[ilds] Shakespeare's intellectual property revisited

James Gifford gifford at uvic.ca
Mon Jun 4 09:57:46 PDT 2007

Hey Bill,

I'd always been under the impression that the "bad" quartos were
considered pirated editions, possibly by someone attempting to
transcribe prior to the invention of shorthand.  I, however, am not a
Shakespeare scholar beyond teaching half a dozen plays in survey
courses, so I'll defer to you on that.  I take it my thoughts are a
little out of date with regard to the scholarship on the Quartos.

It is, however, worth noting the degree to which LD was interested in
the Shakespeare Quartos, and in particular those for Hamlet, during
the earliest stages of his career.  One of my contentions with regard
to the textual issues in his works, the multiple revisions and
editions, and perhaps even some element in the borrowings is that Old
D had already been thinking about this with regard to Shax.  Eliot's
play on the plays in "The Waste Land," between Hamlet and the Spanish
Tragedie, is only and inkling of what I think LD was considering, but
I haven't thought it out in detail yet.

And, LD's contention that the bad Quarto of Hamlet was a revised
version intended for staging with a less complex audience in mind has
apparently been taken up in the latest Cambridge edition of the
Quartos.  You'd have more to say than I would, but the topic is hardly
exhausted, and I think it may prove significant -- LD's UNESCO
lectures on Shax are fun and hint at how much he'd been thinking about
it.  They crib Wilde too, but with acknowledgement.


On 04/06/07, william godshalk <godshawl at email.uc.edu> wrote:
> In the Early Modern period, intellectual property rights were sold outright,
> with no residuals.
> Apologies to Jamie.
> Early Modern property rights much more complicated than my (above)
> generalization indicates. Playscripts were sold outright to playhouses and
> acting companies. Henslowe's Diary lists the purchase prices of the plays he
> bought.
> But see Barbara Mowat, "The Theater and Literary Culture," A New History of
> Early English Drama, who notes that Ben Jonson distinguishes between the
> stage and the book. He may have sold the acting rights, but he felt that he
> retained the printing rights. And so he issued his famous Workes in print.
> Jonson's project led the way to Shakespeare's collected plays in 1623.
> More might be written, but this is the Durrell list, not Shaksper.
> Bill
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James Gifford
Department of English
University of Victoria

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