A New Look at Shakespeare's Quartos

A New Look at Shakespeare's Quartos

A New Look at Shakespeare's Quartos

A New Look at Shakespeare's Quartos

Excerpt

This Study constitutes an attempt to make use of ordinary and customary processes in the classification of Shakespeare's early texts. I do not wish to suggest that special circumstances may not have caused modifications of procedure or that the actual evidences of normal routine are in all cases adequate for the establishment of fact; but my contention is that when no actual knowledge about such exceptions exists, the probability of customary action should not be put aside in favor of merely hypothetical solutions. The test is whether this basis of customary action does or does not solve all problems that arise in the determination of the origin and interrelations of the early texts under consideration. No Shakespeare scholar would deny the importance of correct textual criticism, but it is unfortunate that in pointing out error and confusion, it is necessary to describe the origin and nature of certain fallacies and oversights, since no offense or detraction is even remotely intended.

The errors are for the most part errors in method, in particular the current method of inventing special hypotheses to account for unsolved problems. This practice, however, need not be permanently damaging to Shakespeare's texts, since it still allows the student freedom of choice; so that when judgment and training point to proper choices, the harm is not great. Most of the trouble comes from the establishment of conclusions on the basis of immature research; whereas the proper course is to hold these, often fanciful, hypotheses in abeyance until they have been completely tested to make sure they rest on fact. The precedent set by the greater scientists of our time tells us that even well-established scientific principles should be regarded merely as working bases for use in the further search for truth. What we need is . . .

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