III. Amputation more than cure?

                                             The Taming of the Shrew



Passages admired in The Taming of the Shrew; Pope's assessment of Shakespearean humour: Love's Labours Lost; A cut in The Tempest; A cut in Macbeth; Some omitted humour in The Taming of the Shrew; Shuffled scenes; A Shakespearean passage in quarto?; Pope's editing of the final scene and his inclusion of quarto material.



Pope alluded in his Preface to Hamlet's charge to the actors not to `speak [..] more than is set down for them'.


And let those that pay the clowns, speak no more than is set down for them: For there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary question of the play be then to be considered: That's villainous, and shews a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.


This warning is made before a tragedy (The Murder of Gonzago) is to be performed, and, although we will never know precisely what sort of embellishments Hamlet feared, it is interesting to note that his commands are directed to the clowns, indicating perhaps that it was jesting and humour which would be the likely stuff of interpolation. Pope's reference to this incident shows us that he, like Hamlet, was alert to the possibility of impertinent ad. libs. in a serious context──how much more likely then would he have thought comedies to have attracted extra, unscripted additions from the players?

            In Shakespeare's comedies Pope's marks of approbation and admiration are as widely apportioned as in the tragedies. The range of comic passages he marked as the most shining Shakespeare demonstrates the broad and inclusive nature of Pope's appreciation. In The Taming of the Shrew for example, Petruchio's speech considering the prospect of Kate's shrewishness is singled out:


 Pet. Why came I hither, but to that intent

` Think you a little din can daunt my ears?

` Have I not in my time heard lions roar?

` Have I not heard the sea, puff'd up with winds,

` Rage like an angry boar, chafed with sweat?

` Have I not heard great ordnance in the field?

` And heav'ns artillery thunder in the skies?

` Have I not in a pitched battel heard

` Loud larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clangue?

` And do you tell me of a woman's tongue,

` That gives not half so great a blow to hear,

` As will a chesnut in a farmer's fire?


and, a markedly different type of humour, the description of Petruchio's attire at his wedding is also marked:


  Bion. ` Petruchio is coming in a new hat and an old jerkin;

` a pair of old breeches thrice turn'd; a pair of boots that have been

` candle-cases, one buckled another lac'd; an old rusty sword

` ta'en out of the town-armory, with a broken hilt, and chape-less

` with two broken points; his horse hip'd with an old mothy

` saddle, the stirrups of no kindred; besides possest with

` the glanders, and like to mose in the chine, troubled with the

` the lampasse, infected with the fashions, full of windgalls, sped

` with spavins, raied with the yellows, past cure of the fives

` stark spoiled with the staggers, begnawn with the bots, waid

` in the back and shoulder-shotten, near-legg'd before, and with

` a half checkt bit, and a headstall of sheep's leather, which

` being restrain'd to keep him from stumbling hath been often

` burst, and now repair'd with knots; one girt six times piec'd,

` and a woman's crupper of velure, which hath two letters for

` her name, fairly set down in studs, and here and there piec'd

` with packthread.

  Bap. Who comes with him?

  Bion. ` Oh Sir, his lackey, for all the world caparison'd like

` the horse, with a linnen stock on one leg, and a kersey boot-

` hose on the other, garter'd with a red and blue lift, an old

` hat, and the humour of forty fancies prickt up in't for a feather

` a monster, a very monster in apparel, and not like a

` christian foot-boy, or gentleman's lackey.


The `accidental fire from heaven' apparently strikes as often in comedy as in tragedy or history. As Pope had observed in his Preface, `he is not more a master of the Great, than of the ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations!' So various are these passages (as indeed are the comma-ed comic passages in Pope's edition generally) that it is hard to see Pope as associating Shakespeare with any particular type or types of comic writing. These two passages, however, are clearly shaped and obviously vigorous. Sheer quality, then, appears to be the criterion of excellence in comic scenes for Pope.

            On the other hand, the passages which he degraded (believing them to be interpolated by the players) seem to have struck him as both qualitatively inferior, and to belong to a general category. His views appear to be similar to those expressed by Samuel Johnson,


In his comick scenes he is seldom very successful when he engaged his characters in reciprocations of smartness and contests of sarcasm; their jests are commonly gross and their pleasantry licentious.


Pope's difference from Johnson, here as more generally, is that he attributed the failing to interpolation rather than to Shakespeare's incompetence. The type of humour which Pope believes interpolated seems in general to be very different; indeed one would not expect comic ad. libs. which have found their way into the text to be qualitatively comparable with the verses of Shakespeare at his best. But the differences between the comma-ed and degraded comic passages are not merely qualitative, but could be said to be based on a distinction Pope found between different comic styles: if description and comic rhetoric can be said to characterise that which he finds admirable, it is a certain sort of wit, repartee and word-play which he finds unshakespearean.

            In his Preface, Pope numbers Love's Labours Lost among the plays where he conjectures that `only some characters, single scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of [Shakespeare's] hand'. A glance at his edition of that play will show the practical effects of the application of this belief: large stretches of text have been degraded to the foot of the page and several scenes are marked with triple daggers to indicate that they too should be taken as similarly degraded.[i] On the other hand, one passage at least Pope thought Shakespearean, since it is given marginal commas: a portion from Biron's long speech on love (referred to in the index under the heading `Love -- improves our faculties') in Act 4 Scene 4:


` But love first learned in a lady's eyes,

` Lives not alone immured in the brain:

` But with the motion of all elements,

` Courses as swift as thought in every power,

` And gives to every power a double power,

` Above their functions and their offices.

` It adds a precious seeing to the eye:

` A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle blind!

` A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound,

` When the suspicious head of theft is stopt.

` Love's feeling is more soft and sensible,

` Than are the tender horns of cockled snails.


But following shortly after, Act 5 Scene 2 is given triple daggers. It starts:


  Nath. Vides ne quis venit?

  Hol. Video, & gaudeo.

  Arm. Chirra.

  Hol. Quare Chirra, not Sirra?

  Arm. Men of peace, well encountred.

  Hol. Most military Sir, salutation.

  Moth. They have been at a great feast of languages, and

stole the scraps.

  Cost. O they have liv'd long on the Alms-basket of words.

I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word, for thou

art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou

art easier swallow'd than a flap-dragon.

  Moth. Peace, the peal begins.

  Arm. Monsieur, are you not letter'd?

  Moth. Yes, yes, he teaches by the horn-book:

What is A B spelt backwards with the horn on his head?

  Hol. Ba, peurita, with a horn added.

  Moth. Ba, most silly sheep with a horn. You hear his



This extract, and its contrast with the preceding material, could be taken to represent some of the most important characterising features of the light or comic verse which Pope degraded throughout his edition. It opens with some malapropisms and false learning, which bring to mind, in their reliance on mistaken foreign words, the French scene in Henry V which Pope described as `ridiculous'[ii]. There follows a potentially reflexive line, possibly a mark of interpolation encapsulating for Pope the very nature of this text: `They have been at a great feast of languages, and stole the scraps.' The pun is continued with a reference to the `alms-basket of words' and reaches its apparent climax with `honorificabilitudinitatibus'. Another reflexive line `Peace, the peal begins' again draws attention to the supposed wit of the lines in question: the wit turns out to be a quip involving horns. For readers in subsequent ages such jokes are more difficult: especially such a specimen as this when the body of the joke is so obviously contrived──`what is A B spelt backwards with a horn on his head?'.

            At a point such as this the critical challenge to account for these lines (rather than describe them) could be met by several responses. Explication, necessary perhaps for tracing the joke's intended line and illuminating the long word, is only a partial response. The more important difficult questions are qualitative and historical.

            Attribution may seem a strange criterion to apply to a passage from Love's Labours Lost, but for Pope at least it was a question that had to be addressed. Already, his inclusion of the play in his edition is less than wholehearted because of the doubt expressed in the Preface over its provenance. The triple dagger mark at the beginning of this scene compounds this doubt, as such scenes are of even more uncertain origin. However, on the other hand, the text is included. But while attribution is then in doubt, quality is not, since both his general remarks and his daggers indicate to us that these scenes may be what Pope had in mind when he wrote that Shakespeare had defects almost as great as his excellencies. Beyond the specific features of the text discussed above, it is possible to find in Pope's Preface some general comments which touch on the question of the sort of writing that exists in an uncertain state for Pope between `bad Shakespeare' and `too bad to be Shakespeare'. He writes,


It must be allowed that Stage-Poetry of all others, is more particularly levell'd to please the Populace, and its success more immediately depending upon the Common Suffrage. One cannot therefore wonder, if Shakespeare having at his first appearance no other aim in his writings than to procure a subsistance, directed his endeavours solely to hit the taste and humour that then prevailed.


Such a charge, if true, certainly could have accounted for the phenomenon of the text Pope found before him. Nothing can be as incomprehensible as the peculiar `humour' of our grand-parents or our children; and such humour as is found in this scene - over a century old for Pope - would have presumably been identifiable as that which could have provoked tears of laughter, if at all, from Shakespeare's theatre audience alone.

            Taking as an example this scene from Love's Labours Lost, there appear to be a number of reasons why Pope might have considered it an interpolation. Intrinsically, the evidence for these lines being designed to `hit the taste and humour that then prevailed' seems strong since we know that such lines certainly did not hit the `taste and humour' of Pope, and we ourselves find them foreign. We can infer that such humour was popular in Shakespeare's time by reference to other passages within Shakespeare and to the work of Shakespeare's contemporaries. In Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, in the incidents concerning Benvolio's horns it appears as if the word `horn' could have induced in the audience an almost Pavlovian response. Such humour relies on an audience's familiarity with - and participation in - a shared, and understood pattern of thought: horns were hilarious partly perhaps because the joke had been extended in a bizarre way beyond the limits of what was originally funny. Each successive horn reference compounded the joke in much the same way more recently that Monty Python jokes became funnier the more they were rehearsed by students and schoolchildren: in time the dead parrot and the comfy chair will seem as oddly remote to us as Renaissance horn jokes.[iii]

            The other comic components of the scene can be described loosely as forms of word-play. Malapropisms (one aspect of this wordplay) have been thought funny by many ages (as evidenced by the provenance of the word itself), and in Shakespeare's plays they are used to humorous, and sometimes great effect without troubling Pope's editorial pen, for example the `Argals' of the grave-diggers in Hamlet or the confusions of the watch in Much Ado about Nothing. But while the humour, and overall function, of those scenes remain clear, the presence of these lines here is difficult to explain even if they are only incidental humour. A student consulting the footnotes which make up three quarters of the page of the Arden edition, wondering why Armado says `Chirra' and whether it is meant to be funny, will find that the word `must have a special point'. For the Arden editor the possibility of pointlessness is not entertained and we therefore learn that


M.C. Bradbrook (The School of Night, 1936) has suggested that it is a take-off of Sir Walter Raleigh's west-country accent. ... An alternative solution has been put forward by Professor J.A.K. Thomson──that the word is Armado's attempt at `chaere' .. one of the forms of salutation listed by Erasmus in the first and most elementary section of his Familiaria Colloquia, on which Elizabethan schoolboys cut their teeth. This chimes well with the pedantry and bungled learning on which much of the fun of this scene depends.


The explanation has proceeded from an act of faith (the word must have a special point) through a tortuous exegesis, to arrive at a conventional critical orthodoxy: the text, being Shakespeare's, possesses special properties: it may be part of an involved allegory, or a sophisticated allusion; and it is meant to be funny, so it is `fun'. Unfortunately `fun' does not chime well with either of these critics' solutions. Pope's position, in contrast, is less certain: this scene, like others, is `compos'd of the lowest and most trifling conceits' but `some ... were written by Shakespear, and others interpolated by the Players'. Pope's notion seems to have at least as much reasonable support as the Arden editor's suggestion.

            Another more extreme example of this contrast between Pope's approach and modern editorial practice comes early on in The Tempest where a large stretch of text is censured in a footnote. Some of the text in question reads:[iv]


  Adr. Tunis was never graced before with such a paragon to their Queen.

  Gon. Not since widow Dido's time.

  Ant. Widow? a pox o'that: how came that widow in? widow Dido!

  Seb. What if he had said widower Aeneas too? Good lord, how you take it!

  Adr. Widow Dido, said you? you make me study of that: she was of Carthage, not of Tunis.


The scene continues with the pun on `widow' and `Dido' running on for a number of lines. For Pope, this is `very impertinent stuff [...] most improper and ill plac'd Drollery in the mouths of shipwreckt people.' It is not clear whether Pope thought these lines were bad Shakespeare, or added by other hands.

            As above, if the effect is intended to be humour──laughter, or even a smile──, then the humour is such that it is impossible to retrieve fully. The modern approach again proceeds from an act of faith: in the Arden edition edited by Frank Kermode, we learn in a footnote that,


This line begins a series of apparently trivial allusions to the theme of Dido and Aeneas which has never been properly explained; if they are to be taken at their face value one must allow that Lytton Strachey's strictures are justified. He speaks of the "dreary puns and interminable conspiracies" as an indication of Shakespeare's fatigue. But we must not take them at their face value. The Tempest is far from being a loosely built play; and nowhere in Shakespeare, not even in his less intensive work, is there anything resembling the apparent irrelevance of lines 73-97. It is a possible inference that our frame of reference is badly adjusted, or incomplete, and that an understanding of this passage will modify our image of the whole play.


Kermode has as his premise the notion that the lines must be significant. His assertion that the passage `has never been properly explained' instantly discounts both Pope's and Lytton Strachey's remarks. The precise nature of Kermode's `faith' is most explicit in his declaration that we `must not take [these lines] at their face value'. But even with this commandment given, it is impossible to conjure improper, impertinent and dreary stuff into something magical──instead we learn `our frame of reference is badly adjusted, or incomplete'. Perversely, Kermode glimpses in the vacuity before him the central mystery of The Tempest, since possibly `understanding .. will modify our image of the whole play'.

            Considered as logical processes, Pope's and Kermode's critical activity can be seen to have identical evidence: Pope finds manifest `impertinent stuff'; Kermode finds the `apparently trivial'. For Kermode here as elsewhere in The Tempest, what is apparent is a skein behind which significance can be found. But because no significance can be found here we learn `our frame of reference is badly adjusted'──not our method. Pope's response to this passage makes an interesting comparison; in his `frame of reference', one in which Shakespeare is capable of impertinence, or whose texts are frequently corrupt, the difficulty of the passage evaporates since what is `apparent' corresponds to what actually is. Given Pope's frame of reference we as readers must, in the end, merely regret the author's foible or the interpolator's license.

            Like Pope, Kermode recognises the importance of the Elizabethans' sense of humour and refers to another contemporary pun on Dido and Aeneas from Middleton's The Roaring Girl: this pun runs `though Aneas made an ass of Dido, I will die to thee ere I do so'.[v]  Of this Kermode writes `possibly this is a chestnut mirthlessly recalled in the ennui of the moment.' Again the logic dictates that Shakespeare must be meaningful: what is a `chestnut' in one Elizabethan play becomes miraculously transformed into a sophisticated tactic in a passage thought to be by Shakespeare. The image of a `frame of reference' that Kermode invoked applies well to this instance of the Dido pun, since it is only by imposing this frame that we can alter our perception of the puns in question, and find what we are predisposed to find.

            These two examples of a contrast between Pope's, and modern, editorial practice can be taken to indicate some of the considerations surrounding Pope's attitude to comedy in Shakespeare, and the critical concerns surrounding them. But before going on to consider the effect of Pope's editing of The Taming of the Shrew, it is worth citing one different sort of passage which Pope cut, the porter's speech in Macbeth. Pope degrades the whole of the Porter's speech (beginning Act 2 Scene 4 in his edition) to the bottom on the page. The cut of this well-known speech with its own peculiar grim humour and grotesquery can be seen to involve very different considerations to the cuts from Love's Labours Lost and The Tempest; it is not a cut of Elizabethan wit and running word-play of the type exhibited in the passages above. While a consideration and evaluation of the reasons for the cut would require a close look at Macbeth, I merely wish to advance the case for not taking this cut as being representative of Pope's cuts in general. Mack, when presenting Pope's cuts, writes


Passages that he judged it would demean Shakespeare to be thought to have written, he either degraded to the foot of the page (some fifteen hundred and sixty lines in all, including, predictably, many such "low" speeches as the Porter's soliloquy in Macbeth, which he doubtless excluded on the same principles as the "ass" simile in Homer and which even Coleridge assigned to some other hand than Shakespeare's, writing "for the mob") or simply left out.


The notion that Pope's decisions are `predictable' is akin to saying there are speeches `such as' the Porter's: it blurs the distinctions which have to be made in order for us to understand. Pope's degradations and cuts offer as varied a display of judgement as his allocation of approbatory commas, and although general patterns of thought may be detected (for example Pope's suspicion of the authenticity of word-play) in the end it is not possible to second-guess him, and it is not representative of his whole editorial procedure to refer only to those cuts which are most controversial because of being in the most familiar passages. In particular it is simply not the case that Pope's suspicions were raised by `low' speeches, characters or scenes──as we have seen some drew from him marks of approbation and others are included in his general praise of Shakespeare's comic genius.


                                                             * * *


Surprisingly Pope believed some of the most textually clean Shakespearean texts to be comedies: The Merry Wives of Windsor (which Pope thought `alter'd and improv'd by the Author in almost every speech'[vi]) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (the printing of which Pope fancied `supervised' by Shakespeare[vii]) are both printed by Pope with little deviation from the Folio text. The Taming of the Shrew is however, a different matter. Like The Life and Death of King John, The Taming of the Shrew has as its original printings the 1623 Folio and a related text of dubious origin. This is the play The Taming of a Shrew (a Shrew, not the Shrew) which appears in a quarto edition dated 1594.[viii] Pope's editing of this comedy can be seen as broadly similar in practice to that of King John. For The Taming of the Shrew Pope was able to use the older text as an aid for completing his edition. However the folio text seems to have been seen by Pope as having corruptions which no existing text could resolve.

            One of Pope's aims in presenting an edition of Shakespeare was to give his audience a text he considered as free as possible of corruption, and in this respect his editorial position differs from some of his successors. Greg writes, `even among those least fond of finding traces of alien hands in the Folio, there can be few who would stake their reputation on the Shakespearean integrity of, say, 1 Henry VI or The Taming of the Shrew.'[ix] Pope's edition, however, does state a position by proposing specifically what is Shakespearean, and what is not, in the folio and quarto texts. More, his use of marks of approbation suggest that this play also contains some of Shakespeare's very best work. If today there are some unfocussed doubts over who wrote this play - or particular parts of it - then a consideration of Pope's text may help to concentrate our attention on the question of the authenticity of the text, and on the value of authenticity.


                                                             * * *


The critical difficulties surrounding one of Pope's cuts in The Taming of the Shrew have a direct bearing on these wider questions of humour and what Pope might have taken to be Shakespeare's humour. Act 1 Scene 5 is the first scene in which we see Petruchio and Grumio. They have no sooner entered, than they start to quibble. Pope's text can be seen in Parallel Text 3.1. At the top of the page is the short version of the scene as it begins in Pope's edition. At the bottom, the passages marked 1 and 2 indicate the text that Pope has degraded.

            The degraded text consists of what Johnson called `reciprocations of smartness'. Petruchio's request `Here sirrah, Grumio, knock I say' is mistaken by Grumio as a request from Petruchio to be struck. The mistake is perpetuated and forms the nub of the joke which extends throughout the extracts. Extract 2 continues the humour by extending further Grumio's misunderstanding before he finally realises his error.

            Judged simply in terms of narrative and dramatic need, Pope's cut can be seen in the light of his comment in the Preface that interpolations can be removed without `any chasm, or deficience in the context'. This joke impedes the progress of the action in a disconcerting way, since the opening lines of the scene are markedly urgent, almost sketchy in their need to propel the narrative. As well as Grumio's mistake delaying Petruchio, it is as if his humour holds retards play itself, a ponderous stupidity blocking the plain business-like nature of Petruchio's verse.

            It is this oddness of effect which must inform our understanding of why Pope cut. Is the meandering humour Shakespeare's, or is it an interpolator's? Such a moment as this may have been one which famously prompted Johnson to compare the effect of a quibble on Shakespeare to that of a will o' th' wisp on a hapless traveller:


A quibble is to Shakespeare, what luminous vapours are to the traveller: he follows it at all adventures; it is sure to lead him out of his way, and sure to engulf him in the mire. It has some malignant power over his mind, and its fascinations are irresistible ...[x]


But it seems that Pope was not content to let the passage stand, and, by imputation to let the critical fault remain charged against Shakespeare: for him this `malignant fascination' was a liability of the Shakespearean interpolator, and not Shakespeare himself.

            Apart from the general tone of the humour here, and its apparent waywardness, certain features of the verse may have raised Pope's suspicions. In particular, an unusual attribute of the text he degraded is its couplet rhymes:


Villain, I say knock me at this gate,

And rap me well, or I'll knock your knave's pate.


Faith, sirrah, and you'll not knock, I'll ring it

I'll try you how you can Sol, Fa, and sing it


Whom would to God I had well knock'd at first,

Then had not Grumio come by the worst.


While couplets in themselves need not raise suspicion or indicate anything untoward, here they are highly unusual in that they appear at the end of three of Grumio's speeches during an otherwise un-rhymed running dialogue. Pope's suspicions may have been raised partly by the unexplained alternation between prose and rhymed couplets, and partly by the ineptness of the couplets themselves. The lines have a large number of redundant words which do not contribute to the sense, but which instead raise the suspicion that the writer was inserting them as padding so that the line should reach its proper quota of ten syllables. The line


Whom would to God I had well knock'd at first


for example, is only a poetical and verbose equivalent of what is meant (if I'd knocked). The rhymes too are arbitrary and jingling (ring it / sing it). Words are wasted, the sense is redundant, the humour is banal, and the verse is incompetent. Again the question of Shakespeare's nature as a writer comes to the fore of editorial and critical decisions. If we allow the lines to stand we must either pass swiftly by, or expend critical effort in inventing a justification for them. For Pope, however, the difference between this verse and the poetry elsewhere in Shakespeare's work was too much for him to allow them to have come from the same man. His degradation of these lines spares Shakespeare from the charge of having written them. As before the contrast with Johnson is interesting: having as sensitive an ear as Pope's, but a different editorial strategy, led him to lay the text at Shakespeare's feet, and consequently the blame too.


                                                             * * *


A more puzzling instance of Pope's edition of this play comes later, when the incidents at Petruchio's country house are combined together to make a continuous dramatic sequence that concludes Act 4. The scenes which originally divided the country house episode were shuffled forward to start Act 5. Unfortunately, any gain in continuity is compromised by the muddle this change introduces. Theobald, with characteristic long-windedness, dwelt on these at length in a note that Johnson was to reprint in his edition:


This Scene, Mr. Pope, upon what Authority I can't pretend to guess, has in his Editions make the First of the Fifth Act: in doing which, he has shewn the very Power and Force of Criticism. The Consequence of this judicious Regulation is, that two unpardonable Absurdities are fix'd upon the Author, which he could not possibly have comitted. For, in the first place, by thus shuffling the Scenes out of their true Position, we find Hortensio, in the fourth Act, already gone from Baptista's to Petruchio's Country-house; and afterwards in the beginning of the fifth Act we find him first forming the Resolution of quitting Bianca ; and Tranio immediately informs us, he is gone to the Taming-School to Petruchio. [...] Again, by this Misplacing, the pedant makes his first Entrance, and quits the stage with Tranio in order to go and dress himself like Vincentio, whom he was to personate: but his second Entrance is upon the very Heels of his Exit ; and without any Interval of an Act, or one word intervening, he comes out again equipp'd like Vincentio. [...]


However, another controversial editorial decision of Pope's is also noted by Johnson, presumably with agreement──or at least, interest.

            The text in question is the speech that Petruchio requires Katherine to make in praise of an old man as if he is  a `lovely woman'. The 1623 Folio text of this speech is as follows:


Yong budding Virgin, faire, and fresh, & sweet,

Whether away, or whether is thy aboade?

Happy the Parents of so faire a childe;

Happier the man whom favourable stars

A lots thee for his lovely bedfellow.


However while Pope includes in his edition this text, he also attaches a speech taken from A Shrew and attaches the footnote,


In the first sketch of this play, printed in 1607,[xi] we find two speeches in this place worth preserving, and seeming to be of the hand of Shakespear, tho' in the rest of that play is far inferior.


The 1594 text of this speech, and the text as Pope printed it, appears in parallel text 3.3. As for the passage from Rowley's Troublesome Reign used in King John, Pope's editing is extensive: he removes five lines and adds one of his own to Petruchio's promptings, so that this different version of Katherine's speech fits better into its context. What might have intrigued both Pope and Johnson (and is implied in Pope's note) is that while most, if not all, of the rest of the 1594 text was `inferior' to the folio text, this small euphuistic passage is on a par with, or even better than it. If the 1594 is a reported text, or a version of the play written by a hack dramatist, then we would not be surprised if he could raise his game at this juncture to include a chain of stock comparisons and metaphors not unlike those satirised in the mechanicals' play in A Midsummer Night's Dream. However, some of the thoughts here are striking -- the `eye-train'd bird', and the request


Wrap thy radiation in some cloud

Lest that thy beauty make this stately town

Unhabitable as the burning zone


Even if we are not convinced these lines are Shakespeare's it is surely difficult to quarrel with Pope's opinion that they are `worth preserving'.


                                                             * * *


The earlier play, The Taming of A Shrew, had a more substantial function for Pope's edition both at the beginning and the end of the play. Pope's opinion of the overall `authenticity' of the 1594 text is stated in a comment attached to the table of the editions used in making his impression. He wrote


There is scarce a line of this the same with the present Play, yet the Plot and Scenary scarce differ at all from it. I shou'd think it not written by Shakespear; but there are some Speeches (in one or two Scenes only) the same: And we have there the conclusion of the Play, which is manifestly wanting in all the subsequent Editions, as well as the latter part of the last Act, manifestly better, and clear of that impertinent Prolixity which is in the common Editions.


One of the most interesting of Pope's edition is the changes he makes to the incident involving Christopher Sly: the play `without' the play, as it were. As well as the changes hinted at above in Pope's note, he deviates from the folios at the very beginning of the play, and maintains the 1594 presence of the Sly incident by choosing Sly's occasional comments to be part of his text.

            Pope's judgement that the Sly framework was Shakespeare's, or at least that it was `manifestly wanting' in the Folio, stands at the head of an editorial tradition of including, or commenting on, these lines. In performance they are particularly useful if Sly is not to be lodged as a spectator and left on stage at the end of the play.

            Pope used the word `manifestly' twice in his note, but editorial tradition has not concurred with Pope in this second judgement that in the 1594 edition the latter part of the last act is `manifestly better, and clear of that impertinent Prolixity which is in the common [i.e., folio] Editions'.

            An innovation of Pope's was to ignore the folio indication that Act 5 begins at the beginning of this extract: in common with many later editors, he began the final act earlier. The indication in the Folio that this point is the start of the last act points to an interesting feature of the text which can be seen well from Lucentio's opening folio speech marked 1:


  Luc. At last, though long, our jarring notes agree,

And time it is when raging warre is come,

To smile at scapes and perils overblowne:

My faire Bianca bid my father welcome,

While I with selfesame kindnesse welcome thine:

Brother Petruchio, sister Katerina,

And thou Hortentio with thy loving Widdow:

Feast with the best, and welcome to my house,

My Banket is to close our stomakes up

After our great good cheere: praie you sit downe,

For now we sit to chat as well as eate.


Lucentio's speech ushers in the feeling of a finale: the stage is full with the cast, and the initial character of the speech is poised between Lucentio's and an actor's summary of the play, much like Prospero's epilogue to The Tempest. Rather like Prospero's conjured masque, there appears at this moment a banquet - as Lucentio says, `my banket is to close our stomakes up.' This transition indicates why in some ways the Act division was useful here, since running the previous scenes into a final banquet might seem awkward. In the Arden edition, this scene has no place given - the characters entering into and exiting from an unspecified place.

            A glance at the first page of parallel text 3.3 shows that Pope's edition does not include a large stretch of the material that occurs in folio. The cut passages appear as degraded text in Pope's edition, indicating that he thought this `impertinent prolixity' an actor's interpolation. Pope's action removes this difficulty of the banquet: but his text brings a change of scene (`Lucentio's house in Padua') and begins with an exchange which seems to be the tail-end of a discussion:


Bp. Now in good sadness, son Petruchio,

I think thou hast the veriest shrew of all.


The fact that the new scene seems to begin so abruptly is not in itself problematic; at the opening of Antony and Cleopatra, for example, Philo and Demetrius are obviously in the middle of a conversation.  However, as the lines quoted above follow naturally from Petruchio's denial (in folio versions) that the jests about having a shrewish wife have `hit' him, Pope's edition is introducing a chasm into the context that was not there before. If, then, his charge about the removed text is true, it is `impertinent and prolix' and therefore interpolated, does the damage its removal causes give us a better text than the damage its retention would cause? Could this be an instance that Johnson had in mind when he charged Pope, in his edition, of thinking `more of amputation than of cure'?

            Perhaps an indication of what made Pope think this passage interpolated, can be seen in the reflexive nature of the speech:


... For now we sit to chat as well as eat ...


... Roundly replied ...


... very well mended ...


... How likes Gremio these quick-witted folks? ...


... A good swift simile ...


The extravagant claims implied by some of these remarks are at odds with the wit on display, which represents, perhaps, a passage which Dryden had in mind when he wrote of Shakespeare's `comic wit degenerating into clenches'.[xii]  We know from the passages above which Pope has comma-ed, that he thought this play contained comic speeches to match any, but here is an example of what must have been for him an extreme contrast: jokes which turn merely on word play and punning, `prolix' and `impertinent'.

            For the prolixity it is easy to see what Pope meant, even though we may not agree that critically this marks the passage as interpolated. As in the cuts from Love's Labours Lost and The Tempest discussed earlier in the chapter, the degraded passages exhibit running word play and punning which Pope might have supposed to be interpolated.

            Pertinence, however, is a more involved issue──what was it about these degraded lines which led Pope to call them impertinent?

            On the face of it, the lines may seem perfectly pertinent to the play: as has been noted, they have the sense of a finale; they present a situation in which the issue of shrewishness come to the fore; they make believable the sense of rivalry between the men which gives rise to the bet concerning whose wife is most obedient. It seems unlikely then that it is the general tone of these lines which Pope is objecting to, and we must look instead to specifics in order to try to understand what it was that Pope found suspicious.

            One line in particular presents a difficulty to the reader. In the exchange between the Widow and Kate contained in the extract marked 2, `mean' is the word which acts a source for the punning jests exchanged:


[Wid.] ... And now you know my meaning.

Kate. A verie meane meaning.

Wid. Right, I meane you.

Kat. And I am meane indeede, respecting you.


The last line here, `And I am meane indeede, respecting you' does extend the word play by working in the word `mean' again, but its meaning is problematic if we take `meane' in its usual Shakespearean sense of `wanting dignity; of low rank or birth'.[xiii] In this case, the impression is given that in order to extend the word play one line further, the interpolator has given Kate a line which threatens to spoil the overall movement of the scene, which allows her to assert her believed superiority to the widow. Perhaps, then, this is what Pope meant when he complained of a lack of pertinence in the material he degraded.

            Modern critics have recognised the difficulty this line presents, and the Arden editor puts forward the usual argument that `mean' can be taken in the second sense Johnson gives - meaning `mediocre'. Such a reading relies on a loosening of meaning so that the word can slip into connoting balanced personality - and in the Arden edition such a loosening is only the prelude to further supposition:


it may be that Katherina, in her choice of this word, is implying that she is a respectable married woman, a follower of holy and godly matrons, where her adversary is a remarried widow, a type conventionally suspected of lustful proclivities. ... The tone of this line is important, since it is Katherina's last utterance before she leaves the stage, not to reappear until summoned by Petruchio to make her formal act of submission. In her dialogue with the widow she is clearly `spoiling for a fight', but in this line she wins the bout with a remark which is all the more deadly for being richly ambiguous.


While there are contemporary uses of `mean' in the way the Arden editor suggests, in context the use of `mean' to describe a person instantly suggests the connotation of `base'. For both Pope and Brian Morris this final riposte line presents a difficulty, but while Morris sees it as `deadly' and `richly ambiguous', it would seem that Pope considered it an example of `impertinence'.


                                                             * * *


As for The Life and Death of King John, Pope's edition of this play has been helped by the existence of an earlier prototype which could be quarried for supplementary material. In The Taming of the Shrew they play a more substantial role, and generations of editors have followed Pope's pioneering work to various degrees. The existence of an earlier play, however, was no cure-all for the faults Pope saw in the text, and there was no textual precedent for the degradation he made. There are times when Pope's reliance on his critical faculty as the sole arbiter of his editorial practice creates as many problems as it solves. There are in many of Shakespeare's plays problems which seem to be beyond complete resolution. To our picture of Pope's Shakespeare we can add the qualities of a great comic writer whose skills again show themselves in passages of various kinds and in the general conduct and construction of the narrative even when this is imperfectly retrievable. There is one great difference between Pope's conception of Shakespeare and subsequent conceptions. Pope's Shakespeare has his wit at his command and though his wit is variable both in kind and - to some degree - in quality, his humour, his verse and his prose, are never merely mechanical, never inane. The comic scenes as revised by Pope are always at once unexpected and yet intelligible.

                                                 Notes for chapter III



[i]. See for example Act 2 Scene 2 or Act 4 Scene 1 for degraded text; Act 5 for examples of whole scenes which are given triple daggers.


[ii]. Act 3 Scene 5.

[iii]. Monty Python was a bizarre satirical television program screened mainly in the 1970s. Some jokes and sketches in it became such common currency that as late as 1990 the then Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher was able to allude to a scene involving a `dead parrot' at the Conservative Party's annual conference.

[iv]. This text is marked by Pope with marginal commas. They are not however approbatory commas. Commas are not always used to denote excellence──in a few instances Pope uses them as a general means of indicating text as in this example from The Tempest.

[v]. Act 3 Scene 2 Line 55.

[vi]. Note by Pope on the opening page of the play.

[vii]. In Pope's Preface to his edition.

[viii]. Pope refers to the identical edition of 1607.

[ix]. The Shakespeare First Folio (op.cit.) p. 76.

[x]. See Preface to Shakespeare (ed. Smallwood, op.cit.) p. 19.

[xi]. This is the same as the 1594 quarto (see above).

[xii]. An Essay of Dramatic Poesy (Oxford Authors ed.) p. 74.

[xiii]. Johnson's primary definition. He cites Henry VI,


And find no harbour in a royal heart.

True hope is swift, and flies with swallow wings;

Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.


He also cites a Shakespearean example of its use to mean `mediocrity; middle rate; medium', from King Lear,


Temperance with golden square,

Betwixt them both can measure out a mean.