There is an uncanny connection between the Arden Shakespeare and the Oxford Shakespeare. An Arden editor and an Oxford editor can be at work on the same play for many years, have virtually no contact with one another and yet produce their separate editions nearly simultaneously. Such was the case when the Arden2 Troilus and the Oxford Troilus both appeared in 1982, and again when the Arden3 Henry VI Part Three appeared within weeks of the Oxford edition in 2001. Since it seems implausible that the two publishers would conspire to flood the market with new editions of relatively unpopular plays, I take it that these are coincidences rather than instances of collusion. This year has brought one more: the appearance of the Arden3 Pericles, edited by Suzanne Gossett, and of the Oxford Pericles, edited by Roger Warren.
Comparison of such twins is inevitable, and seems particularly called for here. Gossett presents her edition, in part, as a response to the ‘conjectural reconstruction’ of the play in the Oxford Complete Works, which she views as an ‘extreme’ example of rewriting that often ‘cannot be justified’. Adopting what she describes as ‘a moderate approach, neither reconstructing nor refusing to emend’, Gossett seeks ‘to create a credible, bibliographically defensible, reading and performance script’. Warren, in marked contrast, offers ‘a conjectural reconstruction of the play that lies behind the corrupt text of the Quarto’, basing his text on the previous Oxford reconstruction. Whereas the Arden3 title-page advertises a single-handed encounter between the editor and her text – ‘pericles, Edited by Suzanne Gossett’ – the Oxford title-page is awash in authorial and editorial agents: ‘A reconstructed text of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, by William Shakespeare and George Wilkins, edited by Roger Warren on the basis of a text prepared by Gary Taylor and MacD. P. Jackson’.