Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Book Is Just a Book---Except When It Isn't: Editing Matters

"That's a play Shakespeare never wrote."
--Professor Jay Halio, editor of the Cambridge Shakespeare

When Barbara Mowat, co-editor of the Folger Shakespeare editions met with attendees of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library (2008) to offer insight into the editing process, she included her rational for conflating The Tragedy of King Lear to include lines from the first folio (F1)as well as lines from the quarto (Q1).

Professor Halio parts company with Dr. Mowat when editing Lear and bases the Cambridge Lear on the first folio  as the copy text. So while Dr. Mowat eloquently explained the editing of Lear, Dr. Halio responded in a friendly aside, "That's a play Shakespeare never wrote."

It was a light-hearted moment between two academics who enjoy a friendly debate about Shakespearean texts editors find universally troubling to edit.

Now teachers and scholars can learn from Dr. Mowat in a series of YouTube videos.

In the first one, Dr. Mowat offers a general overview of the issues confronting the Shakespeare editor.


Teachers of Macbeth may find Dr. Mowat's discussions of the play that shall not be named fascinating.

Editors must often deal with nonsensical issues, words, and spellings in a play. In this video Dr. Mowat credits eighteenth century editors for their contribution to modern editions.  She also discusses emendations and other textual problems.


What do editors mean when referring to "the Weird Sisters" problem? Dr. Mowat discusses Lewis Tybalt's contribution to solving the diction issue of whether to use the term weird or wayward.


Sometimes editors face problems with iambic pentameter. Dr. Mowat discusses how editors address these issues that often have a profound impact on dramatic action.

When it comes to Shakespeare, "the play's the thing." But the thing is, not all plays are the same.

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