- Purchase/rental options available:
In 1866 amateur scholar Horace Howard Furness began work on a new American edition of Shakespeare which he designed to be the ultimate resource for all students of the plays. Inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone, Furness created a new variorum edition of Shakespeare which included the text of each play, extensive textual notes and a broad selection of critical and aesthetic commentary. Additionally, unlike most of his predecessors, contemporaries and successors, Furness integrated the history of theatrical production with that of textual editing and criticism. His aim was to provide all students of Shakespeare—including theatrical practitioners—the comments of editors, scholars, critics and actors on textual, critical, aesthetic, dramatic and interpretive issues on the same page as the text to which they referred. Furness strived to give scholars, students and practitioners the ability to make informed interpretive choices about the texts of Shakespeare.
This article explicates the many reasons why Furness infused his edition with the evidence of performance practice and demonstrates the use-value of the New Variorum series to nineteenth-century theatrical professionals. I argue that Furness’s serious treatment of textual choices by actors and producers and critical writings by and about actors anticipated the shift in editorial theory in the mid-twentieth century which admitted stage practice as valid scholarly material.