Richard III

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0140  Friday, 16 February 2018


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

Date:         February 16, 2018 at 10:14:49 AM EST

Subject:    RICHARD III:  can't let go of RICHARD or GERALD


Nope, I can’t turn away “cold-turkey.”  


Gerald Downs’ last post again claims or implies something like “speech-prefix-variants indicate a stenographic reporter at work. He explains that the reporters would get the words down and then insert the speech prefixes later. Therefore, those speech prefix variants give evidence of stenographic reporters at work or evidence that the speech-prefix-variant is a key that opens a magic door into unexpected intervenors into the Shakespearean script. “But . . .. but . . . but . . . but . . . but . . .” I sputter. “We have the observation that Shakespeare himself ALSO seems to have written down the spoken words of speeches and only later returned to put in the speech prefixes.” The speech-prefix-variants support many theories. We have to go further.


So I ask, “Cui bono?” Who benefits, or what is gained, if Gerald is correct? And conversely what if Urquartowitz got it right? For the Gerald Downs side (which oddly coincides in form and overall consequence with the latest edition of the Oxford University Press Complete Works of Shakespeare) we should look more suspiciously at the earliest printed versions. We should reject their reliability as conduits of Shakespeare’s intent. Instead we should turn to the puzzle-masters like Gary Taylor. We should trust their de-crypted versions and narratives. And (wow, gee-wilikers, Gary!) you mean that we can say Christopher Marlowe was one of the authors of those Henry Six plays? Gerry, you mean RICHARD III Folio actually distorts Shakespeare’s own plan? “Oh frabjous day, Calloo, Callay.” Ain’t life so much better now?


My side says, “Nope! It ain’t like that.” Paraphrasing Yeats’ “Under Ben Bulben,” I say, “Shakespearean Readers, learn your trade” so that “we in coming days may be, / Still the indomitable Shakespeare-ry.”


The trade, OUR trade is or really should be “stage-craft.” How will version 1595 Octavo play on stage? How will its equivalent published in the 1623 Folio play on stage?


We can’t learn to cook by reading a cookbook. At some point we have to get into a kitchen, pick up the dead chicken in our very own hands, and do squeamy things to it. A recipe is an idealized plan. The map is not the terrain. A script is not a play.


So, my dear colleagues, and my dear Gerald Downs, too, try this: Get some half-dozen friends together and act out the variant texts of RICHARD III 3.1. Yummy stuff, both ways. NOT dissected desecrated and distorted Shakespeare. Rather they will think, "Ah, this one is garlicky and that one has so much more cilantro!" BOTH are tasty. I promise you, we and our friends will learn SO MUCH about cooking, and so much about alternative recipes, and so much about why we cook in the first place that we won't ever go back to just looking at the recipes. We'll COOK! We'll cook SHAKESPEARE! MANY WAYS!


Oops, I’m shouting again. But with laughter and dance. Thank you, Gerry Downs. Come, let’s dance, and then sit down and eat together!



Urkcookowitz, the dancin’ fool, now eatin’ his very cold turkey


(replies invited, RSVP)




Plagiarism Software and Shakespearean Sources

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0139  Friday, 16 February 2018


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

Date:         February 15, 2018 at 4:57:22 PM EST

Subject:    Plagiarism Software and Shakespeare Sources


Jim Carroll wrote:


“I agree with Michael Luskin. Plagiarism is hardly the word. The review highlights an example provided by Dennis McCarthy: “In the dedication to his manuscript, for example, North urges those who might see themselves as ugly to strive to be inwardly beautiful, to defy nature. He uses a succession of words to make the argument, including “proportion,” “glass,” “feature,” “fair,” “deformed,” “world,” “shadow” and “nature.” In the opening soliloquy of Richard III (“Now is the winter of our discontent …”) the hunchbacked tyrant uses the same words in virtually the same order to come to the opposite conclusion: that since he is outwardly ugly, he will act the villain he appears to be. Here is the brief passage from George North from the excerpt in the NY Times piece, transcribed by me:


“According to the golden counsel of that grave philosopher who willeth us oft to view our own PROPORTION in a GLASS, whose form and FEATURE we find fair and worthy to frame our affections accordingly, if otherwise the hair (by skill or will) DEFORMED our outward appearance, and left us odible to the eye of the WORLD, then (to cure, SHADOW, or salve, the same) so to govern and guide our behavior, and so to moderate our inward man, as NATURE herself may...”


and Shakespeare’s R3:


But I, that am not shap'd for sportive tricks,

Nor made to court an amorous looking-GLASS;

I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty

To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

I, that am curtail'd of this fair PROPORTION,

Cheated of FEATURE by dissembling NATURE,

DEFORMED, unfinish'd, sent before my time  

Into this breathing WORLD, scarce half made up

And that so lamely and unfashionable

That dogs bark at me as I halt by them —

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

Have no delight to pass away the time,

Unless to see my SHADOW in the sun        R3 1.14-26


Doesn’t this prove Shakespeare’s genius? He delights in North’s words—and reverses the context. It’s rather like his putting Plutarch’s description of Cleopatra in the mouth of Enobarbus.”  END QUOTE FROM CARROLL POST


Yes, that is exactly what gives meaning to the allusion, and makes it more than a clever literary parlor trick. It shows WHY Shakespeare went to the trouble of leaving those keywords like a trail of textual breadcrumbs leading the knowing reader to the source he had worked from, thereby subliminally ironizing the reading of Richard III’s speech. 


By close analogy, this is very much the same kind of sly, erudite authorial legerdemain by Shakespeare which I described in my below linked blog post in 2015. I showed that Shakespeare embedded a perfect “SATAN” acrostic in Friar Laurence’s speech to Juliet about the effect of the sleeping potion at pretty much the exact same place as Arthur Brooke embedded two “kissing” SATAN acrostics in Romeus & Juliet.


Just as with North’s meaningful keywords, Shakespeare does not merely slavishly copy his source, he wittily plays off his source, so that a reader who knows Brooke’s play will recognize that Shakespeare created this acrostic in that particular speech, because he wanted it to be recognized that Friar Laurence (as per the Protestant trope of that era re Franciscan monks) is a “Satan” (as Brooke overtly says in his preface, but then seems to undercut in his poem), most of all when FL sets the plan in motion which will end up with Romeo, Juliet, and Paris all dead: 


And in my above post, I also showed that Milton picked up on Shakespeare’s picking up on Brooke’s kissing serpentine Satans, in the (by now) well known SATAN acrostic in Paradise Lost.


It should finally be noted that these are not points likely to be noticed during a live performance of Shakespeare’s plays, these are literary “caviare” for the erudite readers of the texts of his plays.







TLS Letter Regarding Mr. W. H. Dedication

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0138  Friday, 16 February 2018


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

Date:         February 16, 2018 at 7:25:28 AM EST

Subject:    TLS letter regarding Mr WH


Geoffrey Caveney’s theory (SHAKSPER, February 15, 2018) has been aired at least once before on SHAKSPER - in February 2015. There were two respondents (including me) who pointed to what we saw as significant obstacles to his argument. I don’t recall any other development of the debate. Here is an extract from what I wrote then:


...[this] theory, summarized in the article posted by Hardy (SHAKSPER, February 2) is essentially a variant on the flawed William Hall proposition originated by Sidney Lee.


Like the latter, Caveney interprets “begetter” as “procurer”, a stretch of English unsupported by the literature of the time. Like Lee, he is unable to find evidence to support possession of the manuscript poems by his WH. Each takes Thorpe’s address to represent a tribute to WH, though that which is unambiguously wished for the latter is confined to “all happiness”. And neither takes account of Thorpe’s position as an experienced publisher, who would have known that some of the content of the poems would (as corroborated by history) be distasteful to the public.


Caveney’s interpretation is further compromised by the anonymity, opaqueness and brevity of what he postulates to have been a memorial tribute to the recently deceased William Holme....


Anyone interested may read the full narrative at


Ian Steere.




Ardenwatch Update

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0137  Friday, 16 February 2018


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

Date:         February 16, 2018 at 11:37:47 AM EST

Subject:    Ardenwatch Update


It has been a year since the last Ardenwatch Update, and in the words of Sam Goldwyn we’ve all passed a lot of water since then...

First to report, the Arden Third Series edition of King John, edited by Jesse M. Lander and J.J.M. Tobin, has just been published. They have no doubt done a competent enough job (and they have avoided Ernst Honigmann’s heresy - inherited from his teacher Peter Alexander - that the play pre-dated The Troublesome Reign) but their relative lack of interest in “The Troublesome Play” (as it has come to be known) means that they have missed that play’s connection to The Queen’s Men (as far as I can tell - there is no letter Q in the index!), and Shakespeare’s apparent habit of re-writing Queen’s Men’s plays.


Casting our minds back, last year’s Update was occasioned by the publication of Valerie Wayne’s Arden3 edition of Cymbeline. Later in the year were published King Edward III and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Casting even further back, it will soon be three years since Peter Holland’s confident assertion “Everyone is expecting that Arden 3 will be complete in 2016.” (His belated appointment as a General Editor for the Arden Fourth Series had no doubt gone to his head.) As things stand, we are still awaiting All’s Well That Ends Well (scheduled for 29 November 2018) and Measure for Measure (no sniff of a publication date) - as the troubled Third Series limps towards a completion.


John Briggs




Richard III

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 29.0136 Thursday, 15 February 2018


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

     Date:         February 13, 2018 at 8:03:37 PM EST

     Subj:         Richard III and banging heads on walls 


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

     Date:         February 15, 2018 at 3:15:56 AM EST

     Subj:         R III 




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

Date:         February 13, 2018 at 8:03:37 PM EST

Subject:    Richard III and banging heads on walls


I was having fun for a while because Gerald Downs was calling attention to some really interesting passages in RICHARD III. And we both danced around it quite nicely, pointing out juicy bits and offering support for different views. My feet are tired. My darling Michael Warren explained to me once that debaters, when they have nothing to support their arguments, cleverly resort to smokescreen terms, like “obviously.” If something is “obvious” then it need not be argued. Like, “Obviously the Earth is flat.” Gerald ignores the observable practice in these early texts that some “directions” are necessary to figure out the author’s intention, and some are included by that same author even if the dialog makes the direction formally unnecessary or positively redundant. This is not news. So my end of this particular conversation rests its case. No more. “Urkquartowitz, Shut UP!”


Here’s Gerald’s gambit that leads me to leave the playing field. “Steve’s evidence is overwhelmed by the rest of Q, where dialogue feeds directions in an obviously superfluous manner. Reprinting Q3 5.3, F’s meddling with s.d.’s is out the loop.” I learnt long ago that in some Bronx playgrounds when kids who have very different idea of the rules come into a game, it’s often better to go home, read a book, take a nap, rather than play a game that ain’t fun no longer. Later, Gerald. 


But Tom Cartelli’s edition of RICHARD III (which I did not know about ‘til his contribution to this conversation) is coming to my mailbox tomorrow.  I LIKE playing textual studies with Tom. Disagreements, yes. But we agree about the rules and the object of the game.


Steve (whose playground name was Urkee) Urquartowitz



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

Date:         February 15, 2018 at 3:15:56 AM EST

Subject:    R III


Steve Urkowitz re-raises an issue we discussed here two years ago (2/22?/16). I don’t respond to refresh memories but to note Steve’s misunderstandings of shorthand. He writes of 3H6 2.1 (F) and True Tragedie (1595, a Bad O called Q), where a ‘set direction-like’ bit appears in Q and sources. 


a multiple-text play which has been labelled as memorial reconstruction (or perhaps stenographic transcription) because of supposedly obvious “auditory error.” 


The badness, amounting to much more than that and ‘as it was acted’, is explained by shorthand, not MR.


[In Q]—“Three suns appear”—is not a stage direction but rather an authorial remnant that echoes . . . a paragraph marker or marginal note . . . from the chronicle histories. Three suns do not appear anywhere onstage, but the York brothers Edward and Richard point . . . .


We can’t know that no ‘paper suns’ appear on stage; I too assume they didn’t. 


I can [imagine] that a eats[?] stenographic reporter . . . scribbling . . . writes down [3 suns appear] to explain . . . what’s going on.


Directions in printed shorthand reports generally derive from dialogue and often later agency (e.g. for benefit of the reader). From 2016:


          Three sunnes appeare in the aire.

 Edw.  Loe how the morning opes her golden gates,

And takes her farewell of the glorious sun,

Dasell mine eies or doe I see three suns? (Q)


And then [F] . . . . First, the sunrise itself is pointed out by Richard . . . not Edward:


See how the Morning . . . (F)


Next, in only a single line Edward exclaims over the tripled suns as in [Q] . . .


 Ed. Dazle mine eyes . . .

 Rich. Three glorious Sunnes . . . (F)


So . . . if the Octavo [is] a stenographer’s report . . . Gerald Downs . . . . said, recently “as Bordeaux shows, the reporter didn’t much concern himself with matters beyond accurate dialogue. The faulty Q1 R3 set directions were . . . the responsibility of a purchaser to complete.


“By accurate dialogue, I thought Steven would stipulate that a stenographer [would] report . . . what he heard. . . . Set directions were not spoken on stage. . . . Q (O) not only adds a pointless set direction . . . what’s left of Richard’s set-up lines in F is given to Edward in Q (‘Loe how the morning . . . sun). The redactor guessed which son because only the dialogue was recorded. The variant passages indicate shorthand transmission of True Tragedy. . . . [C]orruption is extensive and complex. None of Steve’s arguments appear to acknowledge the bad quarto environment, as others observe.


John of Bordeaux shows all this . . . it’s a ‘Q that didn’t reach print’ that has some other agents, too: Chettle, ‘known’ theatrical hands, the actor John Holland, 1’s, 2’s, confused s.p.’s, confused j scoller & ii scoller, etc. It is far from ‘anti-theatrical.’ Although much can be inferred from printed texts . . . they have limits. But we can turn this around: Bordeaux is a self-explanatory manuscript that points to shorthand evidence in printed texts” (2/21/16).


Although F 3H6 partially reprints TT, the case does not mirror R3, where F reprints Q outright. Still, the example, ‘do I see three suns’ (Q dialogue) / ‘three suns appear’ (Q ‘set direction’) is constantly repeated in form in both cases.


The ‘3 suns story’ in Hall is copied in Holinshed, each in the body of the text: “At which time the sunne (as some write) appeared to the earle of March like three sunnes, and suddenlie ioned altogither in one . . . . and for this cause men imagined . . . .”


Men still imagine; some write that Shakespeare wrote these set directions, and that he juggled speech headings for no reason. I imagine this stuff is evidence of theatrical reporting.


Gerald E. Downs




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