All the World's a Grave (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Textual conflation has long been a problem for editors of Shakespeare’s plays, those with two or more substantive texts that do not completely agree. A famous example involves the two texts of King Lear, the quarto text of 1608 and the Folio text of 1623. Each version of the play omits lines found in the other and includes lines unique to itself. Until recently, editorsnot wishing to lose any of Shakespeare’s languageengaged in combining the two texts into a single text of the play that Shakespeare never saw performed. A long play, King Lear in the conflated text is even longer. An even more extreme example is Hamlet, which has three different texts: the first quarto of 1603, a second quarto of 1604, and the Folio version. Not only do these texts have lines unique to each (the first quarto even has a unique scene in act 4), but often their readings have variant words or phrases, making the job of the modern editor still more difficult and problematic.
What John Reed has done is to take conflation to a further extreme. His play, All the World’s a Grave, subtitled A New Play by William Shakespeare, combines large chunks of dialogue from several of Shakespeare’s tragedies into what is indeed a “new play.” Despite the fact that Shakespeare is the author of about 80 percent of the text, one might well question whether it deserves to be called a new play “by Shakespeare,” for Reed has transformed his...
(The entire section is 1897 words.)
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