So. Timon of Athens. As I noted yesterday, a tough play. And in terms of genre, just what is it?
Part of the problematic scholarship of King Lear is that you’re forced to ask and then answer a simple question: which King Lear? No, I’m not talking about the source play, that anonymous King Leir, but two separate versions of King Lear by Shakespeare. Some would even argue three texts, and thus one, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
A couple of plays back, when we were deep into that ol’ Prince of Denmark, we discussed at some length the different versions of the play, Quarto vs. Folio. For this play, Othello, the differences aren’t as widespread or structural as in Hamlet, but they are of some note.
Remember our last play, Hamlet, and the different versions of the play, with wild variations between the First and Second Quartos, and First Folio? Well, that’s not so much the case here with Troilus and Cressida.
One last thing on the whole “early texts and editions” subject:
All editions have been edited. Period. End of discussion (though it’s really the beginning of this discussion).
I don’t know what metaphor is more apt: Shakespeare as jigsaw puzzle. Or: Shakespeare as Chinese restaurant menu (one from column A, two from column B, etc).
A couple of days back, I discussed the three different early versions of Hamlet which are the sources for all editions of the play that followed in the past four hundred years. I noted at the time that the length of the First (or “Bad”) Quarto is much shorter than of their the Second Quarto or the First Folio.
Based on the lengths, you would assume that the First Quarto would contain fewer scenes, or at least not to have scenes that weren’t already in the other versions.
And you’d be right (there is nothing that approaches Act Four, Scene Two in the First Quarto), but you’d also be very wrong as well.
If you’ve been paying attention, maybe you’ve noticed (or remembered) that I’m using the Pelican Shakespeare editions for the Project. Hamlet is no different.