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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: March 2007

3 - Editions and Textual Studies

Summary

Single-text editions of Shakespeare have recently bulked up considerably. The editions published this year are more than double the size of those produced a generation ago: the 197-page edition of 2 Henry VI in the Arden 2 series, for instance, is now superseded by the 491-page Arden 3; the 215-page Arden 2 Henry VIII gives way to the 506-page Arden 3. The text of the play, of course, remains more or less the same but it now occupies a much smaller proportion of the overall edition. Given that today's editors are responsible for producing an unprecedented amount of original introductory material and commentary, the fact that they may ultimately have less time to devote to the text itself should surprise no one.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that the text of the play is the one element of an edition that every user will read. And yet, several of the editions under review here contain multiple errors in the play's text. These are not simple misprints that could be easily spotted by readers but more insidious sorts of substantive errors that produce seemingly valid readings. Proof-readers in seventeenth-century printing houses realized that this type of error, 'Words altered into other Words by a little wrong Spelling', could have profound consequences: 'the Sense made ridiculous, the purpose of it controvertible, and the meaning of the Author irretrievably lost to all that shall read it in After times'. Indeed, for the serious student who trusts the scholarly authority of an edition - and who is unlikely to consult more than one while studying a given play - some meanings might in fact be irretrievably lost.

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Shakespeare Survey
  • Online ISBN: 9781139052757
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCOL0521803411
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