2016

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 27.250  Wednesday, 27 July 2016

 

[1] From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 27, 2016 at 3:29:56 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: Will 

 

[2] From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         July 27, 2016 at 3:33:06 AM EDT

     Subject:    Re: Will 2

 

[3] From: Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date: Thursday, 25 Aug 2005 03:54:58 EDT

     Subject: 16.1331 Shakespeare's Will 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 27, 2016 at 3:29:56 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Will

 

Amanda Bevan observed: As head of legal records at The National Archives, I’ve been looking in detail at one of our treasures: Shakespeare’s original will, full of amendments, which was left in the probate court by his executor.

 

My understanding is that the original will is somewhat the worse for wear and that it had been folded a third, later time (to 4” x 6”). What is the evidence that the will was left by John Hall, other than its later presence in the records?

 

Shakespeare’s will was first discussed in 1747 by the Stratford antiquarian Joseph Greene. He was disappointed by it, as has been almost every other commentator since.

 

Greene copied a copy of the PCC “registered copy,” which Theobald may have first published.

 

In late June, John Hall (William’s other son-in-law and joint executor) travelled to London with the original will to get a grant of probate. The probate court made a copy for John to take back to Stratford upon Avon, as authority to collect debts and distribute bequests, but kept the original to make an official copy in the register of wills.

 

How do we know a second copy was made for the Halls? As far as I’ve read, there is no evidence of a take-home copy.

 

The original three-page will is dated 25 January 1616, with January crossed out and replaced by March. A common view is that a new page one, altered from the old, was written in March (with January initially copied by mistake).

 

January was 1615 (or earlier); presumably, the month was copied by mistake but an early ‘1616’ isn’t likely. That’s analogous to dating today’s check ‘2017.’ Earlier years can’t be ruled out. The objection holds for the King’s regnal year; these must be scribal errors. 

 

I’m adding another date to the mix: April 1613. I have identified page two as a page reused from a previously unknown will, written probably three years earlier when Shakespeare invested in a substantial London property, the Blackfriars Gatehouse.

 

The watermarks of pages one and two differ. But that would happen with a rewrite of page one, which most believe. Reportedly, the pages were from three stocks. Is the “previously unknown will” extant, or is “identified” an inference?

 

The will may show Shakespeare “in action” but Greene’s disappointment sets the tone. The documents and their textual scholarship are interesting.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         July 27, 2016 at 3:33:06 AM EDT

Subject:    Re: Will 2

 

[Editor’s Note: I have searched the current web site and indeed I could not find the post to which Gerald refers. So I went to a copy of the old archives and discovered it. I have attached it as Number [3] below, but I have not taken the time to reformat it. It can still be rad it anyone is interested. –Hardy]

 

Amanda Bevan’s inquiry into Shakespeare’s will should be welcome. I’m revising my opinion of early scholarship (August, 2005, no longer in Hardy’s archives), which is hard to square with the facts. Increasingly accessible early publication alters my con(cl/f)usions. 

 

The will was proved in the Prerogative Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury on June 22, 1616, when John Hall was sworn executor. The “registered copy” transcribed in the process is online. The interlineations were incorporated into the text and therefore accepted by Hall (as were the strikeouts). Dr. Tannenbaum, B R Lewis, Chambers, and Schoenbaum seem unaware of the PCC copy. In The Shakespeare Documents, Lewis offers:

 

“Not until 1747 did it come to light, and then it was found exactly where [it] should be found—in the Registry . . . . Reverend Joseph Greene . . . found the document among the wills in the Doctors' Commons. It had lain there, in all likelihood, since . . . 1616 . . . . At the time . . . the three sheets . . . were ‘joined together in the middle of the top margins . . .’” (471).

 

The “joining together” comes from a mid-nineteenth century piece by J O Halliwell-Phillipps, not Greene, who didn’t discover the original. H-P, noting that the will was unfolded and folded by each handler, may have helped to protect the document. But it’s hard to know how “long it laid there” undisturbed, before and after. 

 

As detailed in Levi Fox's “An Early Copy of Shakespeare's Will,” SS 4, 1951, Greene found and copied a copy of the PCC copy. Perhaps Greene saw the Stratford text Vertue observed in 1737, whose manuscript note places the original in Doctors’ Commons. Will and copy reposing in the same institution confuses inquiry, though the circumstance isn’t unusual. The PCC copy was printed first; Theobald(?) describes it as “Extracted from the Registry,” as does the Birthplace copy. Schoenbaum cites Fox's article, yet confuses original and copy in his Documentary Life:

 

“[O]thers have supposed that the original will was first printed in Biographia Britannica in 1763 . . . but it appeared earlier . . . in the posthumous third edition of Lewis Theobald's Works of Shakespeare (1752).” In Lives Schoenbaum adds: “With interesting consequences, [a Biographia transcriber] misread Shakespeare's bequest, ". . . my second-best bed" . . . in [BB] it is "my brown best bed . . . ." Malone scornfully attributed the alterations to Theobald. . . . [But Malone made] the same error himself when he first examined the will at Doctors' Commons. "[I]n the Register of his Will which is in the office . . . they have made a mistake, and call it 'my second best bed’” (138).

 

If in this marginalia Malone refers to the registered copy, he does seem to take “brown best” as correct. I mistakenly assumed that Theobald and others simply repeated PCC scribal errors; but the erstwhile hard-to-find registered copy, now online, shows the notable errors originated in the print transcriptions (brown for second; boxes for bole; etc.) If Theobald was the transcriber (1752; I’ve seen only 1762), all others must have followed his lead, as Malone and Schoenbaum assert. Anyone attempting a new transcription avails himself of the old and mistakes are passed on. In this case, the second printed text merely reprints the first.

 

I assumed that Theobald was unaware of the original will and that Malone had missed the PCC copy. However, it seems that each consulted both; I’m still struck by how much the original’s ‘second’ is altered by infralinear tails (gh of Right, and h of heires) to make a B and hide a d in producing ‘Brown.’ Theobald could have made the ungrammatical error only by misreading the original will; the PCC copy unmistakably reads ‘second best bed’.

 

Similarly, the excepted ‘bole’ in the belated bequest to Elizabeth Hall is distorted from the line below; if the slanting right-hand bracket “ ) ” is read as a long s, boxes is a likely result. Theobald’s transcription has no brackets and the Birthplace/Greene and PCC copies omit the right-hand bracket. ‘Bushopton’ can be misread Bushaxton in either text (original or PCC copy).

 

One can only admire the expertise of a PCC scribe who deciphered a badly formed ‘Receyved p[er]ceyved’, which an unpsuaded Theobald guesses as ‘reserved, preserved’. While copying the PCC copy he referred to the original will in these instances; I don’t know what else justifies the misprints.

 

Further, Theobald misplaces the ‘gilt bole’ parenthetical phrase. Although the interlineation is awkwardly incorporated in the PCC copy, ‘Item I giue and bequeathe vnto the saied Elizabeth Hall all my plate (except my broade silver and guilte boll that I nowe have at the date of this my will’, it is correct. Theobald reorders to ‘all my Plate that I now have, except . . . .’ His reason for changing the legal document was that the original interlineation justified his editorial penchant. However, he overlooked the caret.

 

Theobald obtained his list of witnesses and note of probate from the original will but Malone’s transcription of the original (1594, 1590?) conversely substitutes its Latin note of probate for that of the registered copy; it’s very likely that the accurate, legible text assisted Malone and Steevens in their work. The Birthplace copy reproduced by Greene also transcribes the PCC registered copy Latin, the fullest text. The derivative notes abound in etc.’s of scribal choice.

 

I previously thought Malone may have recovered the original will, as he was first to publicize it. His experience (with Steevens) disproves that. Now I wonder if the seventeenth century lawyer who obtained the Birthplace copy returned the original will to Doctors’ Commons. Its excessive wear and alterations would render it more vulnerable than an official copy. Alternatively, given Fox’s dating to the early century, one may even suppose it was commissioned by John Hall at the time of probate.

 

Historically, it’s suggested that the gifts to the players and the bed bequest were added not as afterthoughts, but corrections of omission. A repetitive will (“Item,” etc.) invites eyeskip. Alternatively, text added in rewriting page one may have squeezed a few “items” out, just as lines were relegated to the top of page two; replacement at convenient locations would be easy.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1387  Thursday, 25 August 2005

 

From: Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date: Thursday, 25 Aug 2005 03:54:58 EDT

Subject: 16.1331 Shakespeare's Will

 

Comment: Re: SHK 16.1331 Shakespeare's Will

 

Ben Alexander's suggestion in respect of Shakespeare's will may be 

answered without touching forbidden subjects. Though the evidence leaves 

little room for doubt, the historians have consistently failed to report 

it clearly.

 

 >Having studied it, my view is that the bequest of £1 6s 8d to each

 >of the three London Actors to buy gold rings to remember him by

 >is a later addition i.e. the will was doctored . . .

 

Interlineations are always later additions. The questions are-how late, 

and how treated? The will was proved in the Prerogative Court of the 

Archbishop of Canterbury (in Doctors' Commons, London) on June 22, 1616 

(two months after Shakespeare's demise and three months after the will 

was signed), where PCC records show John and Susanna Hall to be sworn 

executors. The original will was copied for the occasion into the court 

register, where it remains in place.  The interlineations were 

incorporated into the body of this text and were therefore accepted by 

the executors when the will was proved.  It is probably safe to assume 

that the bequests were delivered.

 

The usual authorities to whom one might turn for this information are 

not very helpful. Dr. Tannenbaum, B R Lewis, E K Chambers, and 

Schoenbaum are either unaware of the PCC copy or fail to clarify their 

own knowledge. Even the most disinterested student is apt to be 

confused. Let me count the ways:

 

In _The Shakespeare Documents_, Lewis offers, amongst 36 large and 

detailed pages:

 

      Not until 1747 did it come to light . . . . the Reverend Joseph

      Greene found the document among the wills in the Doctors'

      Commons . . . . Since their discovery, the three sheets have

      been separated. (471)

 

As detailed in Levi Fox's "An Early Copy of Shakespeare's Will", SS 4, 

1951, Greene found and copied a copy of the PCC copy of the original. 

Apparently Greene saw the same Stratford copy as did Vertue in 1737, 

whose manuscript note says the original may be found in Doctors' 

Commons. I believe it is possible that Vertue actually meant by 

'original' the PCC copy.

 

The fact that the original will and the register copy repose in the same 

institution has caused much confusion that persists even today. A 

National Archive (formerly PRO) web site search of the PCC wills leads 

one to Shakespeare's original will, not the copy.  Yet the copy was the 

first transcribed into print. From the outset, scholars other than those 

actually doing the transcribing have not understood the derivation, 

which Theobald puts as "Extracted from the Registry . . . " He meant 

that he used the copy in the book called the registry. Notice how 

Schoenbaum, who cites Fox's article, nevertheless confuses original and 

copy in his _Documentary Life_:

 

    . . . others have supposed that the original will was first

    printed in Biographia Britannica in 1763 . . . but it appeared

    earlier, as 'Extracted . . . ' in the posthumous third edition of

    Lewis Theobald's _Works of Shakespeare (1752).

 

Yet both of these publications transcribe the PCC copy, not the 

original. In _Lives_, Schoenbaum adds:

 

    With interesting consequences, [the Biographia transcriber]

    misread Shakespeare's bequest, ". . . my second-best bed"

    . . . in BB it is "my brown best bed . . . ." Malone scornfully

    attributed the alterations to Theobald. . . . [Malone] fell into

    the same error himself when he first examined the will at

    Doctors' Commons. "in the Register of his Will which is in

    the office . . . they have made a mistake, and call it 'my

    second best bed' " (138)

 

Again Schoenbaum confuses the PCC Register copy with the original. 

Malone no doubt thought his reader would have understood he was speaking 

of a copy. Unfortunately, when Malone described the 'brown for second' 

error (in a book margin) he wrote down the wrong word himself.

 

Schoenbaum says of Johnson's 1765 transcription,

 

    That Johnson had not gone to the Archbishop of Canterbury's

    registry but had taken the easier course of following [BB] is

    suggested by his retention of the brown bed but also of other

    misreadings . . . (139)

 

Though it is in any case hard to believe that a scholar would take the 

easier course, repetition of the PCC errors was unavoidable if that was 

the copy-text. It would be hard to tell who took the 'easier course' and 

who didn't.

 

Malone was the first to correct the PCC misreadings retained in earlier 

transcripts. I would infer that he first read the original will. Had he 

seen the PCC copy he would not have accused Theobald of monkeying with 

the transcript. Malone's marginal comment about the PCC copy must have 

resulted from a later reading. I suppose he neglected to apologize to 

the fans of Theobald; scholarship means never having to say you're sorry.

 

Returning to B R Lewis, we find a strange chronology:

 

    In Lewis Theobald's The Works of Sh. (1733) a transcript

    follows the preface. . . The first printed transcript was . . .

    in . . . 1763.

 

Now how can a document that was printed in 1733 "come to light" in 1747? 

(The Reader's Encyclopedia gives 1847). And how might a will printed in 

1733 (Schoenbaum gives 1752) be "first printed" in 1763?

 

Much of Lewis's information was taken from Tannenbaum's _Problems  in 

Shakspere's Penmanship_, another good discussion complete with a 

beautiful facsimile. Lewis repeats an observation by T that earlier 

scholars are "strangely inaccurate" in their transcripts. Instead of 

assuming that other scholars copied each other, Tannenbaum makes a 

different mistaken assumption:

 

    How little qualified some of the eightennth century

    Shaksperians were in the realm of paleography is

    strikingly demonstrated by their misreadings of

    Shakspere's will. Theobald and the other editors after

    him read this famous bequest as "my brown best bed"

    . . . instead of "gilt bole," "gilt boxes," [etc]. (67)

 

Dr. T obviously had no idea that an early copy existed, but he should 

have considered the possibility that copying errors are more likely 

inherited than independently made.

 

The above observations are interesting to me as mysteries associated 

with the mysteries of the will. Puzzling them out passes the time as 

well as other puzzles, but the will must in my opinion remain something 

of a nonentity. About which I'll add some opinions.

 

First, the interlineations, given their 'proved' contemporary acceptance 

and their uniformity within the will, are genuine.  Second, I am in 

agreement with Tannenbaum that the will is a fair copy. The roughness is 

due to corrections and additions. Third, the gifts to the players was 

probably added not as an afterthought, but as a correction of omission 

made in copying.

 

Last, my guess is that the original will left probate with the Halls, as 

was commonly done in that day, and returned to the records after the 

resurgence of the poet's popularity. Malone may have been the first to 

report from it rather than the Register copy.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

 

 

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