Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2007
The view that the first quarto of Romeo and Juliet (1597) is a memorial reconstruction of Shakespeare’s play, published by the printer, John Danter, without the authority of its owners, is still the current orthodoxy. It has had the sanction (mutatis mutandis) of such distinguished scholars as E. K. Chambers and W. W. Greg and it is endorsed widely in modern scholarship, by Brian Gibbons, for instance, in the Arden edition (1980), and in the Oxford Complete Works edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (1986). One of the most recent endorsements comes in a detailed study, supported by computer analysis, of the so-called ‘bad’ quartos by Kathleen Irace. The most detailed account of how such a text might have come into being is to be found in H. R. Hoppe’s The Bad Quarto of Romeo and Juliet, A Bibliographical and Textual Study, and this account is the foundation on which modern orthodoxy is largely based. Similar assumptions about other so-called ‘bad’ quartos have recently come under scrutiny, notably the recent stylometric study by Thomas Merriam and Robert Matthews of the ‘bad’ quartos of 2 and 3 Henry VI and the doubts expressed about the origins of the first quarto of Hamlet by some of the contributors to the collection of essays, The Hamlet First Published. It seems worthwhile, therefore, to re-examine the Romeo and Juliet first quarto to see how secure the foundations of the orthodox view are.