Great Timing, Arden Shakespeare!

Just so you know, there was supposed to be a narky “<sarcasm>” tag surrounding the title of this post but WordPress would not recognize it as something printable. The sarcasm is justified by this announcement that the Arden Third of Romeo and Juliet is finally coming out in May, just in time not to do us any good. Yes, possums, I foresee that we will actually come to the end of our traversal of the play this month. One down, 36 to go; at this rate we’ll be done before 2050!

I mean, I’m gratified that according to the blurb, “This major new edition of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy of love argues that that play is ultimately Juliet’s”—isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along?—but I wish Rene Weis, the editor, had been a little snappier about his task, so that we could have benefited from his insights. It would have been good, too, to have some fresh scholarship and analysis to work with. The Arden Second is perfectly serviceable—we have, of course, been using it throughout—but it’s one of the older remaining seconds, dating from 1980, and the editor, Brian Gibbons, is sometimes—well, let me tell you a story recounted in Stanley Wells’s Shakespeare, Sex, and Love:

The actor Roger Allam once played Mercutio who has, as he writes, to speak ‘a string of extremely explicit jokes’. He goes on to remark that ‘Brian Gibbons, the Arden editor, uses the somewhat understated phrase “with a bawdy quibble” to indicate this. It made us laugh very much in rehearsals. We invented a pastiche Elizabethan song called “with a bawdy quibble” which was sung in cod operatic tones to the guitar. It made us laugh even more’ (148-149).

A little of that stuff goes a very, very long way with me (there was a time when I frequented science fiction conventions, so I know from filk) but I wouldn’t have minded hearing “With A Bawdy Quibble” while I was working on the Mercutio posts of this blog.

Professor Weis is probably best known for his Shakespeare Revealed (published in the United States under the perhaps more sensational title Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding a Hidden Life), which I haven’t read and don’t plan to because it sounds from its blurbs like an example of the biographical fallacy even wilder than Will in the World. But I’m sure that Weis, like Greenblatt, is capable of marvelous interpretive work in spite of believing that the plays encode recoverable biographical details, and I look forward to his edition.

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