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202 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 Doreen DelVecchio and Antony Hammond, editors. The New Cambridge Shakespeare: 'Pericles, Prince of Tyre' Cambridge University Press. xiv, 214. us $44·95, us $12·95 In the preface to their new edition of Pericles, its editors announce that their text differs 'in hundreds of readings from other eclitions on the market,' followed by the 'mandatory health warning, this edition may be harmful to your prejudices.' Doreen DelVecchio and Antony Hammond chose not to treat their rivals and predecessors kindly. What 'prejudices'? Such widely held views as that parts of the play cannot be by Shakespeare and that much of the play's text in the first quarto, the only original that has come down to us, is a badly botched up report. Parts of their introduction and capable textual analysis (the latter sensibly placed in this edition at the end) thus make amusing reading. Readers of the introduction will welcome the wit and refusal to mince words when the editors batter other scholars' prejudices, most so when they are aware that the new editors may well be, as stubbornly 'prejudiced,' indeed obsessed, as those they attack or ridicule, since, as they say, we can only theorize, knowing so little about the play's origin and its surviving text. DelVecchio and Harrunond are especially fierce in their rejection of the editorial policy in the recent Oxford edition by Gary Taylor and MacDonald P. Jackson. They, we are told, carried their belief 'that [Wilkins's] Painfull Adventures is essentially more reliable than Q to extraordinary extremes, re-writing its text as the fancy took them, and for trivial reasons ... [This] led them into emendation that can only be called reckless.' Their comments on my own Arden edition, over thirty years old and now inevitably superseded (though not forgotten, I trust) are more mournful. My edition is regretfully traditional and therefore blurred in its basic assumptions. Unfortunately I came to see the light only after it: in my 1982 article in SQ (which upset some but few took seriously). My comments on their edition will be more temperate. Their editorial policy, to amend the first quarto text minimally, to retain its readings whenever any possible sense can be made of them, is based on the following argument: there is no proof, and indeed little evidence, that Shakespeare collaborated with such an inferior writer as Wilkins. Wilkins's' own report of the play in The Painfull Adventures is much less dependable as a text than the first quarto: it is the play's real 'bad' quarto. Therefore it is stupid to make use of passages from it for one's own text in the way the Oxford editors do. Much of the play's marked literary unevenness, so often commented on, may be deliberate for dramatic reasons as several recent productions suggest. These have shown that the play can be from start to finish an exciting and deeply moving experience. Granted the unsatisfactory state of Q's text, that is due neither to parts being un-Shakespearean nor, as widely advocated, HUMANITIES 203 to textual corruption by reporters, but to other defects in the manuscript from which the first quarto was printed. There is at any rate too much about the play's early printing history and the nature of its only surviving original text that remain obscure. Therefore stick to the original text whenever any sense can possibly be made of it. In the form we have it, Pericles is a much better play than benighted critics and directors led us to believe in the past. . It is an argument that some will surely find persuasive and which those who do not agree should welcome for its forthright reasoning. Why yet do I disagree? I cannot accept the intimation that the most miserable of the play's scenes, wretched in writing and dramatically, yet present essentially what the most faSCinating of all dramatists, Shakespeare, himself wrote. The fact that those scenes can go quite well in the theatre does not persuade me otherwise, for I have heard actors elsewhere, and skilful reciters of verse too, move audiences with trash. As for the editors' rejection of many emendations of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 202-203
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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