Introduction 4: Shakespeare's Works

Introduction 4: Shakespeare's Works




4 - Shape of the Canon and the First Folio

4 – 莎士比亚经典作品集和第一对开本的形成

In this episode, we look at Shakespeare’s body of work: what kinds of plays he wrote, how they’ve been shared with readers over the centuries, and what makes it so challenging to edit the plays for publication. We talk about these questions with Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford.


Between the start of his career in the late 1580s or early 1590s and his death in 1616, Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays--at least 38 and possibly more, depending on how you count the plays that Shakespeare co-wrote with other authors. One extraordinary thing is how many of Shakespeare’s plays could be considered masterpieces. Many of them have been drawing audiences almost continuously since Shakespeare’s death. And today, all of them are performed regularly by Shakespearean theatre companies around the world.


Another extraordinary thing is how many different kinds of plays he wrote. Shakespeare proved himself a master of each dramatic genre. One observer wrote, “As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds.” To get a sense of Shakespeare’s whole body of work, we can think about his career in terms of these genres.


Emma Smith:  So I think it can be helpful to look at Shakespeare's career in two decade long blocks. The first is perhaps from the early 1590s to say 1601 or something. And the second the next tendered or not ten or so years after that, in that first block in the fifty nineties, Shakespeare's work is mostly rewriting medieval English history. And romantic comedy, there are a couple of tragedies that he writes. But the bulk of his work is in is in history and comedy.


Emma Smith: The second decade is tragedies. And then at the end of that period, this this kind of tragicomedy, romantic comedy, late comedy, they've had lots of different ways of talking about it. But plays like The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, which tend to combine some elements of tragedy with a more resolved kind of ending.


During Shakespeare’s lifetime, some of his plays were published as individual editions, called quartos.


Emma Smith: about half of Shakespeare's plays, 18 titles, are published as individual books. Those books are usually called Quartos, which refers to the size of them. That's they're small in size, like a little paperback, soft back, like a pamphlet. And then those 18 plus another 18, which have not been published before, are all printed together in the First Folio in this big collected edition, a big library book, kind of a doorstop of a book.


All those plays that hadn’t been published as quartos--plays that included masterpieces like Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and The Tempest--only became available to the world because two actors from Shakespeare’s theatre company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, decided to gather all of Shakespeare’s plays together in one magisterial volume.


Emma Smith: So the first collected printed edition of Shakespeare's plays is a book we now called the First Folio. In fact, it's called Mr. William Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies and Histories when it's printed in 1623. So 1623 is important. That's after Shakespeare's death. Shakespeare died in 1616. So we can't really assume that the organization or the presentation of the plays in that book is really authorities. Been presented by other agents to us. What we can say is that one of the things that's important about how to present this big book of 36 plays is by genre: comedies, tragedies and histories. Oh, yes. In fact, comedies, histories and tragedies. I think it's important as a marketing pitch, actually, to show a range of different kinds of plays, to show that this is not just still the same. This is a diverse range. There's something for everyone.


The First Folio and the individual quartos are the starting point for the copies of the plays we have today. But they’re a difficult place to start from, because when plays are printed more than once, the two versions are never the same.


Emma Smith: And for the players, which existing two forms in one of those single play versions, the quarters and the Folio, there are always differences, variations sometimes that suggest adaptation for the theater. That might suggest a mistake or a misreading in the typesetting. There are lots of different reasons why they might be different.


And I think the main thing, the main reason that Shakespeare's plays exist in these different forms attests to the fact that these scripts are alive or they were alive, they were alive for performance and that they were changed by different sort of performance possibilities. They were not set out like poems or like novels, whether that the most important thing was what the author said that set out in order to enable performance, which is that at first, but not their only purpose.


For almost half the plays, there are multiple editions of the text. Those editions vary, in many small ways and also in some quite substantial ways. Hamlet’s famous line, “To be or not to be; that is the question,” appears, in the first edition of the play, as “To be, or not to be--ay, there’s the point.” And the entire first edition is only about half as long as the later editions. If we want to print the play Hamlet, do we print the early edition? Or the later edition? Or some version that combines both? Do we print the word “question” or “point”? These are the kinds of challenges that editors have to deal with. So when you read a modern copy of a Shakespeare play, you’re getting the end product of a long line of decisions made by the editor has made: decisions about what text to print and how to shape that text.

莎士比亚有差不多一半的戏剧都有多个版本。这些版本之间有大量的细微差别。哈姆莱特那句著名的台词“生存还是毁灭,这是一个问题” (To be or not to be; that is the question) ,在第一个版本中这句话是这样写的“生存还是毁灭,啊,这是一个关键点” (To be or not to be--ay, there’s the point)。而且第一版的长度只有之后版本的一半。所以,如果我们想印刷《哈姆莱特》这部戏剧的话,是要选早期的版本还是之后的版本?还是将这些版本结合一下?我们印刷的时候,是印“问题 (question) ”还是印“关键点 (point) ”?这些都是编辑们需要应对的挑战。所以,当你在阅读一个现代版本的莎剧时,你手中的已经是经过编辑一连串决策之后的最终产品了。他们决定了印刷哪个文本,决定了如何呈现这个文本。

Emma Smith: One thing that these in determined early texts, require, I guess, is for modern editors to do some work, to tidy them up, to present them to us. And that's a great service. If you've got a modern edition of a play someone has gone through, they've changed and standardize the spelling. They've organized it on the page so you can tell who's speaking and get some sense of what the action is that's being described by putting in stage directions. And what that does, though, is it does interpret the plays in some important ways.


Stage directions indicate what the actors are doing onstage. Some are straightforward, like “Hamlet enters” or “Romeo exits.” But others tend to interpret or answer a question that the play leaves open. In The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine is forced to marry Petruchio. One of the play’s big questions is whether this marriage turns out to be happy. The play doesn’t settle the question. But sometimes a stage direction tries to. At the very end of the play, all the characters gather and Katherine makes a speech about marriage.


Emma Smith: And then Petruchio, her husband, says: “Why, there’s a wench.” and then a famous line, perhaps so many people don't know the play: “Come on and kiss me. Kate.” Let's start direction again. Now, most artists will put in a stage direction that which says that case. And that's certainly one interpretation. He says, kiss me. She does kiss him. We still don't know what that kiss means, whether it's, you know, passionate or reciprocal or slightly coercive or violent. There are lots of different ways.


So these are possibilities that the play leaves open, I think, because it doesn't have stage directions. And while it's really helpful for modern editors to include speculations about the stagecraft, which can help us make sense of what's going on in the plays, we do need to sort of look beyond that sometimes and think, well, what is that? The only way to see this?


For many pivotal moments in Shakespeare like this one, there’s more than one way to see it. This open-ended quality might sometimes seem frustrating for a new reader. But as Emma Smith explains in our next episode on how to read Shakespeare, it can also be extraordinarily liberating.


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    plays like The Winter's Tale and The Tempest, which tend to combine some elements of tragedy with a more resolved kind of ending

  • 冯亦慈

    在第一个版本中这句话是这样写的“生存还是毁灭,啊,这是一个关键点” (To be or not to be--ay, there’s the point)。而且第一版的长度只有之后版本的一半。所以,如果我们想印刷《哈姆雷特》这部戏剧的话,是要选早期的版本还是之后的版本?