The Two Material Versions of Scene 4 of Sir Thomas More
Paul Werstine
King's College, University of Western Ontario

Werstine, Paul. "The Two Material Versions of Scene 4 of Sir Thomas More." Early Modern Literary Studies 6.3 (January, 2001): 22.1-3 <URL:

  1. My thanks to Gabriel Egan for continuing to read and puzzle over a little piece I wrote some years ago for Early Modern Literary Studies entitled "Hypertext and Editorial Myth." [1] The piece concerned, in part, the fourth scene of the manuscript play Sir Thomas More, held by the British Library (MS. Harley 7368). The manuscript contains two versions of this scene. The first version is written entirely in the hand of Anthony Munday; all of it, except its opening stage direction, has been marked for deletion. The second version, which begins with Munday's undeleted opening stage direction, is written in several different hands. In his latest response to my piece, Egan credits me with combining (1) the opening entrance direction written in Anthony Munday's hand with (2) other stage directions written into the second version in Hand C and with (3) dialogue and speech prefixes written in Hand B and annotated by Hand C. [2] Much as I would like to take credit for having had a hand in the formation of the most enduringly fascinating dramatic manuscript from Shakespeare's time, I must point out that the elements I have listed as (1) to (3) were combined in the manuscript some four hundred years or so ago. [3]

  2. Egan also goes about making a mystery of why I would term this second material version of scene 4 "theatrical." My principal reason for doing so is, of course, the presence of Hand C in this version. In his 1961 "Supplement to the Introduction" to the Malone Society reprint of the More manuscript, the late Harold Jenkins calls Hand C "a playhouse book-keeper." [4] Hand C, Jenkins notes, has also been identified in two theatrical plots, that "of The Seven Deadly Sins at Dulwich College and a fragmentary plot in the British Museum (MS. Addit. 10449, fol. 4) which may be of the lost play Fortune's Tennis." [5] In light of the theatrical nature of these Hand-C documents as well as of contributions to the More manuscript written in Hand C, it seems appropriate to call the second version of More's fourth scene, which contains inscriptions by Hand C, the "theatrical" version.

  3. Egan has led himself into needless confusion by abstracting from the manuscript's second version of scene 4 only that part of it written in Hand B and trying to imagine how this abstraction of his own creation could possibly be called "theatrical." However, if the reader attends to the material versions of the scene as they continue to exist in the manuscript itself, such confusion can quickly be dispelled.


1. Paul Werstine, "Hypertext and Editorial Myth." Early Modern Literary Studies 3.3 (May, 1998) http://purl.oclc.org/emls/03-3/wersshak.html.

2. Gabriel Egan, "Revision of scene 4 of Sir Thomas More as a test of New Bibliographical principles." Early Modern Literary Studies 6.2 (September, 2000). http://purl.oclc.org/emls/06-2/eganmore.htm

3. Perhaps Egan's inability to recognize how (1) - (3) are combined in the MS arises in part from the fact that in its second version, the scene begins on fol. 5b, where the first version also begins, and then continues on fol. 7a. Between these two leaves appears so-called "Addition I," which, as Greg noted in his 1911 edition, "has not been properly fitted into its context and appears in quite a wrong part of the MS. It clearly belongs to sc. xiii" (The Book of Sir Thomas More, ed. W. W. Greg, Malone Society Reprints [London: Malone Society, 1911; 1961], 66n.

4. Harold Jenkins, "Supplement to the Introduction," The Book of Sir Thomas More, ed. W. W. Greg, Malone Society Reprints (London: Malone Society, 1911; 1961), xxxiii-xlvi, esp. xxxiv. The term "playhouse book-keeper" may be misleading if it is assumed that a single individual necessarily handled, to the exclusion of all other theatrical tasks, all matters that have been associated by scholars with the "book-keeper"--transcription of plays, parts, and plots, prompting, dealing with the Master of the Revels and his deputies. However, the term will do in the present context.

5. Jenkins, xxxv.

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at L.M.Hopkins@shu.ac.uk.

© 2001-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS)