Suzanne Gossett, Shakespeare and Textual Theory – Arden/Bloomsbury, February 2022
There is no Shakespeare without text. Yet readers often do not realize that the words in the book they hold, like the dialogue they hear from the stage, has been revised, augmented and emended since Shakespeare’s lifetime. An essential resource for the history of Shakespeare on the page, Shakespeare and Textual Theory traces the explanatory underpinnings of these changes through the centuries.
After providing an introduction to early modern printing practices, Suzanne Gossett describes the original quartos and folios as well as the first collected editions. Subsequent sections summarize the work of the ‘New Bibliographers’ and the radical challenge to their technical analysis posed by poststructuralist theory, which undermined the presumed stability of author and text. Shakespeare and Textual Theory presents a balanced view of the current theoretical debates, which include the nature of the surviving texts we call Shakespeare’s; the relationship of the author ‘Shakespeare’ and of authorial intentions to any of these texts; the extent and nature of Shakespeare’s collaboration with others; and the best or most desirable way to present the texts – in editions or performances. The book is illustrated throughout with examples showing how theoretical decisions affect the text of Shakespeare’s plays, and case studies of Hamlet and Pericles demonstrate how different theories complicate both text and meaning, whether a play survives in one version or several. The conclusion summarizes the many ways in which beliefs about Shakespeare’s texts have changed over the centuries.