Review of Grace Ioppolo (editor) Shakespeare Performed: Essays in Honor of R. A. Foakes (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2000) 315 pp. ISBN 0-87413-732-2 £38
Shakespeare studies is fundamentally divided and so is this volume of essays from world-class Shakespearians, which begins and ends with classifications of the opposed camps. For Jonathan Bate ('Shakespeare's Foolosophy'), the primary distinction is between those interested in Shakespeare's works for their ideas and those for whom performance is the main thing. Stanley Wells's afterword demurs: an even simpler difference is between those interested in ideas and those interested in facts. Poststructuralism has boosted interest in factual discovery, Wells asserts (no doubt with the well-known twinkle in his eyes), because "critics of a liberal humanist persuasion" fled the field of theory when it got too obscure, and whither could they but empiricism? This collection is a festschrift for R. A. Foakes who "more than most scholars of his generation" has kept abreast of changing critical thought, and influenced his colleagues and students, seventeen of whom are here, likewise. The point should not be stretched, however: no high French theory is represented, and indeed it suffers a couple of digs.
Bate argues that Shakespeare valued practical and performative goodness--little gestures and kindnesses--over theoretical goodness embedded in such philosophies as Stoicism, and that this preference is dramatized in King Lear. Stoical Edgar is continually let down by philosophy and should listen to the simpler truths of the Fool, hence 'Foolosophy'. Bate's reading is keenly perceptive and amply supported by textual references, although his claim that there are "just ten occurrences in the concordance" of the word 'philosopher' is surprising (I count twelve) and that there are "none in the histories" is belied by Falstaff's "I'll make him a philosopher's two stones to me" (2 Henry 4 3.2.319-20). M. M. Mahood ('Shakespeare's Sense of Direction') agrees with Richard Hosley, an early consultant to the Globe reconstruction, that two stage doors are sufficient for Shakespeare's plays, and she thinks that this minimal necessity shaped his thinking: one door always leads to the wider world and the other to a place more enclosed. This polarizing binary principle, which makes the stage always an intermediary space, was 'discovered' by Tim Fitzpatrick in the mid-1990s and has been hotly contested by Andrew Gurr and Mariko Ichikawa who support Bernard Beckerman's theory that, as with a restaurant kitchen, one stage door was used for all entrances and the other for all exits, unless there was a good reason (such as the parting of a couple) to break this rule. Mahood grounds Fitzpatrick's directionality principle in the layout of an Elizabethan great house, which would have been "printed on the consciousness of Shakespeare's early audiences", but she admits to "skating over very thin ice" in applying the principle to outdoor scenes also.
Six other essays complete the first half of this book (about Shakespeare in his own time), amongst which Peter Davison argues that touring was as much concerned with visiting great houses as populous towns and E. A. J. Honigmann backs Katherine Duncan-Jones's candidature of William Herbert as the Young Man of Shakespeare's Sonnets. The book's second half is eight essays about Shakespeare now, and naturally brings in film, the textual choices underlying modern performances, feminism, and the reception of Shakespeare in Australia. Marliss C. Desens argues that in their films of Richard 3 Laurence Olivier and Richard Loncraine cut more of the women's lines than they needed to and that this reveals male anxiety about women who "wield considerable power in the emotional and intuitive realms". In the wooing scene, for example, Loncraine has Richard ask Lady Anne to "leave this keen encounter of our wits", yet Anne's stichomythic lines which prompted this request are absent. The film is "part of the 1990s postfeminist backlash".
In its range of approaches and its yoking of ideas- and performance-based work, this volume implies a uniting of the divisions it acknowledges, and indeed examples, in Shakespeare studies. Appropriately enough a tragedy of division, King Lear, provides one focus. The book's editor Grace Ioppolo, an expert on revision, analyzes Richard Eyre's 1997 National Theatre production of King Lear that interpolated into the Folio text many readings from the 1608 quarto. In the same year appeared Foakes's Arden3 edition of the play, probably the last ever to conflate the two early versions because, notwithstanding their differences, it is "a single work". For the Oxford Complete Works Stanley Wells had insisted that the quarto 'history' and Folio 'tragedy' are distinct, and it is a sign of the universal warmth towards Foakes that Wells nonetheless calls Foakes's conflated King Lear "magisterial" without the slightest hint of an ironizing twinkle.