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Post-Theory Problems in Shakespeare Editing.

Now that theory has transformed the field of literary study, editors of early modern drama may need to reexamine their method. My essay begins such a reexamination by addressing the question of precisely what has counted as evidence and what has not, and the question of how data have been constituted as evidence in the formation of one prominent editorial grand narrative.[1] This grand narrative, first told by W. W. Greg, represents early modern plays as being transmitted onto the stage and into print through a sequence of integral operations.[2] According to the narrative, each operation issues in a distinctive kind of document whose features may even today be visible to the expert editorial eye through the alleged transparency of print. First in this putative series of separable operations was the playwright's inscription of the play in the form of a document called 'foul papers'. Secondly, this manuscript was deposited in the playhouse where it was transcribed as a 'prompt-book', the document shaped by the acting company to guide performance.[3] The 'foul papers' were then kept in the playhouse as a safeguard against appropriation of the play by either a rival company or a publisher until such time as the company put the play into print.[4] Then it was the 'foul papers', rather than the more valuable 'prompt-book', that were ordinarily provided to the publisher. According to this grand narrative, then, some of the earliest printed forms of the 'world's greatest drama' are based directly upon manuscripts in Shakespeare's own hand, with few or no intrusions by any other agent. This grand narrative thus has as one of its chief effects the conservation of the Romantic view that the greatest art we have was produced by the individual genius working in splendid isolation from the rest of his culture.

Current editorial method usually takes for granted the validity of this grand narrative and concerns itself with displaying from the early printed texts those features that allegedly identify whether the texts were printed from 'foul papers' or from 'prompt-books'. Before considering these features, I need to emphasize that they can only be constituted as 'evidence' of 'foul papers' or of a 'prompt-book' when they are emplotted (to borrow another word from Hayden White)5 within the grand narrative; outside of it they have no evidential value. Crucially for the editorial identification of printer's copy, the grand narrative limits the possibilities to either the 'foul papers' or the 'prompt-book', thereby making editorial discrimination between these possibilities meaningful. Were editors to allow that printer's copy for plays could have been any of the great variety of kinds of dramatic manuscripts that actually survive from the period (sampled later in this paper), there would be no point to the current editorial practice of discriminating between just two kinds of possible printer's copy.

What is supposed to be the distinctive mark of transcription from 'foul papers' to 'prompt-book'? According to Gary Taylor, who is a disciple of Greg in these matters if not in others, it is regularization:

[In prompt-books] stage directions tend to be more systematically supplied, in order to help regulate (directly or indirectly) offstage sounds, to ensure the readiness of actors backstage so that they can enter on cue, and to call attention to necessary properties.[. . .] [Directions] tend to be more practically, and laconically worded.[. . .] Characters tend to be more consistently identified in speech-prefixes.[6]

Whether there are data in extant dramatic manuscripts that can be constituted as evidence of the tendencies that Taylor here adduces is an issue I will address later, but even if there are such data, it would be difficult to distinguish a play printed from a 'prompt-book' from one printed from 'foul papers' if all that divided one from the other were tendencies. Taylor cites this difficulty only to deny it: 'It might be impossible to distinguish between the two categories of text when we can only see them through the filter of an intervening printed edition. In fact, we believe the distinction can be discerned, but the difficulties in discerning it have sometimes been underestimated' (p. 14). For Taylor, these difficulties are least severe when there survive two printed texts, each set into type with reference to an independent manuscript source. Then one manuscript source must be 'foul papers' and the other a 'prompt-book':

The distinction [between 'foul papers' and a 'prompt-book'] is clearest when we can compare two texts of a single play. Thus, the first edition of Much Ado About Nothing, printed in 1600, shows every sign of having been printed from authorial foul papers: it omits many necessary entrances, it calls for entrances which do not occur [. . .]. The 1623 edition of the play is, for the most part, a simple reprint of the 1600 edition; but it alters a number of details, chiefly affecting stage directions and speech-prefixes, presumably by reference to a manuscript, now lost. These changes, though by no means systematic, all move the text in the direction that we expect of a promptbook. Relative to one another, the lost manuscript behind the first edition looks even more like foul papers, and the lost manuscript consulted for the second edition looks even more like a promptbook. We find exactly the same situation when we compare the 1623 texts of Love's Labour's Lost, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard II, and Titus Andronicus with the first editions of each. (p. 14)[7]

When, from the features of two early printed texts, Taylor constructs two antecedent manuscript sources called 'foul papers' and 'promptbook', according, in large part, to the relative accuracy and completeness in the stage directions of each printed text and the relative consistency in the designation of characters, he is in no way innovative, but, rather, is carrying on, unchanged, the tradition of Greg.

In pursuing the critique of that tradition, this paper has three aims:

1 to assess how Greg and his recent champion E. A. J. Honigmann select and interpret the documents that they constitute as evidence for Greg's grand narrative;

2 to observe that a play's progress in manuscript towards production is not one of progressive regularization of its stage directions and speech assignments that would permit us to distinguish between printed versions based on authorial manuscripts and those based on 'prompt-books';

3 to indicate that there survive multiple manuscripts of the same play that differ from each other in their degrees of regularity but that cannot be reduced to the categories of 'foul papers' and 'prompt-book'. Thus there is no ground for supposing that when printed texts manifest differing degrees of regularity, the less regular one must derive from 'foul papers', and the more regular from a 'prompt-book'.

Greg's grand narrative of 'foul papers', like every grand narrative, is based on a reading of petites histoires (to borrow yet another term from Lyotard); indeed, Greg's grand narrative is based on readings of only two petites histoires. The first of these is the player-scribe Edward Knight's account of the fragmentary source that he employed to transcribe the Fletcher play Bonduca for a patron. Knight's account, like the manuscript source he is describing, is itself fragmentary and, in the course of constituting it as evidence for his 'foul papers' grand narrative, Greg was required to supplement Knight's account with a generous helping of conjecture and selected additional narrative. The second document on which Greg based his grand narrative is one of the playwright Robert Daborne's letters to Philip Henslowe, the entrepreneur who owned theatres and made payments to playwrights on the instructions of the acting companies who played in his buildings. But Daborne's letter needed to be deracinated from its all-too-lavish supplementary context in Henslowe's papers in order to be elevated to the privileged status that Greg accorded it.

First, Knight, who is excusing his omission of two scenes and part of a third, all found in the earliest printed text, from his undated transcript of Fletcher's Bonduca: 'the occasion. why these are wanting here. the booke where by it was first Acted from is lost: and this [i.e., the transcript I am now making] hath beene transcrib'd from the fowle papers of the Authors wch were found'.[8] It is odd that Greg should have constructed his narrative of authorial 'foul papers' as an integral stage in the production of a play upon this documentary source. After all, for Knight, the 'fowle'-ness of authorial 'fowle papers' consists precisely in their lack of integrity, that is, the lack in them of some of the scenes that Knight judges to be integral to the play. In order to produce from Knight's account what has since become for those who subscribe to Greg's grand narrative the (textual) fact that 'foul papers' would provide a publisher with a complete version of a play, Greg needed to supplement Knight's fragmentary 'fowle papers' with 'two [purely hypothetical] complete sheets (eight foolscap pages)'.[9]

But Greg was even bolder in his fact-making when he transformed Knight's story of the loss of what Knight calls 'the booke where by it [the play] was first Acted from' into a narrative of how companies safeguarded the texts of the plays that they owned so as to guarantee their exclusive proprietorship in them. For, according to Greg's story, the facts are that 'good' playtexts normally reached stationers only through the agency of the companies, and that the companies, sometimes at least, gave the stationers 'foul papers'. Again Greg's manufacture has as its raw material supplements to Knight's narrative. This time the first supplement is the assumption that Knight must have found the 'fowle papers' in the place where 'the booke where by it [the play] was first Acted from' was supposed to be, but was not to be found, namely in 'the archives of the King's Company' (p. 156). Actually, since Knight's formal association with the King's Men is documented as preceding, if only by months, Fletcher's sudden death from plague, it is certainly possible that Knight got the papers he transcribed from Fletcher.[10] (As editor of the Malone Society Reprint of the Bonduca manuscript a quarter century later in 1951, Greg did identify his assumption for what it is: 'It is true that Knight does not tell us where "fowle papers [. . .] were found" ' (p. xi n. 3)) Having made this assumption in 1925, Greg set out to justify it: 'How are we to account for the presence of the rough draft in the playhouse?' To construct a theory of why playwrights' 'foul papers' would be in the players' own archive, Greg appealed to his readings of two more little histories. The first of these, dating from the 1592 pamphlet A Defence of Conycatching by Cuthbert Conycatcher, concerns the playwright Robert Greene:

What if I should prove you a cony-catcher [i.e., confidence man], Master R. G., would it not make you blush at the matter? [. . .] Ask the Queen's players if you sold them not [the play] Orlando Furioso for twenty nobles, and when they were in the country sold the same play to the Lord Admiral's men for as many more.[11]

Greg also drew on a second little history, this one told by the player and playwright Thomas Heywood in 1608 to explain why he was putting into print a play, The Rape of Lucrece, that he had already sold to an acting company:

It hath been no custome in mee of all other men (curteous Readers) to commit my plaies to the presse: the reason, though some may attribute to my own insufficiencie, I had rather subscribe in that to their seueare censure, then by seeking to auoide the imputation of weakenes, to incurre a greater suspition of honestie [i.e., dishonesty]: for though some haue vsed a double sale of their labours, first to the Stage, and after to the presse, For my owne part I heere proclaime my selfe euer faithfull in the first, and neuer guiltie of the last [except, of course, this time]: yet some of my plaies haue (vnknown to me, and without any of my direction) accidentally come into the Printers handes, and therfore so corrupt and mangled, (coppied onely by the eare) that I haue bene as vnable to know them, as ashamde to chalenge them. This therefore I was the willinger to furnish out in his natiue habit: first beeing by consent, next because the rest haue beene so wronged in beeing publisht in such sauadge and ragged ornaments: accept it Curteous Gentlemen, and prooue as fauourable Readers as wee haue found you gratious Auditors.[12]

Heywood's story seems to emphasize how acting companies were incapable of securing exclusive possession of their playtexts, which were therefore, he complains, subject to accident and debasement on their way to print. But Greg abstracted from Heywood's self-justificatory lamentation only the reference to the double sale of a single play. Combining this piece of Heywood's story with the uncorroborated slander of Greene, Greg wrote an important chapter in the received history of the transmission of early modern plays into print when he answered his question, 'How are we to account for the presence of the rough draft [of Bonduca] in the playhouse?' with the words, 'We can only conjecture that the company may have required authors to hand over their 'fowle papers' along with the fair copy, either as a safeguard against such double sales as Greene was accused of and Heywood denounced, or merely to meet such an eventuality as here actually occurred [that is, the loss of their production copy of Bonduca]' ('Prompt Copies', p. 156).

Honigmann has recently sought to buttress Greg's account by using the strategy that Greg himself used with the Greene and Heywood stories. As evidence that the 'actors feared theft' and therefore would have secured their manuscripts, including even authors' 'foul papers', Honigmann adduces the following: '(1) the Lord Chamberlain's letter [referring to] "Playes [. . .] lately stollen or gotten from them [the players] by indirect meanes"; (2) Heminges and Condell in the First Folio ("(before) you were abus'd with diuerse stolne, and surreptitious copies"); [. . .] (3) the "blocking" and "staying entries" ' (p. 151). Honigmann's first two accounts, like the Greene and Heywood stories, may certainly be read to indicate that acting companies experienced theft, but, as will shortly become apparent, it would be dangerous to Greg and Honigmann's grand narrative to read these little histories in that way. And neither of the first two accounts supports their narrative by pointing to any routine measures taken by the companies to improve security, measures such as, for example, maintaining in their possession all play manuscripts, including 'foul papers'. (1) The Lord Chamberlain's letter of 1619 forbidding stationers from publishing King's Men's plays without the actors' consent is striking evidence that even long after Shakespeare's time the players' companies still had not found a routine way to limit access to their play manuscripts and so had to use the extralegal influence of the Lord Chamberlain as a last resort when it was in their interest to stop plays from being printed. (2) Heminges and Condell's sweeping condemnation in the First Folio of earlier printings of Shakespeare's plays as based on stolen or surreptitious copies, if taken as the serious statement of fact that Honigmann presents it to be, flatly contradicts Greg's (and Honigmann's) grand narrative that many of the early quartos were printed from the authorial 'foul papers' provided to stationers by the acting companies. (3) The notion alluded to by Honigmann as ' "blocking" and "staying" entries' cannot be regarded as evidence of anything. Here Honigmann reproduces inferences that A. W. Pollard mistakenly drew from all too partial a reading of the Stationers' Registers. Finding that some plays were only conditionally entered there for publication, Pollard fancied that particular stationers friendly to the actors colluded with them in entering plays in the Registers so as prevent other stationers from publishing these plays. In providing a more thorough understanding of stationers' practices, Peter Blayney has dismissed Pollard's inferences as 'folktale' and 'myth'.[13]

Like Honigmann's defence of Greg, Greg's appropriation of Knight's Bonduca story as evidence for his own grand narrative fails at every turn. Knight's story in no way bears up the central fact that Greg attempts to construct upon it, namely that dramatists gave their 'foul papers' to acting companies for safe-keeping: Knight says nothing about where he found or from whom he acquired the papers he used. Nor could the company at any time have used these 'foul papers' as the basis of the 'booke where by [the play] was first Acted from', or what Greg would call the 'prompt-book', the next step in Greg's grand narrative. Since the 'foul papers' lack scenes that, according to Knight, were acted, there must have been another manuscript, whether fragmentary or complete, that intervened between the 'foul papers' and what Knight calls the 'booke'. This manuscript was also apparently missing from the playhouse; otherwise, Knight could have used it to repair the lacuna in the 'foul papers'. Furthermore the very context in which Greg found Knight's story materially denies any of the concern that, according to Greg, acting companies had for exclusive ownership of their playtexts. Knight, a member of the King's Men, is not safeguarding that ownership, as according to Greg he should have been doing. Instead, Knight is providing a copy of a play to a patron and thereby placing in further jeopardy his own acting company's control over the textual reproduction of a play, a copy (or two) of which they have already lost. Furthermore, according to Greg, the copy of the play that the acting company is most likely to sell to the stationer is the 'foul papers'. Although the stationer who eventually published this play worked in very close association with the actors who performed it, even publishing plays in order to provide charity to actors from their sale, none the less this stationer did not in the case of Bonduca print the play from the 'foul papers' that Knight found because the printed version contains the scenes missing from these papers.[14] There is nothing, then, in the history of Bonduca's transmission onto the stage or into print that supports Greg's grand narrative.

The second petite histoire that Greg attempted to constitute as evidence for his grand narrative is one of Robert Daborne's, first told to Philip Henslowe, who was seeking from Daborne the manuscript of a play and not getting it:

Mr Hinchlow you accuse me with the breach of promise, trew it is J promysd to bring you the last scean which yt [i.e., that] you may see finished[,] J send you the foule sheet & ye[i.e., the] fayr J was wrighting as your man can testify[,] which if great busines had not prevented J had this night fynished[.] sir you meat me by ye common measuer of poets[.] if J could not liv by it & be honest J would giv it over[,] for rather then J would be vnthankfull to you J would famish[.] thearfor accuse me not till you hav cause[.] if you pleas to perform my request J shall think my self beholding to you for it[.] howsoever J will not fayle to write this fayr and perfit the book which shall not ly one your hands.[15]

Daborne's story of how he is sending Henslowe a 'foule sheet' can be read to deny (rather than confirm) Greg's construction that ordinarily playwrights turned over to acting companies complete 'foul papers' versions of their plays. What Daborne promises Henslowe is a 'book' written 'fayr'. Daborne says that he supplies Henslowe with a single 'foule sheet' only because the fair copy is still incomplete. As Fredson Bowers wrote in 1955, 'There is no evidence whatever here or elsewhere in Henslowe that an author ever submitted for payment anything but a fair copy, or that the company required a dramatist to turn over his original foul sheets along with the fair copy'.[16]

The mystery is why Greg elevated the story of Daborne's single 'foule sheet' to the status of a narrative that was to transcend Daborne's particular case and become the universal account of the transmission of English Renaissance plays to the theatres in which they were performed. Henslowe's surviving papers reveal that Daborne sent (or more often deferred sending and promised to send) Henslowe pieces of plays in all kinds of states, the character of these states being presented in Daborne's letters according to whatever rhetoric he seems to have judged best suited to extracting loans or advances from Henslowe (such as the 'request' that he wanted Henslowe to 'perform' in the letter already quoted). On one occasion, for example, Daborne promised to 'deliver in ye 3 acts fayr written' (p. 69); on another occasion he reported that he had 'sent you 2 sheets more fayr written' (p. 72); yet another time he referred to 'some papers J have sent you though not so fayr written all as J could wish' (p. 69).[17] Greg's selection of Daborne's 'foule sheet' from these references to a welter of various inscriptions is quite arbitrary, and Greg's elevation of the 'foule sheet' to normative status in accounts of plays' transmission is a violation of a history whose mark is its variety, its resistance to any norm.

But it is not just that Greg's reading of Daborne is strong misprision or that Greg's use of the term 'foul papers' to refer to completed plays is a violent departure from the term's use in the seventeenth-century documents he cites: these, as we used to say, are merely matters of interpretation or of terminology. But nowadays we speak of 'ideology at the level of the signifier': Greg's appropriation of 'foul papers' as the designation for a purely authorial inscription of a play in substantially the form that the author intended it to assume is, as a representation of dramatic production as necessarily having its origin entirely in the (creative) acts of single individuals, itself inscribed within and inscribing an ideology. That such a representation of history is a partial representation is evident from the very documents in which Greg found the terms 'fowle papers' and 'foule sheet'. Occasionally Henslowe's papers can be read as indicating that some dramatists had completed their play all by themselves before they presented it to an acting company: Robert Shaa wrote to Henslowe on 8 November 1599 that 'we haue heard their booke and lyke yt' (p. 49). Such language can be construed to mean that the whole play was read, but Shaa's words need not be read in this way. On other occasions, it is clear that playwrights read their work to players before the work was complete: Samuel Rowley told Henslowe on 4 April 1601 that he had 'harde fyue shetes of a playe of the Conqueste of the Jndes & J dow not doute but Jt wyll be a vere good playe tharefore J praye ye delyuer them fortye shyllynges Jn earneste of Jt' (p. 56). While Daborne was unwilling to read his unfinished work to the entire company, he was willing to seek Henslowe and Edward Alleyn's guidance with work in progress: 'One Tuesday night if you will appoynt J will meet you & mr Allin & read some[.] for J am vnwilling to read to ye generall company till all be finisht' (p. 70). Although Greg's grand narrative of 'foul papers' invests playwrights with exclusive proprietorship in the creation of drama, surviving documents indicate that playwriting, like play production, could be a joint venture involving writers and actors. Indeed, other documentary sources beyond the scope of this paper may indicate that no distinction was then necessarily made between playwrights and players.

Even if playwrights were not alone responsible for the initial creation of scripts, it might nevertheless be imagined, as Greg imagined, that there would be, in the transmission of every play, an inscription entirely in the playwright's hand, which would only subsequently be annotated and/or transcribed in the theatre to become the 'prompt-book'. But one need not examine many extant dramatic manuscripts to find the imaginary boundary between authorial papers and theatrical manuscript transgressed. One of the Additions to The Booke of Sir Thomas More, the dramatic manuscript of greatest interest to Shakespeareans, shows that playwriting and theatrical annotation are not separable processes; instead the one overlaps the other repeatedly. To begin with the theatrical annotation: part way down folio 13 v of the More manuscript, Hand C (the hand identified by most scholars as that of a theatrical functionary, not a playwright) inscribes in the left margin the stage direction 'Enter a messenger heere'. Such an inscription seems to indicate that the play was to continue with what is inscribed on the next leaf, which is headed with the nearly identical direction, 'Enter A Messenger to moore'. However, after Hand C wrote 'Enter a messenger heere' on folio 13 v some playwright seems to have written a continuation to the dialogue on folio 13 v because Hand C crossed out 'Enter a messenger heere', went on to transcribe seven more lines for the characters Master Morris and his servant Faulkner, and then closed the scene with an 'exit'. Playwriting thus seems to have overlapped theatrical annotation, and it was to do so again. Hand C's 'exit' was then stroked out, and another hand, Hand E (usually identified as Thomas Dekker's) added about thirty more lines to the scene's parts for Morris and Faulkner. Folio 13 v of the More manuscript thereby disrupts the boundary erected by Greg between purely authorial 'foul papers' (Dekker's additional thirty or so lines) and theatrical manuscripts or 'prompt-books' (Hand C's theatrical transcription and annotation of earlier parts of the scene) by preserving both on the same piece of paper.[18]

Usually, textual critics and editors dismiss the More manuscript as an anomaly or special case, without acknowledging that the 'foul papers' petites histoires are just as anomalous, in spite of the wide acceptance of Greg's reading of them as a norm. Having dismissed the More manuscript, these critics go on to imagine how 'theatrical' transcription and/or annotation differs from 'authorial' inscription: in the former, according to Taylor,

stage directions tend to be more systematically supplied, in order to help regulate (directly or indirectly) offstage sounds [. . .] and to call attention to necessary properties.[. . .] [Directions] tend to be more practically, and laconically worded. [. . .] Characters tend to be more consistently identified in speech-prefixes. (p. 12)

Again, transcription and annotation of the More manuscript for the theatre belie these assumptions. Rather than being systematically supplied, stage directions are often deleted. Instead of being consistently identified in speech prefixes, characters are sometimes not identified at all. Compare, for example, the inscription of Scene 4 of More on folio 5 v by Anthony Munday (who, it is thought, was one of the playwrights -- perhaps the only playwright, perhaps not -- to contribute to the first version of More) with its transcription and adaptation by a second hand (Hand B, perhaps Thomas Heywood, perhaps not) on folio 7 r . The first version is, it would seem, purely 'authorial'. This version is free of any annotation by the 'theatrical' functionary (Hand C) and is marked for deletion. The second version (Hand B's adaptation to include a clown) has been marked up by the 'theatrical' functionary. Contrary to some widely held assumptions, it is the first, or 'authorial' version that is systematically supplied with stage directions, and the second, or 'theatrical' version that lacks them. For example, when George Betts suggests, 'Let some of vs enter the straungers houses, and if we finde them there, then bringe them foorth', there follows in the 'authorial' version the stage direction: 'ex. some and Sherwin'. Then, a dozen or so lines later, just before 'Lincolne' inquires, 'How now? haue ye found anie?', there appears in the first version the direction: 'En: Sher. & the rest'. In the transcription-adaptation and annotation of this scene on folio 7 r, neither of these stage directions is in evidence. Nor is there any exit inscribed at the end of the 'theatrical' version of the scene on folio 7 r, as there is in the 'authorial' version on folio 5 v . Instead, the 'theatrical' version concludes the scene with an erroneous 'Manett Clowne', erroneous because there is no place and there are no lines for this (therefore ghostly) clown in the scene that immediately follows in the 'theatrical' transcription. (But the Clown is not the only ghost in the scene, for Hand C (the 'theatrical' functionary) conjured up another when he included a 'Sr Iohn Munday' in the opening stage direction to the 'theatrical' version of Scene 5 but later deleted from the scene itself the speeches addressed to and spoken by this Sir John.) Suppose someone compared printed texts that reproduced the 'authorial' and 'theatrical' versions of More, Scene 4 and attempted the comparison from the perspective of the truism that 'theatrical' versions systematically supply stage directions. Such an observer would be forced to conclude that the printed text based on Munday's 'authorial' papers was printed from a 'theatrical' manuscript and that the one printed from Hand B and Hand C's 'theatrical' adaptation was, instead, based on a purely 'authorial' inscription.

Anyone who took for granted that attention to properties or to sound calls is the mark of a 'theatrical' manuscript would be just as badly misled in assessing the relative provenance of versions of other scenes in the More manuscript. It is the 'authorial' version of the opening stage direction to Scene 8 that lists stage properties: 'A table beeing couered with a greene Carpet, a state Cushion on it, and the Pursse and Mace lying thereon Enter Sir Thomas Moore and his man Randall with him, attyred like him' (fol. 11 v). Hand C's 'theatrical' version of this stage direction is much more laconically worded, but at the cost of any mention of properties: 'Enter Sr Thomas moore and his man Atired like him' (fol. 12 r). And it is the 'authorial' version that calls for 'Musique' to accompany the entrance of Surrey and Erasmus later in the scene (fol. 11 v); the 'theatrical' version omits the call (fol. 12 r). Were these variants to appear in printed texts examined according to the usual generalizations of textual criticism, the 'authorial' would be transformed into the 'theatrical' and vice versa. In the More manuscript it would do little good to appeal to the criterion that 'theatrical' manuscripts are more consistent than their 'authorial' counterparts in identifying characters in speech headings. The 'authorial' or first version of More is perfectly consistent in employing in its speech prefixes only a single designation for each of its characters. But in one of the marginal additions to the 'authorial' version, a contribution by Hand B to the 'theatrical' adaptation that involved including a clown, there are no speech headings at all for four speeches (fol. 11 r).

(In using instances from the More manuscript to exemplify theatrical practice, I am not unaware of the long tradition in twentieth-century Shakespeare scholarship of representing More as a play abandoned on the way to production and thus never staged.[19] This tradition provides the opportunity to dismiss the More manuscript as not representative of 'theatrical' manuscripts of plays that were staged. In this tradition it is assumed that if More had reached the stage, the extant manuscript would have been transcribed in the form of a neat and regular 'prompt-book', complete and 'perfit' in its stage directions and consistent in its speech prefixes. This traditional argument seems to me unpersuasive in so far as none of the apparently 'theatrical' manuscripts that survive is complete in its directions and perfectly consistent in its speech prefixes, and so the argument forces us to postulate that none of the extant manuscripts is representative of a finished 'prompt-book' for the theatre. But I do not wish to pursue this argument any further here. Even if one concedes that More was abandoned without ever being staged, it is impossible to deny that the transcriptions and annotations in the More manuscript were actually to be found in a 'theatrical' manuscript in the 1590s or later. Because such things existed in manuscript, there always remains the possibility that printed plays could have been based on such manuscripts as More, manuscripts located, in part, between 'authorial' inscriptions and idealized 'prompt-books'.)

The preceding parenthetical digression becomes a central issue when claustrophobic traditional Shakespeare textual criticism intent on distinguishing idealized 'foul papers' from idealized 'prompt-books' is opened up to a consideration of actual dramatic manuscripts extant from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I wish to consider a pair of these manuscripts and to point out how, when some plays are to be found in more than one manuscript, these manuscripts do indeed differ from each other in ways that are supposed to distinguish 'foul papers' (in Greg's sense) from 'prompt-books'. Yet these extant manuscripts are neither 'foul papers' nor 'prompt-books'.

The pair of manuscripts I wish to examine are two of the three extant copies of Arthur Wilson's The Inconstant Lady, a play that, like Shakespeare's, was the property of the King's Men, although not until the 1630s. The earlier of the pair is one of the Lambarde collection at the Folger Library (J.b. 1). It can be accorded chronological priority because it contains cancelled as well as revised versions of two scenes (iii.3. and iii.4), the revised versions being much the same as their counterparts in the second manuscript version of the play, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson Poet. 9. The Lambarde manuscript is written throughout in its author's own hand and does contain some of the features that we have been taught to identify as characteristic of idealized 'foul papers': the boundaries of the passages to be deleted are somewhat ill-defined; there are marginal additions, although the places for their insertion are clearly marked. Yet MS Lambarde has none of the inconsistency or ambiguity in the designation of characters that is supposed to mark 'foul papers', and it has only one permissive stage direction ('[Enter] 2 or 3 women' [fol. 20 r]). Quite unlike 'foul papers' as they are usually imagined, the manuscript is neatly inscribed with very few insertions or deletions of readings. Both the manuscript proper and the additions and revisions to it might better be called 'fair copy'.

The second manuscript, Rawlinson Poet. 9, is also a holograph, although its features too fail to conform to those we have been taught to associate with 'foul papers'. Instead, the elaborate red rules on its pages and the meticulous calligraphic hand in which it is inscribed appear to mark it as a presentation copy. The text that it offers has been considerably revised from the one to be found in the Lambarde manuscript. R. C. Bald has argued that these revisions were made for the stage and, in support of his case, has pointed to the excision of 'any suggestion of profanity,[. . .] reflect[ions] on affairs of state, and [. . .] obscenity'.[20] However he was forced to concede that some of the changes far exceed what the censor, Herbert, is known to have demanded, while there are many others that are impossible to construe in any relation to censorship or to the stage. Furthermore, the excision of profanity, a minimal condition for Herbert's approval, is incomplete (for example, in MS Rawlinson Poet. 9 the text has sometimes merely been revised to contain a different oath from the one in MS Lambarde: iii.4.38: "Slid' is found in place of 'ffoot' (MS R.fol. 26 r ; MS L. fol. 19 v).[21] However great the likelihood that a presentation copy, such as MS Rawlinson Poet. 9, would be in demand only after a play had been staged, Bald's surmise that the Rawlinson manuscript therefore must reproduce 'the text which was acted' seems questionable.

Suppose that these two manuscripts had been consumed in printing houses so that all that survived of them were a pair of books printed from them, as was the case with whatever manuscripts served as the basis for the Folio and Quarto versions of Hamlet or of Othello. And suppose that we were to confront these printed versions with the question that has dominated Shakespeare textual criticism in this century: which was printed from the 'foul papers' and which from the 'prompt-book'? In the printed versions all the clues to the chronological relationship between the two manuscripts would probably have been destroyed: only the revised versions of iii.3 and iii.4 would survive in the book printed from the Lambarde manuscript, not the cancelled earlier versions, and so it would be impossible to know that this book preserved the earlier text of the play. Much else would also be permanently obscured, such as the identification of the author's handwriting in both manuscripts and the elaborate styling of MS Rawlinson as a presentation copy. In addressing to these hypothetical printed texts the central question of modern Shakespeare textual criticism, an investigator would be cast back upon the stage directions and speech prefixes, just as has always been the case for those intent on tracing the manuscript origins of the Shakespeare printed texts.

If the hypothetical printed texts managed accurately to reproduce what was in the manuscripts (a large assumption), even then the stage directions and speech prefixes might be of no more help than their counterparts in the Shakespeare printed texts have turned out to be. Neither the Lambarde nor the Rawlinson manuscript is complete in its stage directions. MS L. lacks one of the entrance directions found in MS. R. (iii.2.202); but MS R. also lacks one of MS L.'s entrances (iii.4.133). MS L. is missing some exits marked in MS R. (i.2.4, ii.2.61, iv.2.21, v.2.16); MS R. is missing one marked in MS L. (iii.4.52). While MS L. has a permissive stage direction of the kind thought to indicate 'foul papers' ('[Enter] 2 or 3 women'), MS R. simply reproduces the indecision in other words ('two or three Wenches' (fol. 27 r)). None the less, the (earlier) Lambarde manuscript is the more systematic in the provision of stage directions, including those for noise and stage properties. While not entirely thorough in marking the speeches to be spoken 'aside', MS L. marks eight more 'aside's than MS R. MS L. also includes the following marginal stage direction, lacking in MS R.: 'x ah looks in's booke' (the 'x' is also found in the middle of a dialogue line to indicate where the 'ah' is to be sounded and where the action described is to be carried out (fol. 5 r)). MS L. alone has a stage direction calling for the 'Banquet' mentioned in the text (MS L. fol. 20 r ; MS R. fol. 27 r). In comparison to MS R., MS L. seems more like the 'prompt-book' in its attention to properties and business. MS R. also has features that might disqualify it from consideration as a 'prompt-book' as such a document is nowadays imagined to have been constructed. For example, MS R. is alone in marking an exit for the character Aramant at ii.1.192 (fol. 13 r), even though the character stays on stage to converse with the entering Antonio. Such erroneous stage directions are thought to be intolerable in 'prompt-books', whose function, it is thought, was to manage performance. Equally intolerable in a 'prompt-book' would be the absence of three speech headings from the Rawlinson manuscript (ii.1.86; iii.4.101, 103).[22] Furthermore, the Rawlinson manuscript is written from the point of view of a spectator, not that of a playing company: when there are offstage noises and speeches, they are sometimes said to come from 'without' in MS R., not from 'within', as they are always marked in MS L. (MS L. fol. 23 v ;MSR. fol. 30 v). We would at the least expect a 'theatrical' manuscript to be written from the perspective of the stage, not from that of the audience. And so in comparison to each other according to the criteria used to distinguish authorial 'foul papers' from theatrical 'prompt-books', the Lambarde manuscript of The Inconstant Lady seems to be a 'prompt-book', the Rawlinson manuscript 'foul papers', even though neither manuscript belongs to either category.

Without any evidential basis, Greg's grand narrative of 'foul papers' and 'prompt-books' should wither away. When its simplifications have vanished, editors and textual critics can begin to appreciate the disuniformities in surviving dramatic manuscripts and in early printed texts, instead of slotting these documents into Greg's categories, whose relation to these texts is so problematic.

[1] See Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), p. 284. I borrow the term 'grand narrative' and the term 'petite histoire' (used below) from Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).

[2] 'Prompt Copies, Private Transcripts, and the "Playhouse Scrivener" ', The Library, fourth series, 6 (1926), 148-56. Shakespeare editors before the 1920s did not claim to have detailed informed opinions about the manuscripts behind early printed texts. The Cambridge editors, for example, said nothing about the copy for The Tempest or Two Gentlemen of Verona, the first two plays they edited, and confined to a single sentence their suspicion that the third, Merry Wives of Windsor, may have been printed in the Folio from a careless transcription because of the omissions of numerous words (The Works of William Shakespeare, ed. by William Aldis Wright, The Cambridge Shakespeare, rev. edn, 9 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1891-93), i, 312n.3). J. Dover Wilson did make the claim to identify printer's copy and made it at such length and in such detail that his speculations failed to convince even his former collaborator A. W. Pollard (The New Shakespeare, ed. by J. Dover Wilson and Arthur Quiller-Couch, 42 vols (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921-66); for Pollard's review gently ridiculing Wilson's speculations in the New Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream (1924), see 'Reviews and Notices' The Library, fourth series, 5 (1924-25), 374). Greg's narrative about printer's copy is a considerable simplification of Wilson's.

[3] Greg's use of the word 'prompt-book' to refer to early modern dramatic manuscripts is anachronistic; its first recorded use is in the nineteenth century (OED).

[4] The notion that an acting company would secure a dramatist's own manuscript to guard against theft of a play was first advanced by A. W. Pollard in Shakespeare's Fight with the Pirates (1917), 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1937; repr. New York: Haskell, 1974), pp. 53-57. For a discussion of how companies competed without stealing each other's plays, see Roslyn L. Knutson, 'The Repertory', in A New History of Early English Drama, ed. by John D. Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), pp. 469-71.

[5] Tropics of Discourse: Essays in Cultural Criticism (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), pp. 66-67.

[6] Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor and others, A Textual Companion (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p.12. Compare Greg's Shakespeare First Folio (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), pp. 138-42. Greg could also write lyrically about the indeterminacy of printer's copy for plays (p. 105), but that part of his writing has not proved influential.

[7] The passage omitted from the quotation, 'it uses actors' names in speech-prefixes, it seems to have been set from a very lightly punctuated manuscript in a handwriting remarkably similar to that of Hand D [in the More manuscript]', is omitted because there is no documentary evidence to support the assertion that the appearance of actors' names in speech prefixes is the mark of a dramatist's papers. (See W. W. Greg, Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses, 2 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931), i, 216: 'In every instance in which an actor's name appears in a manuscript play it is written in a different hand from the text, or at any rate in a different ink and style, showing it to be a later addition and not part of the original composition.' I omit discussion of Hand D because Marvin Spevack has recently called into serious question the argument of J. Dover Wilson (see 'Bibliographical Links Between the Three Pages and the Good Quartos', in Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More, ed. by A. W. Pollard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923), pp. 113-41), reproduced here by Taylor (see Antony and Cleopatra, ed. by Marvin Spevack, New Variorum (New York: MLA, 1990), pp. 374-75). In citing Taylor's 1987 publication, I may be thought to refer to out-of-date work, but credulity about the transparency of printed plays persists, as for example in John Jones, Shakespeare at Work (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

[8] Bonduca by John Fletcher, ed. by W. W. Greg (London: Malone Society, 1951), p. 90.

[9] 'Prompt Copies', p. 153. E. A. J. Honigmann has objected that because 'in other examples that I have collected "foul" refers more often to the roughness of the text than to its incompleteness', then we, with Greg, should regard 'foul papers' as containing plays complete in the forms in which they were printed. This objection rather misses the point at issue since in the petite histoire upon which Greg raised his grand narrative, the 'foul papers' were, according to Knight, incomplete. The term 'foul papers' can be shown to refer to manuscripts of different kinds, some of them fragmentary, as for example in the characterization of a manuscript as 'a Corrupted Fragment, or Foul Draught' ('The Publisher to the Reader' in Henry Killigrew's Pallantus and Eudora (1653), quoted by Greg in A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, 4 vols (London: Bibliographical Society, 1939-59), iii, 1224. By using the early modern term 'foul papers' in a uniform, technical sense to refer only to complete plays, Greg and Honigmann misrepresent its use in its own time when its reference was disuniform (E. A. J. Honigmann, The Texts of 'Othello' and Shakespearian Revision (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 150-51).

[10] Knight's association with the company is recorded from 27 December 1624, and Fletcher died in late summer 1625 (G. E. Bentley, The Jacobean and Caroline Stage, 7 vols (Oxford: Clarendon, 1941-68), i, 15-16; iii, 310).

[11] E. K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage, 4 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1923), iii, 325.

[12] Greg, A Bibliography of the English Printed Drama to the Restoration, iii, 1207.

[13] 'The Publication of Playbooks', in A New History, pp. 383-422.

[14] Humphrey Moseley (together with Humphrey Robinson) first published Bonduca in the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio (1647); in 1652, Moseley published The Wilde-Goose Chase for the 'private benefit of John Lowin and Joseph Taylor', former actors (Greg, Bibliography of the English Printed Drama, ii, 705).

[15] Henslowe Papers, ed. by W. W. Greg (London: Bullen, 1907), p. 78.

[16] On Editing Shakespeare (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Library, 1955; repr. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1966), p. 15. In this book Bowers first challenged Greg's grand narrative: unfortunately, as subsequent history indicates, to little effect.

[17] Susan Cerasano cited this range of references in a paper for the Malone Society meeting in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1 July 1990. However, the conclusion that she drew from them was different.

[18] For a summary of scholarship devoted to the identification of the hands in the More manuscript, see Harold Jenkins, 'Supplement to the Introduction', The Book of Sir Thomas More, ed. by W. W. Greg (London: Malone Society, 1911; rev. edn, London: Bibliographical Society, 1961), pp. xxxiii-xlvi. Scott McMillin is appropriately sceptical about the grounds for a distinction between Hands C and D in The Elizabethan Theatre and The Booke of Sir Thomas More (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987), passim.

[19] For a number of different stories of its abandonment, a tradition with a long history going back to 1920, see Shakespeare and Sir Thomas More, ed. by T. H. Howard-Hill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 35-37.

[20] 'Arthur Wilson's The Inconstant Lady', The Library, fourth series, 18 (1937-38), 287-313 (p. 297).

[21] For Act, Scene, and line numbering, I follow an edition of the play by Linda V. Itzoe (New York: Garland, 1980). Philip Bliss edited and published MS Rawlinson Poet. 9 (Oxford, 1814). In Itzoe's collation, MS Lambarde is recorded to lack exits that it preserves, when it lacks only the proper names attached to the exits. Itzoe is dependable, however, for information about missing entrances. The third manuscript of the play dates from the eighteenth century.

[22] MS L. lacks a speech prefix at iii.4.123, and intrudes an erroneous one at 1.1.109, putting 'Anto[nio]' for 'Ara[mant]'.
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Date:Jan 1, 1999
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