A response to Paul Werstine
Gabriel Egan
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 >.

  1. 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 [1] 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 number.

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).