Ann Thompson and Gordon McMullan, eds. In Arden: Editing Shakespeare: Essays in Honour of Richard Proudfoot. London: Thomson Learning, 2003. xxiv pp + 288 pp.

Margaret Jane Kidnie
University of Western Ontario

Kidnie, Margaret Jane. "Review of Ann Thompson and Gordon McMullan, eds. In Arden: Editing Shakespeare: Essays in Honour of Richard Proudfoot." Early Modern Literary Studies 9.2 (September, 2003): 7.1-8 <URL:

  1. This collection of eighteen essays by past and present Arden editors is a fit and welcome celebration of Richard Proudfoot's eminent career as Professor of English at King's College, London, general editor of the Malone Society Reprints, and general editor of the Arden Shakespeare, third series. Suitably, In Arden, edited by two of Proudfoot’s colleagues at King's, is devoted to editorial and textual studies, and adopts an appropriately broad approach to the field: there are essays here that reflect on practice, others that excavate the history of Shakespearean editorial methodology, and still others that respond to the variety of challenges editors of Shakespeare have confronted in recent years.

  2. Two essays explore what isn't there. In "Early Play Texts: Forms and Formes," Henry Woudhuysen discerns patterns in the use of blank pages and leaves in plays printed between 1565 and 1640. What emerges is that while printers frequently crowd the page in an effort to conserve paper (an expensive commodity), they also deliberately include blanks -– often in the same publication. Woudhuysen resists trying to explain this "puzzle" (59), only going so far as to suggest that it might support the growing conviPction that printed plays were not always "the unconsidered trifles they are generally taken to have been" (55). John Russell Brown, by contrast, asks how we might convey to a reader the power of the actor's (often silent) body. "Annotating Silence" asserts the complexities of the live event while demonstrating the limitations of current editorial practice, underscoring in a timely fashion the pressing need to experiment further with creative solutions to the challenges facing performance-oriented editing.

  3. Performance is one of In Arden's recurrent topics -– not surprisingly, as Proudfoot is an avowed advocate of the theatre. George Walton Williams and R. A. Foakes encourage editors to guide the reader's perception of theatrical action by means of editorial stage directions. The burden of Williams's argument is that an editor's task is to print within the dialogue "theatrically right" readings, relegating "what is wrong" to a footnote (113). "To Edit? To Direct? – Ay, There's the Rub" is distinguished by a presumed ability to infer right and wrong – and by the unswerving confidence that such a stable binarism in fact exists. In "Raw Flesh/Lion's Flesh: A Cautionary Note on Stage Directions," Foakes examines the few surviving plots and actors' parts to argue that printed drama tends to preserve an author’s suggested staging, not what actually happened on stage. His well-drawn conclusion is that since original stage business is largely irrecoverable, "editors should be encouraged to take more liberties in suggesting possible action" (136). As with Brown's essay, however, there is little discussion here of how one might integrate the variety of possible directions into a print edition, or on what grounds some directions might be prioritized over others.

  4. The importance of such questions is brought home in "Who is Performing 'in' These Text(s)?; Or, Shrew-ing Around." Barbara Hodgson reads against habits of editorial emendation to make visible the possibility (indeed, the textual reality) of separate exits for Katherina and Petruchio at the end of The Shrew. Hodgson shows how our sense of viable staging is indebted less to Shakespeare and his company, than to the politics – and marital fantasies – of generations of editors dating back to Rowe. In this vein, Eric Rasmussen's "Richly Noted: A Case for Collation Inflation" deftly defends the merits of the collation line, as it is through analysis of the historical variants recorded there that we gain access to the evolving character of the editorial tradition. Lynette Hunter and Peter Lichtenfels ("Reading in the Moment: Theatre Practice as a Guide to Textual Editing") focus on the importance of "reading differently" (150). This tentative and thought-provoking essay, which is less concerned with what theatrically is, or was, than it is to find the means to allow each reader to engage actively in the production of meaning, speaks to an emergent mood concerning the function of performance-oriented editions of Shakespeare.

  5. Another group of essays considers, broadly, the impact of cultural change on the preparation of editions. A. R. Braunmuller traces the genealogy of the Arden, New Cambridge, and Oxford Shakespeares back to early modern and Enlightenment Europe in an accomplished contribution called "Shakespeares Various." G. K. Hunter, in "The Social Function of Annotation," makes the point that every annotator necessarily interprets the plays in terms of his or her own cultural agenda: this is as true today, during an Page of "Shakespeare for exams" (192), as it was in the eighteenth century. Juliet Dusinberre breathes fresh life into the annotation of topical allusions through an examination of Sir Oliver Mar-text. "Topical Forest: Kemp and Mar-text in Arden" argues that Will Kemp took the part, and that the joke rests in the sight of a well-known anti-Martinist sending up the Puritans. For Dusinberre's hypothesis to be correct, however, either Kemp must have remained with the Lord Chamberlain's Men past 1599, or the composition of As You Like It has been wrongly dated to mid-1600. Helen Wilcox reflects more generally on annotation as an evolving editorial function. "The Character of a Footnote ? Or, Annotation Revisited" concludes that the publication of Shakespeare's drama has become "institutionalized" (205), and this mitigates against the sort of idiosyncrasy typical of footnotes in previous centuries.

  6. In a playful, but perhaps overly speculative, mode, John Pitcher returns to the accusation of theft found in Greene's Groatsworth of Wit to argue in "Some Call Him Autolycus" that Shakespeare figures himself and his career in this rogue character. Lois Potter's excellent essay, "Editing Desdemona," is less concerned with annotation of character than with an attempt to discern the direction of character revision between the two early editions of Othello. Emphasising the conflicting textual evidence, Potter concludes that "someone – probably the author, but possibly not only him -– was uncertain about how to achieve a balance between Desdemona’s sexuality and her innocence" (92).

  7. In Arden also includes a number of contributions that address in one way or another the question of evidence, especially (but not exclusively) in relation to issues of textual authority. Georgio Melchiori argues for "The Continuing Importance of the New Bibliography" by taking issue with scholars who challenge ill-examined assumptions about such notions as "foul papers" and "bad quartos." His objection is that such studies leave editors "in a kind of limbo" (24). This is a passionate essay, but one that tends to substitute assertion for argumentation and engagement. John J. M. Tobin examines the relations between "Sources and Cruces," presenting the works of Thomas Nashe, in particular, as an overlooked resource for editors who must ultimately print (and thus prioritize) one word choice in place of another. E. A. J. Honigmann also draws on source studies in a short note called "To Be or Not To Be" to consider whether Cicero's Tusculan Disputations help one interpret the meaning of Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy. In what is a considered response to recent developments in textual studies, Anthony B. Dawson argues that to insist on "the plurality and indeterminacy of texts" is not necessarily to "abandon the criteria of truth and correctness" (32). "Correct Impressions: Editing and Evidence in the Wake of Post-Modernism" tries to find its way out of the limbo posited by Melchiori by returning -– cautiously -– to the inferred, but absent, author and the Pimmaterial work as enabling editorial constructions. Suzanne Gossett deals with similar issues of irresolvability in "'To Foster is Not Always to Preserve': Feminist Inflections in Editing Pericles," but she refuses to look beyond the local and specific in an attempt to develop "a unified field theory" (67). Her insightful position is not that we can't say anything about this problematic play, just that what we can say with any certainty is extremely limited.

  8. In Arden offers a timely set of reflections on editing Shakespeare, at what has been perceived as a transitional moment. The volume as a whole is thought-provoking and rewards careful study.

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

© 2003-, Lisa Hopkins (Editor, EMLS).