Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: James D. Mardock
Peer Reviewed

Henry V: Textual Introduction


20The relationship between Folio and Quarto

In the absence of manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays, our knowledge of how the two versions of Henry V relate to each other -- which came first, whether the Quarto play was cut from a longer text or the Folio play expanded from a shorter, what people or processes are responsible for the changes between the two -- must rely on what we know of the Elizabethan theater business and book trade, and on the fossil record of the printed texts themselves. What do these fossils tell us about the provenance, precedence, and relationship of these two versions of the Henry V? The history of the play's editing is largely the answer to this question, and it is grounded in the history of the reception of the first Quarto.

21The earliest editors of the play, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, suggested three theories to explain the cuts, omissions, and patterns of discrepancies: that the Quarto represents a source text by another author (akin to The Famous Victories), that it represents a rough draft by the young Shakespeare, or that it was poorly transcribed and pirated by an unscrupulous audience member in the playhouse, at a performance of the longer version of the play that was later printed in the 1623 Folio with the authority of the playing company. These theories proceeded without the benefit of our fuller knowledge of Elizabethan shorthand, the practices of the printing house and playhouse, and a fuller range of dating evidence, and Laurie Maguire aptly dismisses them in Shakespearean Suspect Texts (7). Even with the benefits of twentieth- and twenty-first-century bibliographical scholarship, scholars remain divided about the relationship between the two Henry Vs, and we are unlikely ever conclusively to determine a correct answer, to produce a single, provable narrative of textual transmission. Saying this is simply judicious caution. I agree with Annabel Patterson on what

should be a cardinal rule governing the interpretation of textual divergences between quartos and folios; namely, that no single hypothesis is likely to be able to explain all the instances of textual divergence; and that it is better to admit this in advance than to be forced to introduce exceptions that shake the primary hypothesis at its roots. (Patterson, "Two Versions" 38-39).

With that caveat in mind, the following discussion of several modern explanations for the divergent texts must acknowledge each of them to be partly inadequate, each forced to admit of exceptions and counterevidence.

22For the obvious reason of chronological priority, the earliest editors of Shakespeare believed the first printed texts of the plays to reflect the earliest versions. Nearly every textual scholar today believes the Quarto to have been shortened from the fuller text that is linked to the Folio, rather than the Folio's copy text having been expanded and derived from the shorter version. The reference in F's act-five chorus to "the general of our gracious empress" (TLN 2880) has been read by almost all critics as a reference to the Earl of Essex; if this is correct, it would seem to date the composition of the Folio version of the play between March and September of 1599, well before the printing of the Quarto (see TLN 2880-81 n. and TLN 1524 n.). That interpretation of the allusion has never been quite unanimous, however, and Steven Urkowitz has argued repeatedly since 1980 -- starting with his Shakespeare's Revision of King Lear -- that all of the earlier versions of plays that differ from their counterparts in the Folio represent earlier stages in Shakespeare's revising process, a consistent and continuous endeavor of expansion and artistic improvement. In this view, the 1600 Quarto might have been printed from the promptbook of a Henry V that had been performed in the 1590s, and was no longer in use since Shakespeare had revised and expanded the play into, if not the Folio version, then a step toward that version. Urkowitz's model is appealing for its picture of an author humanized by his less polished early drafts and deeply invested in the artistic quality of his plays. Even as his theory denigrates the Quarto text as rougher, it valorizes it as authorial, and it helps produce an attractive and, I believe, accurate picture of the fluid, evolving nature of the play.

23Both texts of the play contain obvious errors, and it is true that F has many more readings that seem more "correct" than their equivalents in Q. It is also the case that F often includes versions of passages or whole scenes that are more complex or subtle than their equivalents in Q, if any equivalents exist. But several factors in the texts indicate that the Folio was set from an earlier version of the play. The Quarto does correct the occasional error in F -- correctly giving the traitor Grey's name as "Henry" at TLN 778, for example, where F reads "Thomas." Moreover, judgments about complexity, subtlety, and artistry are too subjective to admit as proof, and it is sometimes impossible to determine the direction of "improvement"; a revising author, as Gary Taylor has argued, might easily have changed F's "base pander" (TLN 2473) to Q's "base leno," a more erudite and uncommon synonym ("Shakespeare's Leno"). Similarly, the Quarto's "caning drone" seems more evocative than F's "yawning" one (TLN 351); and when Edward III is described in Q as having "Unmasked his power for France" (TLN 294), it contributes to the pattern of imagery comparing war and statecraft to theater in a way that F's much more banal "went with his forces into France" does not.

24The rough-draft theory must explain the material found in F but omitted in Q as evidence of expansion rather than deletion, but too many of the omissions in Q simply look like cuts. In the Folio, for example, Fluellen complains about the direction of the mines and the English countermines in order that he and Macmorris will have something to argue about. The Quarto has no Macmorris, but Fluellen complains about the mines anyway, to no apparent purpose and with no resolution, as the scene turns immediately to Henry's parley with Harfleur. Urkowitz's theory would have to propose that Shakespeare had the Welsh captain bring up the mines, then later added a reason for him to have done so.

25The majority of scholars, myself included, believe on the internal evidence that the Folio was printed from an earlier version of the play than was the Quarto. It remains to explain how and why the later text was so drastically shortened and changed. For most of the twentieth century, the narrative of memorial reconstruction comprised the majority of this explanation. The earlier theory of playhouse piracy by a member of the audience -- either transcribing or memorizing the play in order to profit from unauthorized printings -- had been discarded by 1910, when W. W. Greg first proposed that certain actors, having memorized their own parts as well as many of their peers' lines, worked to reconstruct the plays from memory, and that the unauthorized versions they produced then served as the copy-texts for the "bad" quartos. From the passages that most closely paralleled those in the "good" texts, Greg and later scholars that pursued this explanation found that they could identify the parts played by these memorial reconstructors, most of which seemed to be small parts likely to have been played by hirelings, and not by the player-sharers, those actors with a financial stake in the textual property of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. The main logical problem with the memorial reconstruction model, as Maguire, among others, has pointed out, is that it can be used to explain nearly any textual problem at all (Maguire 6), but in the case of Henry V, it is also simply inadequate to explain quite a few of the changes to the Q text: the transposition of the French lords' scene of despair and Pistol's scene with his French captor seems more deliberate than poor memory could account for, as does the substitution of Bourbon for the dauphin, which requires considerable reshuffling of lines and reattribution of speeches.

26In 1991, Kathleen Irace conducted the most exhaustive examination yet undertaken of the memorial reconstruction theory in regard to Henry V, to identify the likely reporters of the memorially-reconstructed text behind the Quarto, and she produced a narrative of actors who had taken part in the play -- the player of Exeter, along with one or two others -- producing a new text from their memory of performances of the longer, Folio-linked text. Irace's most innovative assertion is that the deliberate abridgement of the play for the Quarto version was undertaken by these actors themselves as they went along, presumably preparing a text for provincial performance. Although she notes many changes in the Q text unlikely to have resulted from the reporters' faulty memory -- its frequent reattribution of speeches to different characters than in F, for example -- she maintains that these changes, and the Quarto text itself, have no claim to authority: they "are intriguing and significant because they characterize a version of Henry V printed in England in Shakespeare's time," but they cannot "communicate Shakespeare's intentions" (Irace 249). Such a conclusion depends on circular thinking, treating as a priori the assumption that a shortened, "inferior" text must be a promptbook for a touring performance and that since such performances are inferior, such texts are by definition further removed from authorial intentions.

27The theory that the Quarto reflects an intentional abridgement of the text for touring in the provinces has as long a pedigree as that of memorial reconstruction; both originate with Greg. As Janette Dillon points out, one theory requires the other: once we suggest that actors are reconstructing texts, we need to give them a reason to do so (Dillon 1994; see also Werstine 1998). But though the assumption that provincial audiences required shorter, less complex, more bawdy plays than did their theatergoing contemporaries in London has been frequently made, they have never been based on evidence (see Maguire 6, Chambers 1924).

28Even should it be true that the "Once more unto the breach" speech and the entry of the troops with scaling ladders was deleted from Q when the text was adapted for performance, such changes need not be seen as less than authoritative. In Andrew Gurr's narrative, though actors were still responsible for the memorial reconstruction of Q's text, the reconstruction was authorized by the company, if not by the author himself, as a reading version of the play in the form that theatergoers knew, a sort of souvenir program. The changes and abridgements, when error can be discounted, are thus more authoritative than Irace would admit, deriving from the kind of playhouse revision that Tiffany Stern has shown to be the norm in the Elizabethan theater (Stern 2000).

29Gurr goes further than any previous editor in asserting the authority of Q. The two versions of the play, he argues, are not just different, but differently authoritative. The Folio represents something close to what Gurr has come to call the "maximal" text, or the author's ideal version of a play, a version that was never expected to hold the stage. This text -- analogous to the director's cut of a modern film -- was altered in every early performance "into more realistic or realisable shapes, often at a quite drastic remove from the ideal" (Gurr 2000, 2-3; see also Gurr, "Maximal and Minimal Texts"). The "minimal" text represented in Q is closer to the play as actually performed at the Globe, according to Gurr, who thus removes the stigma of provincial touring from the Quarto, asserting that it is "probably closer to the version of the play that Shakespeare's company first put on the stage in 1599 than any form of the play that modern audiences have seen" (Gurr 2000, 2).

30Although no one theory of textual transmission can possibly explain all the differences between the two versions of Shakespeare's play, we can carefully assert that F's version precedes Q's, and that many of the changes seem deliberate and to have a claim of authority -- either that of the playwright or that of the rehearsing company of which he was an active member. The copy for each printed text seems to have been an authoritative manuscript: for F, according to Taylor, the compositors seem to have had an original draft manuscript, the so-called "foul papers" (Taylor, Three Studies 41-71; for an opposing view see Werstine 1990). We can be less certain about the copy text for the printing of the Quarto, but it seems to have been an authorial manuscript already in the process of revision and abridgement, by some combination of the author and his playing company colleagues. The Quarto reflects conscious revisions, cuts, and speech reassignments (as well as changes made inadvertently or considered less important) that cannot be positively traced to Shakespeare, but whose authority cannot be positively dismissed.

31The burgeoning case for the authoritative nature of Quarto Henry V as a witness to another moment in the play's evolution makes it surprising that no fully collated and annotated edition of Q has appeared until now. Taylor's editions in 1982 and 1986, and Gurr's editions in 1992 and 2000, despite the validations of Q that the two editors have voiced with differing levels of enthusiasm, did not treat the Quarto as a different but valid version of the play. Both editors do use the view that the Quarto represents a stage of revision closer to performance to justify selective emendation of the Folio text: Taylor adopts the Quarto's replacement of the dauphin with Bourbon, and Gurr, whose narrative about minimal and maximal texts with similar authority looks to replace the old dichotomy of bad versus good texts, follows Taylor in this choice, producing in his first Cambridge edition a conflated version of the play that likely never saw the stage: a revised, but still maximal text. Gurr's 2000 edition of the Quarto for Cambridge acknowledged the necessity of editing both texts, but since the constraints of print publishing required that that volume be presented without commentary notes -- and to an audience, one presumes, composed mainly of textual scholars -- it is destined to take its place in the shadow of his more accessible conflated edition of the longer play.

32The current edition presents variant texts as multiple witnesses to an evolving play, texts that might bear a relation to some ideal play in the author's mind, but also to various versions of actor's scripts and the playhouse experience, which also have claims to authority. The plays, after all, continue to evolve and are ultimately mediated by directors, readers, editors, and audiences.