Internet Shakespeare Editions

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The ISE on Stage

An extraordinary community of professionals dedicated to staging Shakespeare’s plays meets every year at the theatre of a member company: The Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA).  Hosted this January by the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, the conference drew well over a hundred members, who met to discuss their successes and to share strategies for awakening and sustaining interest in Shakespeare in both indoor and outdoor settings. The ISE is proud to be a member of this group. This year we were represented by our Performance Editor, the brilliant young scholar Alexander Huang (George Washington University), who, with Peter Donaldson at MIT, has pioneered a web presence for the remarkable world of Shakespeare in Asia.

And in the playhouse

Swan Theater

By Cameron Butt, Research Assistant for the ISE.

Last summer, before I joined the ISE team, I was taking part in a local production of Henry the Fourth, Part 1. I remember in particular one rehearsal for act 5 scene 1, when our stoic Henry IV strode out from the wings in shorts and sandals. He turned to his jean-clad sons Princes Hal and John of Lancaster (the latter played by me) and announced: 

 How bloodily the sun begins to peer
 Above yon busty hill: the day looks pale
 At his distemperature.

The trumpet sounded for Worcester to enter, but Worcester—rather than challenging Henry for his crown—questioned the king’s vocabulary: “Don’t you mean “busky” hill, your majesty?” The flummoxed king consulted his script and found that “busty” was indeed what appeared there, an apparent mistake that sparked a discussion about why Shakespeare might have described a hill in this way (I’ll spare you the more explicit details, but the words voluptuous hill were regrettably uttered). 

Some time during this discussion, Lancaster consulted his laptop, opening a browser and selecting the familiar ISE swan icon from the bookmark menu. Within seconds, he could announce with academic certainty that Worcester was in the right: in the first folio, the sun indeed peers above a busky hill; in the first quarto, a bulky hill; and only in poorly transcribed 19th-century and later editions doth it peer above a busty hill. All were amazed at this rapid research, and Lancaster—an honest young man—shared his secret with the entire court. This episode would be the first of many textual queries, much to the director’s annoyance, each one a testament to the ISE’s versatility. 

Now, with the launch of a version of our site optimized for mobiles, I'm sure actors will be able to resolve textual arguments in even less time.

February 2013
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