November 26, 2009

Sonia Massai's 'Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor'

Not a review, but just wanted to note here that I've just finished Sonia Massai's Shakespeare and the Rise of the Editor (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), which I found thoroughly fascinating.

Massai argues for the importance of annotating readers in 17th century playbook culture. Both in the printing house and in private, playbooks were understood not to represent a finished, perfected text, but rather a mutable, perfectible text. Readers - professional or amateur - applied sporadic, inconsistent corrections to their books, which would explain those extant texts which show vast improvement in areas such as speech prefixes and clarification of stage action.

My main interest in this is the way in which it applies to the Pavier quartos, among which are Sir John Oldcastle and The Yorkshire Tragedy. Rather than being the fraudulent charlatan he is usually painted to be, Massai argues that Pavier's project was approved by the publishers of the First Folio to 'whet appetite' for their own project, and that Pavier actually shows unusual care and attention as an annotating reader in 'improving' his texts - because at this time, improvement did not constitute adherence to an authorial original, but rather subjective improvement on the original.

Great book, check it out.


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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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