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This chapter addresses the problematic topic of discrepant quotations in Shakespeare's texts, but its seeds were first sown because I was curious about the widespread misquotation, by all and sundry, of Shakespeare's words and phrases. Shakespeare continues to be, not only a frequently quoted author, but a persistently misquoted one. If I may quote, I hope correctly, from the author of an anthology of common misquotations: "It is only natural that Shakespeare should be misquoted more than anyone else, since he is quoted more than anyone else." (1) "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose," for example, is often misquoted as "the devil can quote Scripture for his purpose," "gild" in "gild the lily" replaces "paint" in "paint the lily," and.... poor" in "a poor thing, but mine own" replaces "ill-favored." (2) Phrases such as "there's method in his madness," "alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well," "in one foul swoop," and "we are such stuff as dreams are made of" will long continue to enjoy widespread currency. These misquoted phrases sound right because, perhaps, familiarity has bred aural content: "of" in "dreams are made of" (3) sounds grammatically superior to the awkward preposition in "dreams are made on," and "I knew him well" sounds rhythmically more satisfying than the curt, abrupt "I knew him."
Some obvious misquotations from Shakespeare, especially deliberate ones, often carry a satiric or comic barb. Historically the first (1592) is Robert Greene's "Tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide," a pastiche of "O tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide!" (3 Henry VI I. iv. 137). Bathos is achieved when Nanki-Poo, in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, harlequinizes himself: "A wandering minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches," demoting Hamlet's "king" to "thing." Thackeray has Lady Kicklebury remark that Shakespeare "was very right in stating how much sharper than a thankless tooth it is to have a serpent child." (4) P. G. Wodehouse peppers his novels with allusions to what Bertie Wooster refers to as "Shakespeare and those poet Johnnies," and Bertie is obsessed with the cat in the adage and the fretful porpentine, his partial recollections of Shakespeare being dutifully corrected, on request, by the ever-obliging Jeeves. (5) Some misquotations, however, might be regarded as artistic improvements on the original, like Hazlitt's "wind and rain beat dark November down" instead of "rain and wind beat dark December" (Cymbeline III. iii. 37). If this improvement is unconscious, "the result of a lapse of memory in quotation," writes Honigmann, it "suggests great opportunities await anyone with a fully conscious talent." (6) But when T. S. Eliot writes, in Ash-Wednesday, the line "Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope," is his substitution, we might query, of "gift" for Shakespeare's word "art" (Sonnet 29) accidental (i.e., faulty recollection) or deliberate? (7) Is it an "improvement"? Oscar Wilde's "Each man kills the thing he loves" ("The Ballad of Reading Gaol") seems to be a pointed rewording of Bassanio's question to Shylock: "Do all men kill the things they do not love?" (The Merchant of Venice W. i. 66).
The primary aim of this chapter, however, is to excavate "misquotations" not of but within Shakespeare's texts and to explain, wherever possible, how they might have arisen. My approach is intratextual, rather than intertextual, since by "misquotation" I mean, not misquoted or consciously adapted material (Latin tags, proverbs, passages from the Bible, from plays, poems, and ballads, from narrative and historical sources like Plutarch and Holinshed) incorporated into the plays from a source outside them, which would be an inexhaustible source of discrepancy, but rather the proliferation of words and phrases which are repeated wrongly, or at least differently, the second time (or subsequent times) they resurface in the text. My major focus is not propositional truth or untruth (as it would be if I were investigating false accusations, lies or slander, unless, of course, supposedly quoted words form part of these), but rather the real or apparent mismatch between two statements which we would expect either to be identical--the second a verbal replay of the first--or to resemble each other to a greater degree than, in fact, they do. (8)
Curiously, oral or written statements within a play stand in the same relation to their subsequent (mis)quotation as do the famous "true and original copies" (whether "foul papers," transcripts or prompt-books) of the Folio preface to the printed text, (9) a relation, let it be confessed, of "extreme variability." (10) A major problem of identifying misquotations stems from the instability of the text. Books in Shakespeare's time varied from copy to copy, (11) and this instability stemmed from the vagaries of reproduction, whether of scribe, compositor or proofreader. Copying, it's been said, "varied its object in duplicating it, affording a particularly concrete instance of the poststructuralist insight that every repetition introduces difference." (12) If Hamlet, as the schoolboy once said, consists of quotations, the canon as a whole consists of misquotations, known, suspected or unsuspected.
As I pointed out in my introduction, the general area of textual discrepancy has been diligently mapped out in Kristian Smidt's four books dealing with "unconformities" in Shakespeare's plays. Smidt's chief interest is in inconsistencies of plot, particularly where they point to instances of revision, but he also touches on character, theme, and verse styles. He does not, any more than Honigmann, Salingar or Potter, (13) focus any sustained attention on misquotations in the text, a topic critics seem quite content not to investigate. Misquotations, however, represent a very striking "unconformity," although one more obvious in reading than in stage performance--as Smidt observes, "stage representations tend to iron out the irregularities or create new ones." (14)
Disaffiliations between oral statements are, in most cases, easier to explain than variants obtaining between two presentations of the same written text. Discrepancies are particularly intriguing when it comes to the replication of a written text. Obviously traumatized by the shock of non-recognition, Edmund Malone was the first, or one of the first, to deplore what he regarded as Shakespeare's "negligence" in this regard. (15) Many modern readers, too, are infuriated or at least discomfited by Shakespeare's apparent impropriety and inconsistency. Might there not, however, be a way to vindicate and even celebrate Shakespeare's exasperating unruliness? Often affected by the consequences of misquotation, Shakespeare's characters are rarely conscious of the misquotation itself--they rarely berate each other for committing it. It is the audience, and especially the attentive reader, who will detect anomalies and try to make sense of them.
Identifying Quotations. A problem which must first be broached is that of determining what is apparently intended to be a quotation, whether the quotation is external (i.e., deriving from some source, like the Bible, a work of literature or philosophy, or proverbial tradition) external to the play, or internal (i.e., the repetition of discourse before or during the action of the play). The inconsistency of Elizabethan punctuation is a major stumbling block, despite the efforts of some scholars to classify the various methods by which quotations of both types were indicated. Quartos and folios alike exhibit no consistent method for marking direct or indirect speech quoted a first, second or subsequent time within a given play. For such material some form of punctuation other than italics or inverted commas (a comma, a colon, a semi-colon, even a period) is employed, followed, in many cases (if the quotation begins in the middle of a line), with a word beginning with a capital letter. (16) Frequently even this rudimentary sign-posting is absent, and quoted material will begin without any punctuation whatsoever. Describing Bolingbroke's departure from England, Richard II says (F punctuation):
Off goes his bonnet to an oyster-wench; A brace of draymen bid God speed him well, And had the tribute of his supple knee, With thanks my countrymen, my loving friends, As were our England in reversion his. (17) (I. iv. 31-35)
The imminence of quoted material is often signaled by such phrases as "quoth he," "I spoke," "he said," "they cried" or the more general "thus" ("thus" in Shakespeare seems to mean "more or less in this way" rather than "exactly in this way"). The end of the quoted material is indicated by a reversion (usually from present to past) to the tense employed leading up to the quotation itself. In many cases context and content (especially tenses and pronouns) also help to demarcate where quotations begin and end. Nevertheless, modern editors often differ about whether to use inverted commas, and whether to use single commas within double ones for quoted material within other quoted material. (18)
The use of quotation marks in modern spelling editions causes and conceals some problems. Do the inverted commas (as in some editions of Troilus and Cressida III. ii. 175-177) reflect the copy text, whether Q or F, or are they editorial (if editorial, they could conveniently be differentiated by the use of single quotation marks)? Is the "quotation" really a quotation? (19) Is the "quotation" intended as a verbatim reproduction (direct speech), or as a more or less accurate paraphrase (indirect speech)? For example, asked how he was "entertained" in France, Talbot replies (F punctuation):
With scoffs and scorns, and contumelious taunts, In open marketplace produced they me, To be a public spectacle to all: Here, said they, is the terror of the French, The scarecrow that affrights out children so. Then broke I from the officers that led me (1 Henry VII. iv. 39-44)
The words ascribed to the French are clearly bracketed off by the use of the colon, of "said they" and of the switch to and then from the present tense. But if these words are placed in quotation marks, as in Hattaway, they represent actual words spoken; if not, as in Cairncross, (20) they could be either verbatim or a paraphrase. On occasion modern editors (as in the Signet edition) will ignore F's use of inverted commas at the beginning of a line. For example, Belarius admires Arviragus's protectiveness towards his brother Guiderius: "O noble strain! / O worthiness of nature, breed of greatness! / Cowards father cowards and base things sire base; / Nature hath meal and bran, contempt and grace" (Cymbeline IV. ii. 24-27). Omitting F's inverted commas before "Cowards" and "Nature" transforms what F flags as a maxim, a proverb or some other piece of received wisdom into Belarius's private rumination.
The bugbear of inadequate punctuation is exemplified in a short but problematic scene (pusillanimously omitted in the BBC TV version) towards the end of Timon of Athens in which one of Alcibiades' soldiers, seeking Timon in the woods, comes across his cave. (21) Exclaiming "What is this?" when he first discovers the tomb, the soldier continues: "Timon is dead, who hath outstretched his span. / Some beast read this; there does not live a man" (V. iii. 3-4). These two lines (not italicized in F, suggesting that they are not to be read as if they are quoted material) have been …