Shakespeare's Use of Off-Stage Sounds

By Frances Ann Shirley | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
Observations on the Text

THE late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century editions of Shakespeare's plays present problems even for those well trained in textual work. I will not presume to plunge into the arguments about accurate dating of the plays; the authorship of certain lines; and the relation of various Quarto and Folio texts to the original manuscripts, to promptbooks, and to each other.1 I shall, however, offer a few of my observations about the directions for off-stage sounds and their treatment in various texts of the plays.

There are several general rules, but each has exceptions. The First Folio texts, for example, usually have more detailed indications of sounds than the Quarto texts of the same plays. But the opposite is true of 2 Henry IV and Othello. Many of the earliest and latest plays, including those which may be of joint authorship, have more careful notations than the plays of the middle period. But Pericles is almost devoid of directions, while Richard II and The Merchant of Venice are relatively complete. Finally, the "bad" Quartos omit most of the less spectacular sounds and retain the shouts, occasional gunfire, and other unusual noises that might be remembered by a reporter. But The Merry Wives of Windsor Quarto has the only stage directions for noise found in the texts of that play, and the Henry VI Quartos are sometimes remarkably de-

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1
W. W. Greg, The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare ( Oxford, 1954). is most helpful in pointing out difficulties.

-41-

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Shakespeare's Use of Off-Stage Sounds
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xv
  • Chapter One - The Mechanical Aspects Of Off-Stage Sounds 1
  • Chapter Two - Observations on the Text 41
  • Chapter Three - The Diverse Uses Of Off-Stage Sounds 51
  • Chapter Four - The Use of Sounds In Selected Plays 122
  • Appendix 190
  • Bibliography 223
  • Glossary 250
  • Index 253
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