- The Oxford Shakespeare Henry VI, Part Three
For editors and textual scholars as well as anyone interested in Shakespeare's early career, a crucial problem has been the nature of the relationship between The third Part of Henry the Sixt, whose sole authority is the First Folio of 1623 (96), and the anonymous True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, a play attributed on its title page to the Earl of Pembroke's Men and published in octavo by Thomas Millington in 1595. In his new edition of 3 Henry VI, Randall Martin offers an approach that makes much good sense of this problem. His approach results in a relatively conservative text, based on the Folio; but it contains, paradoxically, some radical implications about Shakespearean revision that will take some time to digest.
Martin's approach combines features of two previous interpretations of the problem. The earlier of these originated with Edmund Malone's suggestion that The True Tragedie was an "elder drama," an anonymous source play which Shakespeare "new modelled and amplified" as 3 Henry VI (115).1 A second interpretation, originating with Peter Alexander, argues that The True Tragedie was a faulty report or memorial reconstruction of an earlier version of the play that is represented in the Folio text of 3 Henry VI (114).2 While Alexander's arguments about memorial reconstruction were congruent with then-current beliefs that such plays were "stolne, and surreptitious copies," Madeleine Doran's similar work on memorial reporting in the "bad" texts of 2 and 3 Henry VI was concerned to show that The True Tragedie was not an incompetent piracy exploiting the market for printed plays but a theatrically viable script shortened for performance, probably by the reduced personnel of a touring company (114).3 Respect for the theatrical validity of texts like The True Tragedie has been further enhanced by the more recent work of Laurie E. Maguire,4 who defends the idea that variant texts represent theatrical [End Page 463] adaptation, and by claims that even such shortened works may have been meant for London stages rather than mere provincial performance. In the Oxford Complete Works edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of York is thus offered as a valid textual authority for Shakespeare's play, supplying not just the title of 3 Henry VI in that edition, but—since the editors regard it as a theatrical revision representing "a later stage in the play's stemma than the foul-paper manuscript behind F"5 —a number of textual emendations, most of them concerned with performance.
Although Martin borrows heavily from this trend of treating The True Tragedie as a legitimate (if sometimes faulty) performance text, the real novelty of his interpretation lies in his revival of Malone's older theory that The True Tragedie is a source for the Folio version of 3 Henry VI. Most accounts of reporting and adaptation in The True Tragedie have argued (or merely supposed) that this text reports an abridgement from an earlier, longer version of an authorial original that was much closer to what we have in the Folio 3 Henry VI than to the much shorter True Tragedie. That view is implicit in the passage from the Oxford Textual Companion quoted above, and it is quite explicit in the Arden2 edition, where Andrew S. Cairncross argues that The True Tragedie is "a report or bad version of the text" that was later printed, with only "a slight element of revision," in the Folio.6 By contrast with these views of the ur-3 Henry VI, Martin draws on Malone's older idea of The True Tragedie as a source play in order to argue that The True Tragedie "represents, in part, an earlier version of the play which Shakespeare later revised as F" (115). Martin translates this cautious formula when he speaks more bluntly of "F as a revised version of O [The True Tragedie]" (123), The True Tragedie and 3 Henry VI as...