All entries for Thursday 15 July 2010

July 15, 2010

Chapter One Rewrite

This summer, as well as creating a first draft of my fourth (and final) chapter on the place of the apocrypha in the 21st century Shakespeare canon, I'm taking a month at a time to go over my first three chapters and restructure/rewrite/re-research them in the light of where my thesis has taken me.

This means that I'm spending July revisiting Chapter One, which I completed a year ago. This began life as a chronological survey of the textual history of the apocrypha from the 1664 2nd Folio to Tucker Brooke's 1908 "Shakespeare Apocrypha", the volume which I'm arguing shaped - and continues to shape - conceptions of works attributed to Shakespeare as a dichotomy of authentic/not.

Now, covering 250 years of editorial history, even of the apocryphal plays, is a lot to do in a single chapter, and the more I read the more I'm conscious that this ground has been covered a lot. John Jowett most recently did it for the apocrypha in "Shakespeare Supplemented" (2007), while individual moments have been given a much greater level of detail than I have space for in dedicated articles, such as Edmund King's forthcoming piece on the Pope/Theobald dispute over Double Falsehood. Additionally, of course, there are plenty of general textual histories on Shakespeare under whose umbrella the apocrypha fall.

So, I've spent part of this week refining what I think this chapter is doing uniquely, and I've just decided that I need to restructure it. As a chronologically-ordered survey of apocryphal "moments", it's inadequate. However, there are pieces in the chapter which have not (to my knowledge) been discussed before in detail, such as Robert Walker's collected works of Shakespeare (which Jowett mentions briefly) and a contribution to The Adventurer in 1753. More important, however, are the narratives that recur throughout my chronological survey: a growing concern for Shakespeare's "reputation", the introduction of biography and chronology alongside the advent of Bardolatry, and the beginnings of attempts to group and categorise the apocrypha ahead of Brooke's edition.

What I'm now thinking, then, is that a thematic rather than chronological survey is the way forward. The different strands of burgeoning critical thought criss-cross throughout the plays' history, and I think it's more important to bring those out at the expense of a linear timeline.

Now, the chapter will begin and close with discussion of C.F. Tucker Brooke's Apocrypha- first establishing its importance, then examining the 250 years of mechanisms and decisions that inevitably led to its creation, before returning to a close reading of Brooke's material itself to understand its purposes and agenda.

The four strands that lead up to it are:

1) The 43 play canon that existed for sixty years between 1664-1724, thus embedding the notion of an extended and unstable canon in editorial thought.

2) The question of reputation that persists through Pope, The Adventurer, Capell, Steevens and Knight, and the role of editors and critics in "helping" Shakespeare maintain his reputation.

3) The advent of biography and chronology as key to an understanding of Shakespeare. Early references by Dryden, Rowe and Capell are developed more fully by Malone and the German romantics. This section, of course, ties in to the rise of Bardolatry.

4) The canonising and organisation of the apocrypha, begun by Malone's "Supplement" in 1790 and continued through editions of "Doubtful Plays" edited by Hazlitt, Tyrrell, Moltke etc.

By reading the paratexts and apparatus of the key texts in these four strands, the chapter argues that certain ideologies are at stake in the policing of canonic boundaries, and that the creation of an "apocryphal" category creates the necessary buffer zone for disputed plays that allows them to be housed and removed from canonic consideration, as evidenced by the lack of any apocrypha editions since Brooke.

I'm a lot happier with this shape for the chapter, so I'll be spending the rest of July knocking it into shape.


I’m Peter Kirwan, a final year doctoral student in the English Department at Warwick, and this is my PhD blog.

Conferences, reviews, articles, thoughts and links relating to my interests in the Shakespeare apocrypha, early modern drama, authorship and performance.

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  • Congratulations. by Andrew on this entry
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