A response to Paul Werstine
De Montfort University, Leicester, England
Egan, Gabriel "A Response to Paul Werstine." Early Modern Literary
Studies 5.2 (September, 1999): 15.1 < URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/05-2/eganread.html
- Paul Werstine dismisses my response to his piece on The Book of Sir
Thomas More (EMLS 3-3:2.1-19;
EMLS 4-3:16.1-4; EMLS
5-1:15.1-4) on the grounds that I mistakenly
regard as relevant the question of whether the play was performed. That question
is not relevant--I did not suggest it was--and the issue is whether the More
manuscript shows that New Bibliography was wrong to assert that in the theatre
an authorial draft was 'tidied up' to make it playable. We agree that the
More manuscript is made messy by the additions which, as Werstine
rightly says, are "in the handwriting of known playhouse personnel".
My defence of New Bibliographical thinking was based on the observation that
things can become temporarily messier in the process of being tidied. I intended
to mount a defence of New Bibliography's assumptions about theatrical documents
being tidied for performance, but William B. Long's recent essay 
has made me want to reconsider. I am happy to agree with Werstine that New
Bibliography overstated the textual regularity demanded in the theatre, but
I observe that new New Bibliography already accepts this point and
does not, for example, assume that permissive stage directions of the kind
"Enter 3 or 4 lords" would have been changed to indicate a precise
1William B. Long "'Precious Few': English Manuscript
Playbooks" in David Scott Kastan (ed.) A Companion to Shakespeare,
Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), pp.
414-33. Surveying all 18 surviving playbooks, Long finds that the More
manuscript has "more additions and patches than most likely would have
been usual" (p. 420).
Responses to this piece intended for the Readers'
Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.
1998-, Lisa Hopkins(Editor, EMLS).