Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: Textual Problems and Performance Solutions

Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: Textual Problems and Performance Solutions

Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: Textual Problems and Performance Solutions

Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida: Textual Problems and Performance Solutions

Synopsis

Theater history and bibliography exist on the fringes of dramatic criticism, rarely influencing studies outside their fields, and even less often combined with each other. There is, however, much to be gained from dialogue between theatrical choices and textual problems. There are nearly five hundred substantive differences between the 1609 Quarto and 1623 Folio versions of Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida, and many more instances where editors rewrote the dialogue and stage directions. This book studies a selection of variants and emendations in "Troilus and Cressida with extensive reference to the theater history of the passages, showing how production decisions can provide a valuable commentary on editorial questions.

Excerpt

Thersites' second scene is filled with entrances, exits, reentrances, and descriptions of movements and locations. the variety of character groups makes the scene one of the most difficult in terms of determining the movements of the characters, especially with characters standing “within, ” “at the opening, ” or going into what the dialogue refers to as Achilles' tent (2.3.76, 83, 177). What few stage directions there are in qf often add to the complications and possibilities, and tracing the editorial and performance history reveals a wide variety of possible interpretations. Editors have often disagreed with the placement of directions in qf, while directors have reintroduced the reading of the early texts and invented alternative stagings, creating very different moments where characters are onstage or offstage, listening or deaf to certain lines.

After the Trojan council exits, Thersites is directed to enter “solus” (QF). the serious debate in which the Trojans engage, with no less than their lives and honors at stake, is framed by scenes in the Greek camp where the talk of hostilities is mainly between the factions among the Greeks. in Thersites' previous scene, he departs from Ajax, Achilles, and Patroclus vowing to leave the “faction of fools” (2.1.120), and he enters his second scene still “lost in the labyrinth” of his own “fury” (2.3.1–2). in his roles as both fool and commentator, Thersites derides his former and future employers, Ajax and Achilles, before beckoning to “My lord Achilles” (1.2.21). It is not Achilles but Patroclus who answers his call, triggering Thersites' second speech, in which he verbally abuses Patroclus in the guise of a religious contemplation. After a brief exchange between Patroclus and Thersites, Achilles enters, also asking “Who's there?”

Q's lack of a stage direction for Patroclus to enter is one of many necessary stage directions absent from Q, but F's placement of the entrance has been the subject of editorial debate, prophetically anticipated or partially caused by Hillebrand's note:

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