Shakespeare Interleaved

At the end of my post on the collection of Richard Warner’s notes in the Beinecke, I mentioned that his editions of Shakespeare, complete with working notes on interleaved pages, had been digitised and was available online. With a day between returning from America and planning out my work for the term with my supervisor, I decided to take a look at this digital edition. This post gives some of my findings, and some of my unanswered questions.

Warner interleaved Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and Cymbeline. The four texts used are all single-play edition brought out by Tonson in 1734 as part of a campaign to drive the entrepreneurial Walker out of business. Antony and Cleopatra still has the denunciation of Walker’s claim that he was printing ‘stage’ versions of Shakespeare that Tonson extracted from the Drury Lane prompter Chetwood.

This choice of text is a little unusual, since – as far as I know – there was little editorial oversight of this edition, given that Tonson rushed it out to counter Walker’s opportunistic printing of cheap single-play editions. As a result of this relatively rough text, many of Warner’s notes are simply copies of comments made by other eighteenth-century editors such as Johnson, Pope or Theobald. Warburton appears too, but always to have his ideas countered in a style not too far from the Canons of Criticism.

On top of Warner’s copying of other editors and his close attention to the variations of words between editions (doubtless something of a problem for someone who wanted to offer his glossary as a ‘Shakespeare lexicon’), these interleaved texts are also remarkable for the insertion of new scene divisions. The 1734 edition of Tonson remains close to the First Folio and has relatively few scene divisions, while it was normal for eighteenth-century editors from Rowe onwards to add new divisions in accordance with the practice of the Georgian stage. Warner, however, adds more divisions than any editor I have encountered.

In a published Letter to David Garrick, which presents the project of his glossary, Warner claims that his scenes have followed the structure established by Rowe, but even brief comparison reveals this to be false. Instead, Warner appears to be following the French convention of starting a new scene with each entry or departure from the stage.

At least, that’s what I thought at first, but then I noticed that Warner is not consistent. When a servant or minor character enters (or leaves), for example, no new scene is marked. Instead, Warner seems to divide his scenes according to the theatrical effect of what is occurring in the play. This is most visible in Julius Caesar when Warner marks scenes VI and VII of the fifth act so that the visit of Caesar’s ghost to Brutus on the eve of battle becomes a distinct scene.

A page of Warner's copy of Julius Caesar, adding a new scene for the entry of Caesar's Ghost.
A page of Warner’s copy of Julius Caesar, adding a new scene for the entry of Caesar’s Ghost.

Now, I must admit that I did not have time to check these scene divisions against all the eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare that Warner could have known so he may well have been copying someone else. Whether Warner was or was not following another’s practice, however, these divisions still pose the larger question of their motive: was it to facilitate the extraction of ‘beauties’ for the time-poor reader? Or was it to reflect the most spectacular moments of performance? Of course, it could also sometimes be both.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.