited by Brean Hammond and published in 2010. This edition includes a nice long introduction, lots of notes, and several appendices. The appendices include facsimiles of Thomas Shelton’s translation of Don Quixote from 1612. In the introduction, Hammond writes, “As both Eduard Castle and John Freehafer have observed, the gaps, incoherences, inadequacies of motivation and awkwardnesses of pace militate strongly against the view that Theobald composed it from scratch, since he would have had to build in the imperfections (Castle, 196-7; Freehafer). It is far more likely that there was an ur-text that he wanted to compress” (page 50). Then later in the introduction: “Fleissner concedes that Double Falsehood is based on a genuine Fletcher dramatization of the Cardenio story. He discredits, however, Moseley’s ascription of Cardenio as a collaboration with Shakespeare, and claims that Theobald himself must likewise have come to believe that Cardenio was solely written by Fletcher, making much of its non-appearance in Theobald’s Shakespeare edition in 1733” (page 88). Hammond then writes, “It seems to me that Theobald’s failure to regularize this prosodic confusion – to tidy it up so that verse and prose are more clearly distinguished, and to impart more regular iambic rhythms to passage where he could easily have done so along Pope’s lines – is one additional strand of evidence for the authenticity of his exemplars and against the hypothesis that the entire project is a forgery” (page 138).

Related Books:

- Cardenio Or The Second Maiden’s Tragedy  by Charles Hamilton  -  In this volume, Charles Hamilton argues that The Second Maiden’s Tragedy, which scholars generally believe to be by Thomas Middleton, is actually the lost play Cardenio by William Shakespeare. The book contains the entire play, and then a somewhat detailed handwriting analysis, including examples of the handwriting of many of the poets of Shakespeare’s day. Hamilton argues that the manuscript of The Second Maiden’s Tragedy is actually in Shakespeare’s hand. It’s definitely an interesting argument. Hamilton, of course, also addresses Theobald’s Double Falsehood. Hamilton writes, “As Theobald stated that one of his three copies of Cardenio had belonged to the great actor, Thomas Betterton (c. 1635-1710), and was above sixty years old (hence probably written in the early 1660s), it is very possible that Theobald owned an original revision by Betterton, who might have transformed the tragedy of Shakespeare and Fletcher into a ribald comedy for the delectation of the merry monarch, Charles II. If so, all of Theobald’s copies may have been slightly variant transcripts of Betterton’s version” (page 229). Published in 1994.

- The Trap Door: The Lost Script Of Cardenio  by Andrew Delaplaine  -  This is a novel aimed at teenagers, about a teenage actor who travels back in time to 1594 and attempts to retrieve a copy of Shakespeare’s lost play, Cardenio. As you might have already guessed, this book has some serious problems with the timeline.  After all, Cardenio is known to be based on a story from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and the first part of Don Quixote wasn’t published until 1605, and the English translation by Shelton wasn’t published until 1612. So the idea that Shakespeare wrote Cardenio in 1594 is just stupid. Delaplaine adds to the problem by writing, “The thinking in his own time (by people like his father) was that Cardenio had been written between 1598 and 1602, not the Christmas of 1594” (Page 114). Wrong. No one thinks it was written between 1598 and 1602. That is this novel’s major error regarding the timeline, but certainly not its only one. At one point, Charlie (the book’s protagonist) looks in the trunk containing all of the company’s scripts, and inside he finds copies of Antony And Cleopatra, Macbeth and Hamlet. Again, the story takes place in 1594, a decade before Shakespeare wrote Macbeth and approximately thirteen years before he wrote Antony And Cleopatra. As for Hamlet, there was an earlier play by that title that existed in 1594 (at noted in Henslowe’s diary), but Shakespeare’s play wasn’t yet in existence. If the author wanted Charlie to travel back to Elizabeth’s time (rather than that of James), all he had to do is have Charlie search for Love’s Labour’s Won instead of Cardenio. Delaplaine mentions that other lost script as being in the trunk. (I personally think that Love’s Labour’s Won is simply another title for Taming Of The Shrew.) Anyway, that aside, it’s a somewhat interesting story. Charlie is a teenager with a photographic memory, and is playing the role of Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe in London. He practices falling through the trap door, and when he flubs a line he lands under the trap door at the old Globe in 1594. (Of course, that’s another big problem, as the Globe wasn’t built until early 1599.) He soon meets Shakespeare and Burbage and Marlowe, and even Queen Elizabeth. At the Globe they are rehearsing Shakespeare’s new play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And soon it’s revealed that he’s at work on another play, Cardenio. Charlie, by the way, is a direct descendant of John Heminges. Charlie’s father is described as “England’s greatest Shakespearean scholar” (page 7), and is particularly obsessed with The History Of Cardenio. So Charlie wants to somehow get a copy of the play back to the present for his father. This book is not all that well written, and some lines are just painful. Such as this one: “When you’re used to a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, Charlie thought, all this finery took a little getting used to.” That is a terrible line. By the way, according to this story, the first lines of Cardenio are: “Act One. Enter Cardenio and Lucinda. Cardenio: Here in a sacred orchard we now find/Respite from sad civil duties that bind/Us to our families, which we ‘scape” (page 120). Also, it seems odd that the company is performing at the Globe in December. Published in 2010.