Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Margrethe Jolly – Juliet and the Grafter

‘Juliet and the Grafter’ reports on part of an investigation into the
relationship of the first two quartos of Romeo and Juliet, dated 1597
and 1599 respectively. The popularity of the play hasn’t resulted in as
much research upon it as, say, Hamlet, but the two plays have much in
common. Tycho Mommsen paired them together in 1857, and since then many
scholars have seen the first quarto of each as ‘bad’ or ‘piratical’, and
the result of (communal) memorial reconstruction (by actors). 

latter is a hypothesis which has gained a significant number of
adherents among the major Shakespearean scholars of the last 150 years.
It leads to the belief that Shakespeare’s ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’ text
is the second quarto of Romeo and Juliet and that the first quarto is a
‘bad’ quarto, a ‘spurious’ reconstruction from memory, possibly by the
actors who played Romeo and Paris. The idea that the first quarto might
be a first draft is rejected firmly by one scholar, who declares that
‘all those theories which … have contributed to the conception of
Shakespeare as an artist much given to the revision of his own past work
are quite without evidence or plausibility’.

A three way comparison
between the underlying French source of Hamlet and the first two quartos
of that play provided an external reference point for indications of
which quarto came first. This text-based evidence indicates clearly that
the first quarto of Hamlet is closer to the source than the second
quarto is. It also shows that the first quarto has almost double the
echoes of the source that the second quarto has. The comparison supports
the view held particularly by early reviewers that the first quarto was
a ‘first sketch’. In contrast, the second quarto draws away from the
source, and from the first quarto. It appears that the second quarto is
substantially revised, and that the playwright was not afraid of a bit
of hard graft to ensure his play achieved the effect he wanted on stage.

would another three way comparison show, this time between the first
two quartos of Romeo and Juliet, and their source, Arthur Brooke’s
Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet? 

Might there be any
justification for the note on the title page of the second quarto,
‘Newly corrected, augmented, and amended’? 

‘Juliet and the Grafter’
delves into Brooke’s presentation of Juliet and her transformation in
the plays, with a sideways glance at the most memorable images of the
play. It also notes that the second quarto isn’t exactly error-free. 

paper concludes with considering what these findings suggest about the
playwright, his writing habits, and the relationship of the two quartos;
could we see the first quarto as an example of ‘juvenilia’? 

And what
does this new three way comparison suggest about the hypothesis of
memorial reconstruction?

A talk given at the 2015 Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Conference in Ashland, OR.

Jolly, PhD — a lecturer in English literature and language turned
independent researcher — took her first degree at Southampton University
and her second at Brunel. She has been exploring issues relating to the
Shakespeare canon where there has been scholarly debate, such as the
value of Francis Meres’ testimony in Palladis Tamia. Her principal focus
has been on Hamlet: ‘Hamlet and the French Connection’ (Parergon,
2012), and The First Two Quartos of Hamlet: A New View of the Origins
and Relationship of the Texts (2014) resulted from her doctoral thesis (
These texts argue that the original responses to Hamlet, that the first
quarto was the anterior text, are right, and that the date of the play
needs reconsideration. Her current research is on the hypothesis of
memorial reconstruction and the alleged ‘bad’ quartos.

Resources: Doctoral thesis at

No comments:

Post a Comment