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Reviews269 serves and comments on their settings, character groupings, physical objects passed among the actors, but above all she explores both what the language clarifies and what it does not. She asks these imaginative questions of A Midsummer Night's Dream: "Are Oberon and Titania married? Are there fairy priests and marriages in fairyland? Are there fairy babies or only stolen human children?" The world of Shakespeare's comedies is made up of "a diversified social fabric," as Professor Slights demonstrates throughout her gracefully written, marvelously perceptive, and intellectually honest Shakespeare 's Comic Commonwealths. Her interpretations of these comedies are so solidly grounded in both the language of their respective texts and Shakespeare's milieu that what she has written about these plays will become difficult to ignore and dangerous to disagree with. HARRIET C. FRAZIER Central Missouri State University Arthur Sherbo. Shakespeare's Midwives: Some Neglected Shakespeareans . Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1992. Pp. 203. $33.50. This book may be of more interest to eighteenth- and early nineteenth -century scholars than to Shakespeareans (unless they happen to be editing one of the plays). What Sherbo has done is to rescue from near oblivion seven rather important Shakespeare scholars active between 1775 and 1821, giving something of their lives and numerous examples of their interpretations and observations on Shakespeare's plays, most of which have been unknown to, or ignored by, subsequent scholars and editors. For most Shakespeareans, the chief interest may be, as I found, in the devotion given to the bard during this period of history, the masses of notes and commentary in the huge editions as well as elsewhere. Sherbo devotes a chapter to each of the seven scholars. The first is Thomas Tyrwhitt (1730-86), best known perhaps for the earliest scholarly edition of The Canterbury Tales. But the year after Samuel Johnson's edition of Shakespeare in 1775, Tyrwhitt also wrote a book of observations on Shakespeare. Sherbo carefully has checked both the New Variorum and the New Arden editions of the plays and finds that many of these interpretations have been either ignored or else credited to later scholars who got them from Tyrwhitt. One embarrassing omission which Sherbo notes is that the editor of the New Arden Measure for Measure cites Tyrwitt's bad guess at an interpretation but neglects his later correction of it. The second scholar is George Toilet (1725-79), gentleman-farmer, who contributed more than four hundred notes to the 1778 JohnsonSteevens edition of Shakespeare. Many of these explain country refer- 270Comparative Drama enees which city editors would not recognize, from the "unbolted mortar " of Lear to the "backed like a weasel" of Hamlet, and including a ten-page dissertation on the morris dance. But Tollett also first pointed out a number of classical references as well as some simply logical considerations, such as the apparent dual time scheme in Othello. Sir William Blackstone (1723-80) is best known for his legal expertise as Solicitor-General to the Queen and author of the Commentaries , but he was also a very good amateur poet and is reported to have spent much of his free time reading and studying Shakespeare. He apparently exchanged letters with both Steevens and Malone, and when Malone's 1780 Supplement to the 1778 Johnson-Steevens variorum was published, it contained eighty-nine notes by Blackstone. Many of these, understandably, are explanations of legal references, some of which hardly would be clear to the average reader. For example, when Queen Katherine in Henry VIlI says, "I utterly abhor, yea, from my soul/ Refute you for my judge," the words "abhor" and "refute" are not "mere words of passion, but technical terms in the canon law." Thomas Holt White (1724-97) hardly is known and often is confused by biographers with his son of the same name. An ironmonger from Enfield, he married his ex-partner's widow, received a large inheritance in 1776, moved to Lambeth to be a scholar, and the next year was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Besides a series of articles on "The Trees of Great Britain" in Gentleman's Magazine, he also contributed to that journal numerous notes and...


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