The Politics of Gender, Puritanism, and Shakespeare's Third Folio

By Finkelstein, Richard | Philological Quarterly, Summer 2000 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Gender, Puritanism, and Shakespeare's Third Folio


Finkelstein, Richard, Philological Quarterly


Nicholas Rowe and Alexander Pope were probably reluctant to see their editions of Shakespeare include six plays, now called "apocryphal." (1) Philip Chetwind first bound these plays, and Pericles, to Shakespeare's works for a second printing of the 1663/ 64 Third Folio. Although dismissive of their worth, even the careful Edmund Malone edited a supplement which appended them to the 1778 Johnson-Steevens edition. The analyses of recent scholars differ, but they generally agree that Shakespeare's editors help create his identity. (2) With minimal introductory matter and light editing, the Third and Fourth Folios primarily construct an identity for their Shakespeare by adding works. Because readers make inferences about authors based on the material assemblage of their writings, we can conclude that the Restoration not only knew a uniquely defined Shakespeare, but understood him and his plays in terms of the seven newly added in 1663-64. (3)

These Third Folio additions brought Pericles into the canon. The London Prodigal (1605), Thomas, Lord Cromwell (1602), 1 Sir John Oldcastle (1600), The Puritan or The Widow of Watling Street (1607), A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608), and Locrine (1595) remain spurious, even outrageous, attributions. (4) Some of the Folio's assignments to Shakespeare are understandable: the King's Men owned and acted A Yorkshire Tragedy; Shakespeare's full name appears on the title pages of its quartos. The London Prodigal quarto assigns itself to Shakespeare and his players. Although only attributed to "W.S.," Cromwell Q1 claims the Lord Chamberlain's Men and Q2, the King's Men, a change which suggests careful if mistaken attribution. (5) For some of the other plays, attaching Shakespeare's name now seems extraordinary. Henslowe specifically assigns Oldcastle to Munday, Drayton, Wilson, and Hathaway. The Puritan was performed by Paul's Boys, a rival company in ways that make Shakespeare's involvement impossible.

Textual scholars and historians of publishing usually dismiss such obviously faulty attributions as the consequence of greedy dishonesty or foolish ignorance. (6) However, these texts have a history involving so many people in a range of relationships so tangled that it is risky to assign one motive to publishers and printers. W.W. Greg is not alone in arguing that Philip Chetwind, publisher of the Third Folio, "was not altogether without excuse in making his additions to the Canon, though in fact he can have known very little about the plays he was reprinting." (7) By 1663, the dealers' catalogues of Archer (1656) and Kirkman (1661) listed six of the plays as Shakespeare's. (8) Such confusion derives partly from the fact that seventeenth-century England was less interested in authors than in texts, as G. R. Proudfoot reminds us. Hence, "contaminated" records still frustrate modern editors, despite ebbing ambitions to remove "impurities" from the canon and clear Shakespeare's "mighty name," two of Tucker Brooke's goals. (10)

In fact, "impurities" provide a useful register of many related events, including the process that created Shakespeare's material identity in the 1660s; the Protestant, political ideologies that shaped this identity; and the copyowners' positioning of the Folio for a Restoration market. Because marketing and political activities both reflect and lead public opinion, throughout this essay I make two kinds of overlapping speculations: about how the compilers wanted Shakespeare to be seen; and about decisions to emphasize issues which would generate readership. Controversies related to the Puritan interregnum--theological, social and domestic-influenced additions to the Restoration folio. Some external evidence, along with the group's ideological configuration, also supports speculation that Eleanor Cotes, an active female printer and copyholder, importantly shaped the Folio's contents.

A 1660s' reading audience would have had its taste formed during the Puritan interregnum. …

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