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Editing Collaborative Drama

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Peter Holland
Affiliation:
University of Notre Dame, Indiana
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Summary

He was delated by Sr James Murray to the King for writting something against the Scots jn a play Eastward hoe & voluntarly Imprissonned himself wt Chapman and Marston, who had written it amongst ym

Jonson, Conversations with Drummond

No reading of the play can be satisfactory that does not also take account of its remarkable imaginative unity.

Lois Potter, Introduction to The Two Noble Kinsmen

I have become, apparently, a specialist, if not an expert, on editing collaboratively written drama. Although I profess surprise, the path is not really difficult to trace. I began my professional life writing on Beaumont and Fletcher for G. E. Bentley; I was soon editing; and, as many scholars, usually citing Bentley, have reiterated, the majority of early modern plays were collaboratively written. Ergo, to edit, logically enough, is to edit collaboration.

But no, not for most people, or at least not willingly. Most scholars want to edit Jonson, not Eastward Ho!, Middleton, not A Fair Quarrel, Shakespeare, not Pericles. Although I was flattered when Gary Taylor asked me to write the Introduction to The Spanish Gypsy for the Oxford Collected Middleton, perhaps no one else was foolish enough to undertake 5,000 words on a play whose 1653 title-page names Middleton and Rowley as the authors but which has been convincingly attributed primarily to Ford and Dekker. And now I find myself, in a satisfying return to origins, editing Philaster. Partly on the basis of my own editing experience, but also because as a General Editor of Arden Early Modern Drama, I, and my co-General Editors John Jowett and Gordon McMullan, have been faced with the complications that arise in the collaborative editing of collaborations, I will here offer a meditation on the practical consequences, for the real and lonely editor, of the mantra we all now repeat.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 213 - 224
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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