Forsyth, Jennifer. "Playing with Wench-like
Words: Copia and Surplus in the Internet Shakespeare Edition of Cymbeline".
Early Modern Literary Studies 9.3 / Special Issue 12 (January, 2004)
3.1-27 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/09-3/forsplay.html>.
With fairest flowers
Whilst summer lasts and I live here, Fidele,
I'll sweeten thy sad grave; thou shalt not lack
The flower that's like thy face, pale primrose; nor
The azured harebell like thy veins; no, nor
The leaf of eglantine, whom not to slander,
Outsweetened not thy breath. The ruddock would
With charitable bill (o bill, sore shaming
Those rich-left heirs that let their fathers lie
Without a monument) bring thee all this,
Yea, and furred moss besides. When flowers are none
To winter-ground thy corpse --
Prithee have done,
And do not play in wench-like words with that
Which is so serious. Let us bury him
And not protract with admiration what
Is now due debt. To th' grave.
When I was defending my dissertation, which was essentially a print version
of the Cymbeline edition I am preparing for the Internet Shakespeare
Editions (ISE), one of the committee members repeatedly asked me variations
on the question, "When do we have too much knowledge?" or "How do we know
when we have too much knowledge?"
On the one hand, it struck me as decidedly odd that a respected member of
a liberal arts institution was focusing on the dangers of too much knowledge,
when I had thought that the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake was
one of the primary tenets of higher education. But on the other hand, it also
sounded familiar, and I recognized a common strain: the distinguishing between
copia, or "abundance," used by Erasmus, of course, to signal appropriately
rich style, and the "wench-like words" which are the bane of (male) early
modern characters and dramatists alike. Often, it boils down to the fact that
when a man speaks at length, it is appropriate, whereas when a woman speaks
(at any length), she runs the risk of being judged speaking inappropriately.
I am not interested here in rehearsing the voluminous and important critical
work which has been done on the silencing of women (in all its many forms)
in early modern English drama; I wish to focus instead on the factors which
may make the parallels between early modern views regarding appropriateness
of male and female speech and my own experiences as a (female) editor of Cymbeline
for the Internet Shakespeare Editions and to investigate ways of converting
surplus into copia.
In the passage I wish to examine from Cymbeline (presented in the
epigraph), it is not a young woman but an emotional young man speaking who
is silenced. In the middle of what appears to me to be a beautiful tribute
to Fidele by Arviragus, Guiderius interrupts, saying, "Prithee have done,
/ And do not play in wench-like words with that / Which is so serious. Let
us bury him / And not protract with admiration what / Is now due debt" (4.2.237-41).
The question here is what, exactly, Guiderius finds distasteful. Is it the
emotional tenor of the words that is objectionable, their excessive quantity,
the sense that the words are playful rather than genuine, or the fact that
words are what is played with rather than something else that is wench-like?
Any of these conclusions could be supported by reference to other accusations
of female surplus in early modern drama.
Perhaps the possible readings should be as abundant as Arviragus's words.
The association of "playing" with "wench-like" at this particular scene suggests
that one of the reasons for the perpetual silencing of female characters is
not simply that they are prone, in the opinions of the other characters, to
running on at the mouth but that it is specifically the publication
of emotion (troped, naturally, as female) which is deemed inappropriate. To
feel may be acceptable, but to disclose those feelings is shameful.
Publishing and emotion are inseparable for me, but the topic of electronic
editions may evoke particularly unemotional connotations and thus appear
an odd choice to juxtapose with the elegiac scene from Cymbeline. Computers,
almost by definition, imply the triumph of reason over emotion, and editing
is often seen as a particularly dry and bloodless occupation that would have
difficulty provoking a reaction more extreme than apathy. Rationalistic editions
attempting to produce a "neutral" text (a project whose attainability is now
dubious) have become increasingly dominant, with only small concessions to
the poststructuralist awareness that there is no such thing.
Granted, parts of the editorial process such as collating historical variants
scarcely require consciousness, much less emotion. Yet many people who have
attended editorial seminars can attest to the fact that editors often come
across as a passionate group.
It doesn't even require more than one person present to become passionate.
I am not alone in my ability to stare for hours at a single group of half-lines
trying to decide how to--and whether to--combine them into tidy lines of iambic
pentameter. I can meditate on the
relative merits of semicolons versus colons at length,
and I internally debate the competing imperatives of following the editorial
guideline admonishing us "Do not over-use exclamation marks" (ISE "Guidelines"
3.4.3.c) and using exclamation points to indicate emotion.
(All of this may have something to do with how many years it takes editors
to complete their editions.) Occasionally, the years of work enable an insight
that no other editor has made. It is difficult to convey the excitement of
such a discovery to someone who has not made similar discoveries (or who doesn't
value them); I have an intellectual understanding that other people don't
really understand or share my glee when I explain that I have identified distinct
preferences for setting spaces around semicolons as a way to differentiate
between Folio Compositors B and E
(Forsyth 117-18) or that I believe my suggestion of Nashe's The Unfortunate
Traveler as a source of Cymbeline is original (not to mention significant)
(Forsyth 52-56), but that doesn't mean that my emotion is surplus.
Not all of the emotion is positive, however; the process is saturated with
anxiety. Every substantive emendation
has to be considered carefully, in context of all other historical editions
but without bowing to the weight of editorial tradition,
and while considering the possible political ramifications of different options,
not to mention the different possible narratives--none of which can ever be
conclusively proven--to explain
the origin of each supposed error. Emendation of accidentals engenders, if
possible, even more conflict. I cannot so much as change a comma to a semicolon
in order to clarify the meaning of a sentence according to modern grammatical
rules without agonizing that I may be obliterating signs that are significant
markers of early modern rhetorical units. Sometimes I spend so long debating
the respective advantages of two equally attractive options, I end up being
unable to remember which I chose without referring to the text. At other times,
I become so fiercely protective of my choices that I can barely imagine having
a civil conversation with, for instance, an editor who disagrees with that
reading. On top of that are the decisions to be made for the prefatory materials
and all of my notes and commentary. All in all, my job is fraught with angst.
And Cymbeline is considered to be a notoriously "clean" text, with
few errors and only a single possible source text, the 1623 Folio.
One of the problems is that little editorial uncertainty appears in modern
editions of early modern plays, but, as a reader, I find such acknowledgments
helpful. Certainly, earlier editors felt free to express confusion, indecision,
and ambivalence; one of the elements I love from earlier editions is the number
of conjectures suggested in the commentary notes, many of which never make
it into an edition but which illuminate usefully, for scholars as well as
for students, the bafflement working with such material can produce. Instead,
we are confronted with definitive declarations, even regarding the most perplexing
The opening lines of Cymbeline, ("YOu do not meet a man but Frownes.
/ Our bloods no more obey the Heauens / Then our Courtiers: / Still seeme,
as do's the Kings" Cym. 1.1.3-5) are so confusing that, as Ann Thompson
notes, the 1913 Furness Variorum contains four pages of commentary on those
lines alone (72). She suggested in 1998 that "Editors used to speak, or attempted
to speak, with a kind of magisterial authority, dismissing all previous theories
and interpretations and laying claim to their own unique ability to explicate
the text" but now "the aim is more to explore the possibilities than to impose
a single 'correct' view" (84). Unfortunately, her assessment may be more optimistic
than accurate. Listen to the comparative assurance of different authorial
styles commenting on the first speech:
This passage is so difficult, that commentators may differ concerning
it without animosity or shame. Of the two emendations proposed, Hanmer's
is the more licentious; but he makes the sense clear, and leaves the reader
an easy passage. Dr. Warburton has corrected with more caution, but
less improvement: His reasoning upon his own reading is so obscure and perplexed,
that I suspect some injury of the press. I am now to tell my opinion, which
is, that the lines stand as they were originally written, and that a paraphrase,
such as the licentious and abrupt expressions of our author too frequently
require, will make emendation unnecessary . . . . (Johnson 258)
Our dispositions do not reflect the influence of the heavens
more completely than our courtiers reflect the behaviour of the King. That
the heavens influence our dispositions is as much a Renaissance commonplace
as the sceptical opposite view that the heavens have no influence on us
at all. The two attitudes are represented by Gloucester and Edmond at Tragedy
of Lear 1.2.101-30. (Warren 87)
Based on these examples, at least, it appears that earlier editors were more
open to acknowledging textual and critical multiplicity than current editors.
Although I am not advocating a return to the openly adversarial editions
of Alexander Pope and Lewis Theobald, it strikes me as fundamentally more
honest to acknowledge the dialogue inherent in any scholarly edition. In the
first ten notes of Johnson's 1765 edition, he quotes another editor five times
and refers to other editors or critics by name three additional times, and
mentions other editors as a group another time. In the first ten notes of
Warren's edition, Warren refers in his commentary notes only to the O.E.D.
and to other literary works, presumably because the work of the collations
is held to be sufficient acknowledgment; even so, only three editors' emendations
or conjectures are noted. Throughout, collations of emendations not accepted
by the Oxford edition are rare, creating a univocal impression. Nosworthy's
edition does a much better job of acknowledging other editors and incorporating
their ideas into a dialogue that is much better suited to allowing a reader
to examine the possibilities and to decide on the most likely reading herself--which,
I, with many others, believe is the ideal edition. The commentary note to
"referr'd" (1.1.6) provides an average illustration of the effect of this
approach: ("Furness points out that Cymbeline planned to advance Imogen, but
that she has 'referr'd herself', i.e. has chosen a lower station. 'Preferr'd'
(Ingleby), 'affied' or 'assur'd' (Lettsom) are superfluous" (Nosworthy, 3).
Warren's note on the same word, "given (OED v 10), exemplifies an utterly
different attitude toward the reader that eliminates other voices and contested
meanings. Whether an editor adheres to a previous editor's emendation or rejects
it, ignoring the intertextual nature of editing is futile and misleading.
A sense of dialogue, of negotiation, of copia in notes, still appears
in the more recent Arden editions. For example, the Arden third series edition
of King Henry VI Part 3, by John Cox and Eric Rasmussen, candidly records
editorial uncertainty. Commentary notes suggest that "We may imagine
York thinking of Stafford's death and inadvertently conflating Clifford's
with it" (note at line 9), that "F's silence about Richard's action allows
the actor a great deal of latitude, but he must do something to display
Somerset's head and evoke the cruel mockery of York (18)" (note at line 16
SD), and that "Richard presumably shakes Somerset's head, perhaps
holding it by the hair" (note at line 20) (emphases added). 
Obviously, the kind and content of commentary note will vary not only based
on the prevailing taste of the time and publisher's preferences but also according
to the kind of edition intended, and editors of print editions have been often
subject to great, if not insurmountable, pressure from their publishers to
keep their notes brief, thus limiting the number of pages and hence the costs
of publication. This need not be a concern of the electronic editor, an advantage
that has been frequently noted.
However, the mere fact that the cause of the constraint has been removed
does not mean that editors are freed from the traditions print imposes, such
as the ban on publishing emotion. As I have worked on Cymbeline, I
have at times wanted to break the conventional limitations of academic publishing.
In addition to the normal kinds of commentary on Arviragus's speech, I experienced
the desire to put in a note that said, "Even after reading the text of the
entire play somewhere between dozens and hundreds of times and being perfectly
aware that Imogen is alive, this scene still makes me cry in the theater."
In my introductory material, I occasionally thought of parenthetical comments
which were interesting but not, perhaps, significant. Once in a while, I even
wanted to include a joke. One of my readers prompted me to remove some of
these, commenting that they were "frivolous." I do not dispute the allegation,
but I believe that including the frivolous--which is often equated with anything
pertaining to emotion, as in Arviragus's case--is not necessarily a bad thing.
Despite how commonplace condemnations of early modern texts silencing women
have become, suggesting that our attitudes toward emotive and personal language
have become more inclusive, I
would suggest that this is not in fact the case.
Whereas editions once were the site of personal publication on the
part of the editor as much as they were the site of the textual publication,
not only capitalizing on the editor's reputation and personality but also
promoting the editor as author as well, today they are presented, at least
implicitly, as factual, rational products, effectively effacing the presence
of the editor, and especially of the editor as a human being with interests,
prejudices, and emotions. The fonts on the title page of Johnson's preface
illustrate the perceived importance of the editor. In the title, "MR. JOHNSON'S
/ PREFACE / To his EDITION of / Shakespear's Plays," "MR. JOHNSON'S" is kerned
out and letter-spaced so that even though the font is smaller, it appears
almost as large as the line "Shakespeare's Plays." The repetition of the possessive
in "Johnson's" and "his" likewise emphasizes the personal presence of the
editor, an aspect that holds true in the commentary notes of the edition itself:
the "I" is very present in Johnson. For Edmond Malone, too, the editor's name
is almost as large as Shakespeare's; in fact, I had to measure twice to make
sure they weren't actually the same size. In more modern editions, the relative
font sizes--which seem to me to be fairly accurate reporters of attitudes
toward the editor's presence--skew the balance in the other direction. In
the first printing of the play for the Folger series, for instance, the font
appears to be around 48 pt. type for "Cymbeline," around 36 pt. type for "Folger
Library" and "Shakespeare," and around 8 pt. type for the names of the editors,
Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. (These figures are for the cover; neither
printing mentions the editors' names on the title page.) The Oxford Shakespeare
does not include the editor's name on the cover but does include Roger Warren
on the title page--again, as the smallest element, with 9 or 10 pt. font compared
to 10 for "Oxford's World Classics," 12 for "William Shakespeare," and 24
This suggestion that the editor's presence is increasingly minimized simultaneously
represents and contradicts the truth: while editors have been effacing their
presence from the narratives presented in introductory materials and commentary
notes, they have also been generating a much greater proportion of the text.
Ironically, many people do make decisions based on the personality of the
editors. I met a scholar recently who told me that he refuses to teach from
a certain text, not because the editing was poor (although it is, to my mind)
but because he disagreed with the editors' ideological premises. I know others
who boycott certain editions because they met the editor at a conference and
thought that he was ignorant, or a jerk, or dressed poorly.
Contrasting eighteenth-century editions with modern editions will once
again demonstrate the demise of the subjective editor and of the subjectivity
of the editor. Rowe, for instance, has only a handful of notes for the entire
play, few of which are mere explication. It is difficult to forget that it
is a human being who wrote of Cymbeline that "This play has been alter'd
by Mr. Durfey, but whether to its Advantage or not, I will not determine,
because I have not the Alterations by me; but I am afraid the Gentleman who
alter'd it was not so well acquainted with the Rules of Art, as to be able
to improve the Cymbeline of Shakespear." He continues to demonstrate
his willingness to share his opinions with generalizations about the quality
of the play: " . . . indeed most of the Incidents of this Play smell rankly
of Romance. Jacimo's false Accusation of Posthumus to
his Wife is well enough, and has many good lines in it" (370). As you know,
especially in the eighteenth century, the editors' personalities would, from
time to time, erupt--and I use the word advisedly--in their responses to each
other. The title alone of one edition will serve as a reminder: Theobald's
SHAKESPEARE restored: / OR, A / SPECIMEN / OF THE / Many
ERRORS, / AS WELL / Committed, as Unamended, by Mr. POPE
/ In his Late / EDITION of this POET. / DESIGNED / Not only to correct the
said EDITION, but to restore the True / READING of SHAKESPEARE in
all the Editions ever / yet publish'd. / By Mr. THEOBALD.
(Interestingly, the typeface for "Mr. Pope" is larger than that of "Mr. Theobald,"
at about 24 pt. to about 18 pt.)
And while I do not wish to try your patience with a rehashing of the war
of the editors, I cannot resist noting a few more comments by early editors
demonstrating rather more subjectivity than modern editors. In consonance
with the conventions of his time, Theobald reveals (or feigns) his emotions:
I have run a Risque, and must wait the Sentence of the Publick,
whether I have gone upon a mistaken View of Reputation, or whether I have
done any Thing to set Shakespeare in a clearer Light than his Editors
have hitherto done. . . . The Alteration of a Letter, when it restores
Sense to a corrupted Passage, in a learned Language, is an Atchievement
that brings Honour to the Critick who advances it. (193)
Pope's personality is no less apparent in his editions. I find particularly
noteworthy the fact that Pope dubs one of his sections, "Various Readings,
Guesses, &c." Who among us would acknowledge that our best emendations are
guesses? Who would buy our editions if we did, assuming we could find publishers
willing to accept that level of professed certainty? Other editors were more
decisive, though not less personable for all that. In Bell's acting edition
of 1774, the editor says, for instance, "The Fourth Act is chiefly supported
by several changes of scenes and circumstances; not but that there are many
strokes well worthy Shakespeare's pen, in it" (298). Of the scene with
which I began this paper, Bell's edition says, "Why the following most beautiful
lines of Arviragus's speech in the original, were omitted in the alteration,
we don't perceive, as they certainly could not hang heavy on attention nor
expression" (293). Not only does Guiderius reject Arviragus's words as being
unworthy of expression, but the edition rejects them, relegating them to a
footnote, even though the editor finds them "most beautiful."
The pool of personality begins to dry up toward the end of the eighteenth
century. By the advent of Rann (1786), most of the notes are explanatory,
defining words or terms, or parsing their meanings. Rann's notes on Arviragus's
speech are thus limited to defining "ruddock" as "the red-breast" and explicating
"To winter-ground thy corse" as "To screen it from the inclemency of that
In Malone's 1790 edition, as one might expect, we find predominant the
rationalistic editorial effacement that persists today. The title page suggests
how definitive he expects his edition to be: the plays are "Collated verbatim
with the most authentick copies, and revised: with the Corrections and Illustrations
of Various Commentators; to which are added various essays by Edmond Malone."
Simply from the title page, one might infer that Malone sees himself as one
cog in the machine which is working to refine the editions of Shakespeare.
His purpose in referring to other authors (even though he not infrequently
finds them at fault) is not to bring a vendetta but to appropriate (and I
mean that in the very best sense) their emendations. Malone's work verges,
in fact, on the encyclopedic: in his variorum edition he anticipates the modern
collaborative online encyclopedias.
The Internet is an arena that confounds me with its ambiguous balance between
connotations of objectivity and personal expression. It is simultaneously
the embodiment, if that is not too much of a paradox, of the mechanization,
or at least technologization, of society long feared by humanists, and the
listening mechanism that encourages and allows a previously unimaginable publication
of vast numbers of voices. The hunger for a medium of personal expression
is being exploited as a marketing tool by companies who work to create the
impression of personal interaction. I find the pretense most intriguing in
telecommunications. The BBCi home page, for instance, has the following invitation
featured prominently: "COMMUNICATE your thoughts, your views. Aniviel says:
'I saw the Matrix trailer this morning. Wow! I can't wait to see it!'
Share your views on the message boards." Even the BBC News home page
emphasizes sharing with "Have Your Say: Your chance to debate the issues and
ask the questions that matter." At least they are asking questions that matter.
On Radio Disney, they want to know, given four choices, "What is your favorite
family activity? Camping, Going to the park, Reading, or Listening to music?"
NBC.com is a combination of BBC News and Radio Disney, apparently, for next
to an ad for an exclusive interview with President Bush appears a poll asking,
"Should Rachel and Joey hook-up [sic] and become more than friends?" I was
doing so well finding polls that I was actually disappointed when I selected
the "Nightly News with Tom Brokaw" page and found none.
This obsession with soliciting opinion is not restricted to communications
companies. I found a vacation site that comments, "Unfortunately many people
feel that the Internet has become overwhelmed with commercialization. Personal
sites are generally very creative, and interesting, but often very scattered,
and incomplete. The commercial web sites are informative, but often very cold
and technologically intimidating." They go on to describe their site
as "friendly." In fact, on their FAQ page, they positively beg for feedback,
so much so that at first I thought it was a site simply advertising a listening
Everyone has an opinion. It's just human nature, and although
most of the time other people don't want to hear it, or just don't listen.
We are listening. As the Daytona Beach Know It All Site grows, we want it
to grow around the needs and wishes of our audience. So feel free to let
it spill. We probably won't be able to answer you directly, but let it be
known that we are listening.
Even their caption portrays the computer-connected listener as human: "OK,
let er rip. . . Please, be kind" it says. My reason for dwelling on this is
not to mock the media--all right, not just to mock the media--but to point
out that all kinds of sites, reputable and not so reputable, are capitalizing
on the human need to interact, specifically, to share their voices, knowledge,
and opinions. And the reason I am concerned with this tendency is that hypertext
editions are, from the other end of the spectrum, doing the same thing, capitalizing
in our own way on the same trend. This raises some truly important theoretical
implications of our current position.
Currently, we, as editors, have the responsibility--and, generally, wish
to retain the responsibility--for identifying cruxes and offering possible
alternative solutions. Through technical wizardry such as animated stage directions
that move between quarto and folio locations and text that, either automatically
or upon a click from the reader, flexes between alternative readings, we invite
our readers to edit the text for themselves (Best 4). In actuality, however,
readers may be free to choose from among preselected alternatives for their
personal uses, but their "collaboration" with us ends there. Part of this
attitude stems from the practical and technological limitations of the interface
available: it is one thing to animate a single word; it is another thing entirely
to design a text that will allow any reader to interact in the sense of adding
This introduces the second of the reasons why editors want to retain the
responsibility for our work: we participate in a community which is inherently
elitist. To a certain extent, that elitism is defensible: the average Renaissance
scholar knows more (we hope) about the texts we study than the average non-scholar.
That is, after all, the whole point of devoting our lives to studying. One
problem is that this ignores the possibility of well-informed, interested,
and intelligent readers. Such readers ought to be as capable as a scholarly
editor of identifying sensible variants, contributing cogent comments, adding
to a production history, or performing many of the other tasks that fall to
editors; our peers ought to be that much more able to suggest overlooked insights.
And yet our editorial assumptions all rest upon the idea that a single editor
will generate the text and prepare the entire notes and commentary. Even when
the editions are collaborative, this usually simply means that there will
be two editors sharing the duties, a textual editor and a critical editor.
A few months ago, I ran across a reference to two collaborative encyclopedia
projects on the Internet that struck me as being potentially useful as models
of Internet editions. Naturally, most encyclopedias are collaborative to begin
with. These two free-source Internet encyclopedias have some interesting differences,
though. The first is called the Nupedia, and it unfortunately is suffering
from one of the drawbacks of the Internet, which is that even "free" material
(to the user) requires funding to keep it going. Its goal is to create an
infinitely expanding, peer-reviewed, free-source encyclopedia. People are
invited to contribute articles in their areas of expertise which will then
be peer-reviewed and published in the Nupedia. One attractive feature is that
articles in progress undergoing peer review are available for members to assess
and comment on. The second is called a Wikipedia, taken from the Hawaiian
"wiki-wiki," or "fast," to designate a collaborative open encyclopedia. Any
reader can alter the contents of the encyclopedia at any time. If you pause
in your reading of this article right now, open a browser to the Wikipedia
article on Shakespeare (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare),
you can at this instant add or delete information, alter opinions, change
the wording, and so on. And this change is permanent--permanent, that is,
until someone else reads the article and decides to become your collaborator.
It is, in short, a forum that publishes the results of an ongoing debate.
In fact, it also includes a place to debate variations and suggest alternatives
without altering the text.
Imagine how this could revolutionize editing. The Internet Shakespeare
Editions are already valuable by virtue of being fluid rather than static;
as an editor, I am committed to my text not simply until the time it is published
on the site but, ultimately, for the rest of my lifetime. The ISE already
encourages the reader, as all scholarly editions do, to be aware of alternative
readings and to make decisions, essentially adopting at least part of the
role of editor. At the same time, it, like all preceding editions, is exclusive.
Certainly, the reader is allowed to think independently, even to write and
publish separately, but the reader is not allowed to participate in a dialogic
development of understanding. The reader is, in other words, in the same position
as a woman whose words are always surplus, too much, rather than copia,
or interestingly diverse. The reader is not invited to publish or make
public that dialogue in tandem with the edition.
What could happen if, instead of designating an editor to write textual
notes, we allowed all readers to publish their thoughts, in the Wikipedia
format? The notes could accrete like sediment, or they could be competitive
and the evolutionary winner could survive. Here, I think, is where the elitism
kicks in. If it is open, anybody could publish her opinions, for any reason.
People could make a mockery of the process. Or they could be wrong, misinformed,
and stubborn. But it wouldn't have to be that way. We could, like the Nupedia,
require peer review prior to publication, or we could combine the traits of
the Nupedia and the Wikipedia to have a regulated community where applicants
would have to apply to be admitted but, once admitted, would be allowed to
contribute freely. Scholars could then share their areas of expertise more
easily. Instead of being limited to a single editor's knowledge, the text
could benefit from the combined knowledge of the community. In Iachimo's warning
line to Posthumus to beware Imogen's ability to stray, "Strange fowl light
upon neighboring ponds," a scholar interested in legal issues could add a
comment on early modern property law regarding migratory birds, fish, and
waterways. A rhetorician could note figures and tropes throughout the play.
A social historian could add a note about contemporary perceptions of Milford-Haven.
A music historian could comment on the instruments used for serenades and
Thus, we could potentially translate what we currently treat as surplus
into copia. Perhaps relieving the editor of the need to express definitively
the viewpoints and knowledge of the entire community would also contribute
to a greater acceptance of subjectivity, of doubts, possibilities, whimsy,
or frivolousness; at any rate, with so many people able to participate, it
would be harder to disguise the process as anything but subjective.
 This paper was originally presented
as a speech delivered at the Pacific Northwest Renaissance Society meeting in
May 2003 as part of a panel entitled "The Internet Shakespeare." I would like
to thank the panel's chair, Michael Best, first for inviting me to present a paper
and second for his unflagging support and interest; none of my comments should
be construed as a criticism of his professional, responsible, and caring work
as General Editor of the Internet Shakespeare Editions. I am far from dissatisfied
with the ISE; in fact, I am proud to participate in such a high-quality publication.
But I also believe that before adapting our traditional practices to new technologies,
we ought to review them, consider the theoretical implications of our work, and
make sure that the two are in alignment.
 Partially because of the paper's
original medium (as a speech I hoped would entertain rather than enervate my
audience), partially because of its message regarding emotion and dialogue,
I am deliberately keeping to a more informal style not only in its wording but
in the kinds of evidence (much of it personal or anecdotal) I introduce.
 I present my gender parenthetically
not because it is unimportant or in doubt but because I believe that gender
is only one of a complex of factors which helps to determine my experiences.
 Other direct references to playing
pop up here and there throughout this, well, play, emphasizing the possible
meanings of frivolous movement, practice, entertainment, performance, and sexual
activity. Imogen protests to the King that she could hardly help but love Posthumus
since he "bred him as [her] playfellow" (1.2.80); the fight off-stage between
Posthumus and Clotten is referred to as "play" ("My master rather played than
fought" 1.2.97); and the chastity wager scenes and the scenes where Clotten
complains about losing at bowls and again at cards are tightly juxtaposed.
 Valerie Wayne, in "The Sexual Politics
of Textual Transmission," notes that "Textual scholarship often still proceeds
on the assumption that editorial decisions are objective, empirically based,
and arrived at judiciously by experts who have devoted years of study to solving
the mysteries of early English bibliography" (179) and continues on to offer
several compelling examples of how early male compositors (and some recent male
editors), for example, have effectively erased women's presences from their
 In fact, the first time I attended
an editorial seminar as an auditor, I sat next to a fairly well-known authority
in the field, whose name I am concealing for reasons which will become clear.
Imagine my naive pleasure when he passed me a note in the middle of a debate.
Anticipating some sage commentary on the editorial matter under discussion,
I was shocked to discover instead an ad hominem attack against the speaker:
"Don't trust a word he says. He's Canadian." While most editorial debates do
not descend to slurring entire nations--personal feuds often take other forms--I
have found that the passion that prompted this statement is somewhat typical.
 I can't even think about relineating
part-lines without the specter of Paul Werstine's "Line Division in Shakespeare's
Dramatic Verse: An Editorial Problem" haunting me.
 The same problem as at note 7 occurs
regarding punctuation with Anthony Graham-White's Punctuation and Its Dramatic
Value in Shakespearean Drama.
 I was taking the guideline so seriously
originally that I believe I turned in my first draft of the modern-spelling
edition without a single (non-copy-text) exclamation point, prompting a series
of gentle reminders that some emotions really do deserve to be recognized as
excitement. This experience is part of what prompted me to reconsider how thoroughly
I had accepted not simply editorial traditions but editorial style as well and
to question how well such suppression of emotion serves us as an academic community.
 My findings confirm the conclusions
of T. H. Howard-Hill.
 In his advice for first-time
editors, Clifford Leech frequently makes reference to emotional aspects of editing,
from the care and nurturing of a friendship with the general editor to the "weariness
and neurosis" brought on by comparing too many editions at once ("Weariness,"
he says, "is the worse of the two" (66)), to the trauma caused by not being
able to collate every emendation of an accidental changed from the copy-text.
 Leah Marcus's Unediting the
Renaissance remains an important lesson on the dangers of following editorial
 Paul Werstine has written numerous
articles regarding editors confusing theory with fact, particularly in their
narratives regarding the transmission of the text, including "Hypertext as Editorial
Horizon," and "Post-Theory Problems in Shakespeare Editing," in which he demonstrates
the fallacious traits attributed to "foul papers" and "prompt-books."
 Although these examples do not
demonstrate it, the editors do occasionally mention other editors and editions
in the commentary notes.
 This is true in general, too.
Early in my graduate studies, one of my professors (who just happened to be
a tenured white male) warned me that I am too emotional to be in higher education
and that I should seek another profession. I am not sure what profession he
had in mind--in my professional experience outside of academia, nobody thinks
emotion is appropriate there, either--but it did start me wondering why it was
acceptable to assume that emotion was such a negative subject.
 This attitude is found throughout
the English discipline; see the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
(6th edition): "In your notes, avoid lengthy discussions that divert the reader's
attention from the primary text. In general, comments that you cannot fit into
the text should be omitted unless they provide essential justification or clarification
of what you have written" (258).
 I'm not sure I want to admit
this, but I checked the FOXNews.com site and found a sidebar called "You decide"
asking, on this particular day, "Do you believe North Korea's claim that it
has nuclear weapons?" The choices were, "Yes, and I'm worried"; "No, Pyongyang
is bluffing"; and "Not sure." To submit your choice, you click, "Submit Vote"
(emphasis added). There is also a small note that admits that "This is not a
 At the time of this writing,
the Wikipedia Shakespeare page had remained unchanged for ten days; a history
of changes is available.
BBC News World Edition Homepage. 2003. British Broadcasting Corporation.
25 April, 2003.
BBCi Homepage. 2003. British Broadcasting Corporation.
25 April, 2003.
---. 'Think on My Words': Shakespeare's Cymbeline in the Twenty-first
Century. Diss. U Nevada Reno, 2002. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2002. ATT 3060388.
FOXNews.com. 2003. FOX News Network. 25 April, 2003 .
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th
ed. New York: MLA, 2003.
Graham-White, Anthony. Punctuation and Its Dramatic Value in Shakespearean
Drama. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1995.
Howard-Hill, T. H. "New Light on Compositor E of the Shakespeare First Folio."
The Library, 6/2 (1980): 156-78.
Internet Shakespeare Editions. "Guidelines for Editors." 21 October 1997.
Ed. Michael Best. Vers. 1.0.1.
Johnson, Samuel, ed. The Plays of William Shakespeare. Vol. 7. London,
Leech, Clifford. "On Editing One's First Play." Studies in Bibliography
23 (1970): 61-70.
McMullan, Gordon, ed. King Henry VIII (All Is True). By William
Shakespeare and John Fletcher. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2000.
Malone, Edmond. The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare, in Ten Volumes.
By William Shakespeare. London, 1790.
Marcus, Leah S. Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton.
London: Routledge, 1997.
NBC.com. 2003. National Broadcasting Corporation. 25 April, 2003.
Nightly News with Tom Brokaw Front Page. 2003. MicroSoft Network/National
Broadcasting Corporation. 25 April, 2003 .
Nosworthy, J. M., ed. Cymbeline. By William Shakespeare. 1969. New
York: Routledge, 1989.
Nupedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Nupedia.com. 25 April, 2003 .
Pope, Alexander, ed. The Works of Shakespear: in Six Volumes, Collated
and Corrected by the Former Editions by Mr. Pope. By William Shakespeare.
Radio Disney--The Official Home Page. 2003. Disney. 25 April 2003
Rann, Joseph, ed. The Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, In Six Volumes;
with Notes. By William Shakespeare. Oxford, 1786.
Rowe, Nicholas, ed. The Works of Mr. William Shakespear: in Six Volumes.
By William Shakespeare. London, 1714.
Shakespeare, William. Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and
Tragedies. London, 1623.
Taylor, Gary. "Textual and Sexual Criticism: A Crux in The Comedy of
Errors." Renaissance Drama 19 (1989): 195-225.
Theobald, Lewis, ed. Shakespeare Restored: or, a Specimen of the Many
Errors, as Well Committed, as Unamended, By Mr. Pope in his Late Edition of
this Poet. By William Shakespeare. London, 1726.
Thompson, Ann. "'Making Him Speak True English': Grammatical Emendation
in Some Eighteenth-Century Editions of Shakespeare, with Particular Reference
to Cymbeline." Reading Readings: Essays on Shakespeare Editing in
the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Joanna Gondris. Madison: Farleigh Dickinson
U P, 1998.
Warren, Roger, ed. Cymbeline. By William Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford
Wayne, Valerie. "The Sexual Politics of Textual Transmission." Textual
Formations and Reformations. Ed. Laurie E. Maguire and Thomas L. Berger.
Newark: U of Delaware P, 1998.
Werstine, Paul. "Hypertext as Editorial Horizon." Shakespeare and the
Twentieth Century: The Selected Proceedings of the International Shakespeare
Association World Congress Los Angeles, 1996. Ed. Jonathan Bate, Jill
L. Levenson, and Dieter Mehl. Newark: U of Delaware P, 1998.
---. "Line Division in Shakespeare's Dramatic Verse: An Editorial Problem."
Analytical and Enumerative Bibliography 8 (1984): 73-125.
---. "Post-Theory Problems in Shakespeare Editing." The Yearbook of English
Studies 29 (1999): 103-17.
Wikipedia Main Page. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. April 25,
Wright, Louis B., and Virginia A. LaMar, eds. Cymbeline. By William
Shakespeare. First printing. New York: Washington Square P, 1965.
Responses to this piece intended for
the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.