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 The only solution was to have the play ‘speedily amended and stayed’, i.e. withdrawn from public performance” (page 12).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.

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