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  • Title: Edward III: Textual Introduction
  • Authors: Amy Lidster, Sonia Massai
  • General textual editor: James D. Mardock
  • Coordinating editors: Michael Best, Janelle Jenstad
  • Founding editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Sonia Massai and Amy Lidster. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Authors: Amy Lidster, Sonia Massai
    Peer Reviewed

    Edward III: Textual Introduction

    An entry in the Stationers’ Register dated 1 December 1595 marks the beginning of the play’s journey from the stage to the printed page. The play, described as “a book Intitled Edward the Third and the blacke prince their warres wth kinge Iohn of Fraunce,” was entered by Cuthbert Burby, a member of the Stationers’ Company who regularly invested in the publication of professional plays during the 1590s.1

    Burby was one of the first London stationers to capitalize on the rise of commercial drama in print. Plays from the commercial theaters started to reach the press during the 1580s, and momentum appears to have increased following Richard Jones’s publication in 1590 of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great (Parts 1 and 2) and Robert Wilson’s Three Lords and Three Ladies of London. From this point, the number of first editions rose from an average of four commercial plays per year between 1590 and 1593 to 18 first editions in 1594. By publishing four new commercial plays in 1594—The Taming of a Shrew, The History of Orlando Furioso, The Cobbler’s Prophecy, and Mother Bombie—Burby had secured a significant share of the fledgling reading market for commercial playbooks. Burby continued to be one of the major investors in the publication of commercial drama until the end of the sixteenth century, being solely responsible for the only two first editions published in 1596, namely A Knack to Know an Honest Man and Edward III. In 1598, Burby published Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost (containing a title-page attribution claiming to be “Newly corrected and augmented | By W. Shakespere”) and in 1599, he published the second edition of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, thus contributing to what scholars now regard as the time when Shakespeare first became an established published author. As Lukas Erne describes, “If we consider the suddenness and the frequency with which Shakespeare’s name appears on title pages of printed playbooks from 1598 to 1600, it is no exaggeration to say that in one sense, ‘Shakespeare,’ author of dramatic texts, was born in the space of two or three years at the end of the sixteenth century” (Erne 2003, 63).

    Edward III, which tends to be considered as a minor, peripheral example of the popular Elizabethan genre of the English history play even by those scholars who have attributed it in part to Shakespeare, was in fact central to the dramatic output of one of the most successful and enterprising publishers of commercial drama in the period. As a late Elizabethan history play, Edward III would presumably have appealed not only to theater audiences but also to readers of playbooks, as attested by the large number of English monarchical histories published during the 1590s, when Burby’s first and second quarto editions of the play appeared in quick succession.2

    Quarto 1, 1596

    The title page of the first quarto (henceforth Q1) edition of the play (1596, STC 7501) reads as follows:

    THE | RAIGNE OF | KING EDVVARD | the third: | As it hath bin sundrie times plaied about | the Citie of London. | [ornament] | LONDON, | Printed for Cuthbert Burby. | 1596.

    Q1 consists of 38 unnumbered leaves and the signatures are numbered A to K: A1 was probably blank and is missing; the title page is printed on A2r and the text of the play begins at the top of A3 (signed as “3”), underneath the head-title (“THE RAIGNE OF | K: Edward the third.”), A2v being blank. The end of the play is marked by “FINIS.” on K2v. Generally 36 lines (excluding running titles and the catchword and signature line) are printed on each page until H1r, although several pages have 35 or 37 lines. The most significant variation is on E1v and E2r (containing 31 and 32 lines, respectively), where large type is used to set two stage directions to fill up space. This irregularity in spacing suggests the play was set by formes and that the casting off of the printer’s copy (the estimation of the space that manuscript will take up when set in type) was not entirely accurate. G4r also contains 34 instead of the usual 36 lines and a gap above and below the entry stage direction for the French Captain at TLN 1804 shows no attempt to conceal what looks like more space for which the compositor(s) did not have enough manuscript text to set in type.

    A slight change in compositorial practices occurs at H1r, with an average of 38 lines being printed on each page until the end of the play. This alteration possibly supports a division in labor between two compositors (with one compositor responsible for gatherings A–G and another for H–K), as proposed by Fred Lapides in his 1980 critical edition of the play (Lapides 1980, 65–71). Giorgio Melchiori, however, offers an alternative hypothesis of compositorial division, suggesting that two compositors also worked on gatherings A–G, owing to variations in the speech prefix for Lodowick between the inner and outer formes of gatherings B and C (Melchiori 1998, 172–73), an argument that will be revisited later in this introduction.

    The publication of Q1 is closely connected to the only other playbook first published in 1596, A Knack to Know an Honest Man. These plays were entered in the Stationers’ Register by Cuthbert Burby within five days of each other. A Knack to Know an Honest Man was entered on 26 November 1595, just before Edward III on 1 December, and both were offered for wholesale at Burby’s shop near the Royal Exchange. The imprints do not identify the printer, but Thomas Scarlet had already printed Mother Bombie for Burby in 1594, as indicated by its title-page imprint, and it is likely that Scarlet was responsible for both of the 1596 editions as well. The devices on the title page of A Knack to Know an Honest Man and Edward III belonged to Thomas Scarlet’s press, and the two texts shared further unusual textual characteristics that help to identify Scarlet as the printer. These features include the peculiar marking of signatures (which contain no signature letters on the second and third leaves of the gatherings) and similar practices in the alignment of speakers’ names (the prefixes in both texts are, for the most part, not indented, a practice that Scarlet occasionally follows, but which is unusual amongst other printers). Scarlet died in August or September 1596, leaving his ornaments and devices to Robert Robinson and Adam Islip, neither of whom used Scarlet’s distinctive signature pattern, pointing to a terminus ad quem for the printing of the play from Scarlet’s press (see Lapides, 1980, pp. 56–72).

    The unusually vague phrasing used on the title page of Q1 to refer to the early staging of Edward III—“As it hath bin sundrie times plaied about the Citie of London”—is reproduced verbatim on the title page of A Knack to Know an Honest Man and may suggest that the company or companies who originally staged these two plays had been disbanded by the time the playbooks were first published in 1596. Outbreaks of the plague, repeatedly closing the London playhouses between 1592 and 1594, caused disruption to playing practices and potentially contributed to the disbanding of companies during this period. Melchiori suggests that Edward III was first performed between late 1592 and early 1593 by the short-lived Pembroke’s Men, who also staged other plays associated with Shakespeare prior to 1594, such as Henry 6, Parts 2 and 3. In contrast, Lapides proposes a first performance by the Admiral’s Men before 1592, owing to the play’s casting patterns, its absence from Henslowe’s Diary (which begins its entries in 1592), and the possibility of a 1591 performance in Danzig about Edward III and the Countess of Salisbury by members of the Admiral’s Men (see Lapides 1980, 37–41, although the evidence for this performance is disputed). Further considerations of date and performance are more thoroughly discussed in the general introduction to the text.

    Whichever company first performed Edward III, it is likely that Q1 was set from a manuscript that predates the first staging of the play, because the relatively good quality of the text of the dialogue—which is set as verse throughout—is rather let down by the omission or inaccuracy of speech prefixes and stage directions. Melchiori suggests the text is “derived from a manuscript presumably of an intermediate nature, neither prompt-book nor authorial foul papers, set by not very expert compositors” (Melchiori 1998, 52). Q1 does not contain some of the errors and misreadings that often characterize texts set from an author’s papers, and the division and layout of the verse is generally good throughout, with most of the difficulties arising from speech prefixes and directions, as will be discussed further. Melchiori sees this “contrast between the slovenliness in the treatment of directions and headings, and the comparative accuracy in the layout of the verse” as pointing to an intermediate document that brings together the work of multiple authors (Melchiori 1998, 173). However, omission or inaccuracy of speech prefixes and stage directions does not provide incontrovertible evidence that the manuscript could not have been used as the company’s promptbook, since performance was not strictly regulated by the promptbook: rather, the official promptbook was used by the company to obtain authorization from the Master of the Revels to perform the play and by the book-keeper to make very occasional annotations concerning, for example, the use of large props or special effects.3 Performance was more directly affected by other types of dramatic manuscripts: the actors would, for example, receive their parts, which were copied out from the company’s promptbook or even from sometimes incomplete drafts submitted by the playwright(s) to the company. Entrances or exits that cleared the stage were also noted down in yet another type of theatrical manuscript, the so-called back-stage plot.4

    Whether authorial, scribal, or theatrical, the manuscript used as printer’s copy for Q1 was undoubtedly only occasionally concerned with how the play would translate into performance. Many entrances are unmarked. On B3v, for example, Edward III, his lords, and the Countess exit the stage (as noted by the stage direction “Exeunt.” placed in the right margin after the king’s line, “Come on my Lords, heere will I host to night.” (TLN 351). In the next line, and without a marked entrance, Lodowick delivers his speech about the king’s visible infatuation with the Countess, beginning “I might perceiue his eye in her eye lost” (TLN 352). An earlier entry direction on B2v—“Enter king Edward, VVarwike, Artoyes, with others” (TLN 273)—raises the possibility that Lodowick may have entered here, being amongst the silent onlookers vaguely marked as “others,” and remained on stage, with his later speech at TLN 352 as part of the same “running scene.” However, at the end of Lodowick’s speech, Edward enters and announces the Countess “is growne more fairer far since I came thither” (TLN 377), thus implying that time has elapsed since their first exchange and that the stage direction “Exeunt.” at TLN 351 was meant to clear the stage. While editors often mark Lodowick’s entrance and add a scene division here, the fluidity of this scene is not atypical in early modern drama. Early modern playwrights in fact often change fictional space without clearing the stage. However, the ambiguity of this moment in the play is representative of the sparse and ambiguous quality of the stage directions in Q1 more generally.

    This uncertainty is further highlighted on D4r when the Countess enters (TLN 943) to offer her response to Edward’s amorous propositions. The dialogue and preceding stage directions clearly indicate that Lodowick exits to bring in the Countess at TLN 936 (“Goe fetch the Countesse hether in thy hand, Exit Lod.”), re-enters with her at TLN 943 (although the stage direction only specifies “Enter Countesse”), and is on stage to receive further instruction from Edward at TLN 944 (“Goe Lodwike, put thy hand into thy purse”), before exiting at another unmarked location. These ambiguities and omissions draw attention to Q1’s lack of concern with the precise movements, entrances and exits of characters (although they are clearly implied by the dialogue), pointing towards an underlying manuscript somewhat removed from the considerations and requirements of staging. While subsequent editions have supplied the missing entrances and exits for Lodowick, there is some interpretive flexibility in the positioning of the necessary directions, with Lodowick witnessing varying degrees of Edward’s disclosures.

    Throughout Q1, entrances and exits are often missing (such as Warwick’s necessary entrance in the play’s opening stage direction on A3r at TLN 3–4), or contain incomplete information, as in the previous example of the Countess’s entrance at TLN 943 (where she should be accompanied by Lodowick), and in all cases, the difficulties and ambiguities are heightened with the minor roles, especially numbered characters such as heralds, captains, and citizens. These examples point to a text that requires some careful reading and interpretation to clarify stage movements, while also showing signs of uncertainty about the characters needed at the beginning of a scene, possibly related to practical staging issues, including the availability of actors for minor roles.

    Speech prefixes are often missing, misplaced, or misleading. The frequency with which speech prefixes are missing suggests that they may have been quite radically shortened to just an initial or the first couple of letters in a character’s name in the manuscript from which Q1 was set (Melchiori 1998, 171–74). Throughout Q1, there is a notable lack of consistency in speech prefixes, many of which are comprised of only two initial letters. Edward is referred to in the speech prefixes by a range of alternatives, including “K. Ed,” “King,” “Ki,” “Ed,” “K.E,” “K” and “Kin,” which likely reflects the variations in the underlying manuscript, as it would be unusual for the compositors to introduce different character designations, although they may have shortened the occasional prefix, from “King” to “Kin,” for example. The variety in speech headings, which is observable with other recurrent characters including the Countess, King David, and King John, again points to a manuscript that does not prioritize unambiguous stage directions and speech prefixes, and their brevity has possibly resulted in occasional omission by the compositor(s). On B3r, for example, a missing speech prefix for Edward—who should be assigned the lines “Least yeelding heere, I pyne in shamefull loue: | Come wele persue the Scots, Artoyes away” (TLN 302–3)—results in Q1 presenting this dialogue as a continuation of the Countess’s speech. That this omission is possibly the result of the manuscript’s brevity in speech headings is suggested a few lines earlier by TLN 298, where Edward is assigned the exceptionally short prefix “K”. Some of the missing speech headings probably reflect the nature of the printer’s copy, whereas others are clearly the responsibility of the compositors. The catchword on E3r includes a speech heading for King John (“K.Io.Now”), but the following page (E3v) omits this necessary prefix at TLN 1174, indicating a compositor’s accidental omission.

    Misplaced speech prefixes are also frequently the result of a failure on the compositor’s part to establish when a character starts speaking, because it was common practice for playwrights (and especially for the scribes who transcribed their work) first to write down the text of the dialogue in the central section of the page and then to add speech prefixes on the left margin, not always aligning the speech prefixes with the beginning of each new speech. A rule drawn underneath the last line of each speech was supposed to help the scribe who copied out the parts for the actors in the theater or the compositor who set the text to type in the printing house, but it was evidently not always enough to prevent the misplacing of speech prefixes, as shown repeatedly by Q1. On C4r, for example, Q1 introduces a prefix for Edward at the beginning of the line “Thou wilt not sticke to sweare what thou hast said” (TLN 674), with Warwick being assigned the previous lines (“These are the vulger tenders of false men, | That neuer pay the duetie of their words”) as the conclusion of his speech. However, the context of these two lines is clearly only appropriate for Edward, who is challenging Warwick’s willingness to perform any task in the service of his king, and Edward’s speech heading should appear two lines earlier, at TLN 672.

    Ambiguous and, in some cases, misleading speech prefixes are another recurrent feature in Q1, which were likely caused by the radical abbreviation of prefixes in the copy from which Q1 was set. Perhaps most significantly, during Lodowick and Edward’s discussion of the Countess (from B3v to C2v), Lodowick is often incorrectly designated as “Lor,” which suggests “Lorraine,” rather than “Lodowick.” It is probable that the printer’s copy contained the shortened prefix “Lo” for Lodowick, which a compositor has attempted to expand, mistakenly indicating Lorraine, the French duke who was involved in the previous two scenes. Interestingly, the speech heading “Lor” consistently appears on B3v, C1r, and C2v, whereas the shorter variant “Lo” (ambiguous but not necessarily incorrect) appears on C1v and C2r. As Melchiori observes, this difference in Q1 designations follows the division in the setting of inner and outer formes, potentially indicating the work of two compositors, with one compositor setting the inner forme of gathering C (containing C1v and C2r) and following the manuscript’s radical abbreviation, and another compositor setting the outer forme of C and the inner forme of B (containing C1r, C2v, and B3v) and choosing to offer an (incorrect) expansion of the prefix to “Lor” (Melchiori 1998, 172–73).

    Similar confusion in abbreviated speech prefixes arises with the characters of Prince Edward and Prince Philip. Prince Edward is routinely assigned the speech headings “Pr. Ed,” “Pr. E,” “Prin,” “Pri” or “Pr,” while Prince Philip is usually designated as “Ph.” Occasionally, prefixes for Philip are given as “Pri” or “Pr,” as on H4r (at TLN 2104 and TLN 2106) and I2r (at TLN 2262), possibly indicating mistaken expansion by the compositor, or inconsistency in the manuscript, given that both characters are princes and could be assigned similar prefixes. Difficulties occur especially when the two characters are present in the same scene. On F3v, for example, when the French and English forces meet in advance of the battle of Crécy, the ambiguous speech heading “Pri” is used at TLN 1461, causing confusion, particularly as this prefix usually indicates Prince Edward, whereas here it is clearly Prince Philip addressing his father, King John (“Father range your battailes, prate no more, | These English faine would spend the time in wodrs” [sic]).

    While the evidence of speech prefix confusion can variously suggest compositor error or manuscript ambiguity, some inaccuracies more clearly point to an origin in the manuscript, again highlighting the nature of the underlying printer’s copy. On I1r, for example, “Vil,” indicating Villiers, is used at TLN 2158, when the appropriate designation should be “Charles,” as Villiers is not present in the scene but is merely the subject of discussion. In this case, the prefix confusion most likely had its source in the manuscript, rather than the compositor introducing an entirely different designation in setting the type.

    Quarto 2, 1599

    The second quarto (henceforth Q2) was printed by Simon Stafford for Cuthbert Burby in 1599 (STC 7502). Its title page reads as follows:

    THE | RAIGNE OF | KING EDWARD THE | THIRD. | As it hath bene sundry times played about | the Citie of London. | [ornament: McKerrow 281] | Imprinted at London by Simon Stafford, | for Cuthbert Burby: And are to be sold at his shop | neere the Royall Exchange. 1599.

    The text of the dialogue in Q2 takes up 35 unnumbered leaves. Signatures are marked A–I. Unlike Q1, Q2 is fully signed. The text of the dialogue ends on I4r, and I4v is blank. Q2 was clearly set from a copy of Q1, but the text of the dialogue was more accurately cast off, so all directions are printed in the same size of the font used for the dialogue. The text makes uniform elements that are more erratic in Q1. The position and spacing of stage directions are consistent, each page contains 38 lines of text on average (excluding the running title, and the catchword and signature line), and speech prefixes are italicized throughout.

    An examination of Q2 suggests that a discerning reader likely annotated a copy of Q1 in preparation for the second edition. This annotating reader does not seem to have had access to a different manuscript from the one that had served as printer’s copy for Q1, so the changes this reader introduced in Q2 have traditionally been regarded as devoid of textual authority. However, recent scholarship has demonstrated that dramatic copy was routinely annotated in preparation for the press. With Q2 Edward III, the corrections to speech prefixes, stage directions, and individual readings maimed by the compositor(s) who set Q1 reveal a sophisticated level of editorial intervention that deserves at the very least the attention editors have granted to later editions, starting from Capell’s edition of 1760 (see Massai 2007, 1–38 and Massai 2004, 94–108). The annotating reader of Q2 consistently clarifies stage directions and speech prefixes, correcting errors and ambiguities from Q1. The Lorraine/Lodowick confusion (from B3v to C2v in Q1) is fully addressed, with the speech headings presented as either “Lodowick” or “Lodo,” and thus clearly indicating Lodowick throughout. Prince Philip is regularly designated as “Philip,” and in general, the prefixes are expanded and less ambiguous than in Q1. Speech headings are also added for characters when they enter a scene and immediately begin speaking, which is a regular omission in Q1. Missing stage directions, especially entrances and exits, are supplied, and decisions in punctuation often clarify the sense of the dialogue.

    The nature of some emendations in Q2 suggests that the annotating reader also sought to “improve” Q1 or offer minor revisions and reinterpretations. For example, in Q1 (A4r), Edward uses the adjective “childish” to describe his sarcastic refusal of King John’s injunction (TLN 77, which Q2 replaces with “foolish” on A3r. Similarly, in Q1 (G2v), Prince Edward reports that “thirty thousand | Common souldiers” were killed at Crécy (TLN 1676), whereas Q2 emends this description to “Priuate souldiers” (F4r), possibly pointing to a sensitivity in relation to the use of the adjective “common” with reference to non-aristocratic soldiers. This usage, discussed further in the general introduction, could be potentially derogatory, especially within the political context of 1599, which was marked by high levels of conscription and anxiety surrounding the ongoing conflict in Ireland.

    Another interpretative revision to Q1 can be seen in the interactions between the Countess and Edward. On C3r, Q1 uses the verb “leave,” given as “leue” (at TLN 591), as part of Edward’s request for the Countess to submit to his advances, implying the Countess could dispossess herself of her beauty and leave it behind for Edward “to sport with all.” Edward’s reasoning ignores the Countess’s previous argument that it is not possible to separate her beauty from her life, which the Countess then further clarifies, describing how she cannot “lend” her body and retain her soul, just as her intellectual soul cannot be “lent awaie” while she retains her body (TLN 592-595). The Countess concludes by adopting Edward’s term “leaue,” emphasizing that body and soul cannot be separated and one left behind, thus breaking down the distinction between leaving and lending. Q2 offers an alternative reading by changing the two occurrences of “leave” at TLN 591 and TLN 598 to “lend” (C1v), which allows Edward to refine his argument by suggesting the Countess could temporarily part with her beauty rather than needing to dispossess herself of it (see Massai, 2004, pp. 94–108). While Q2’s emendation has its advantages, the original presentation in Q1 is still viable and has been retained in this edition, which uses Q1 as the copy text. All variants introduced by Q2 are recorded in the textual notes, which can usefully be explored as evidence for the work and strategies of an annotating reader who was clearly engaged with the text and attempting to clarify Q1’s staging difficulties while also incorporating alternative readings or revisions and, at times, miscorrecting Q1 and introducing new errors.

    Our modern edition occasionally adopts Q2 variants other than the necessary corrections to speech prefixes, stage directions, and orthographical errors, but only when there is reasonable justification for introducing the variants and, in each case, an explanation is provided in the textual notes. For example, in Q1, King David describes King John as “the man in Christendome, | That we must reuerence and intirely loue” on B1v (TLN 200). Q2 replaces “must” with “most” on A4v, which has been followed in this edition, avoiding the sense of enforced reverence to the French king in the Q1 reading that is not entirely appropriate in this context. Given the ease with which “o” and “u” could be confused in a manuscript, it seems reasonable to present “most” as the preferred reading.

    After the publication of Q2 in 1599, no further editions of Edward III are extant until Capell’s text of 1760. However, following Burby’s death in 1607, Edward III, alongside other texts belonging to Burby, were transferred repeatedly between publishers. While Melchiori argues that “there is no reason to believe that the play was ever reissued in the seventeenth century” (1998, p. 171), the transfer of publication rights to William Welby in 1609, Thomas Snodham in 1618, William Stansby in 1626, and Richard Bishop in 1639 suggests the play retained some interest for these stationers, who did not let its publication rights lapse, as occurred, for example, with 2 Henry IV, following the end of Andrew Wise’s publishing career in 1603. However, as discussed further in the general introduction, the presentation of the Scottish King David and his nobles may have, at least initially, curtailed the performance and publication of Edward III in the early seventeenth century, following the accession of James I.

    Editorial Practices

    This edition is based on the first quarto of Edward III, as the only other early edition (Q2) is clearly derived from Q1. Variants from the second quarto are fully collated in the textual notes, and although the Q2 emendations are the work of a non-authorial reviser who occasionally miscorrects and reinterprets Q1, this edition adopts some of these variants, most often when they clearly address errors and ambiguities, or clarify staging requirements. Relevant variants, emendations, and conjectures from subsequent editions, including Capell (1760), Tyrrell (1851), Delius (1854), Collier (1878), Warnke and Proescholdt (1886), Tucker Brooke (1908), R. L. Armstrong (1965), Lapides (1980), Sams (1996), Riverside Shakespeare (2nd ed., 1997), Melchiori (1998), Oxford Shakespeare (2nd ed., 2005), and The Norton Shakespeare (3rd ed., 2015) are collated in the textual notes, and all departures from Q1 (aside from non-substantive punctuation and orthographic differences) are indicated.

    Editorial conventions in the modernized text of Edward III reflect the series guidelines. Our decision not to use an apostrophe to mark the second person singular in verbs where the ending is not pronounced as a separate syllable—for example, “hearst,” at TLN 578 (C3r) and “suckst” at TLN 1445 (F3r)—rests on a similar lack of apostrophes in Q1. However, we depart from the presentation of second-person singular verbs in Q1 when required by the meter. At TLN 113 (A4v), for example, Q1 uses “Bearest,” while our edition adopts “Bearst” as it creates a more regular line of iambic pentameter and likely approximates its oral delivery. Speech headings mostly follow the expanded names suggested by the prefixes in Q1, and character and place names (in both headings and dialogue) are given in their English forms (as in Q1), in preference to following the innovation of the Oxford Shakespeare (2005) of adopting French spellings (“Jean” for “John,” for example).

    Both Q1 and Q2 are undivided into acts or labeled scenes. Capell’s edition of Edward III in 1760 first introduced act and scene divisions, which, with minor changes, have been adopted by subsequent editors. Most of the differences in scene division relate to the short battle scenes at Crécy (3.4 and 3.5 in Capell), and at Poitiers (4.6 in Capell) and are recorded in the textual notes, with this edition choosing to present these battles as continuous scenes (Scenes 8 and 14), as this collecting of swift battle exchanges within the same scene conveys their fluidity and rapidity of action. As followed by the second edition of the Oxford Shakespeare, this edition also avoids the imposition of act divisions, which are absent from both early quartos, especially as their inclusion often accompanies expectations about narrative development that serve to marginalize Edward III’s critical position, as discussed further in the general introduction (see Taylor 1993, 3–50).

    Our edition has benefited from the work of earlier editors, most significantly Capell, Lapides, and Melchiori. Aside from being the first edition to include marked act and scene divisions, Capell’s 1760 text, published as part of Prolusions: or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry, made significant corrections to the errors and staging confusions in the Q1 and Q2 texts. Capell occasionally emended dialogue in the early quartos to produce more metrically regular lines, as well as introducing elaborate location descriptions and stage directions, which have been collated in the textual notes but not adopted by this edition.

    Following Warnke and Proescholdt, who, in 1886, prepared the first edition of Edward III that consistently uses Q1 as the copy text, Fred Lapides’s 1980 old-spelling edition of Q1 provides the most thorough assessment of the printing and publication conditions of the first quarto, offering convincing evidence for Thomas Scarlet’s role as printer, together with a detailed bibliographic analysis of the text from which this edition has benefited. Finally, Melchiori’s 1998 edition comprises the most recent and thorough single-text critical edition of the play, providing new evidence for the compositorial setting of the text, a comprehensive discussion of authorship and dating, and an extensive consideration of the play’s sources and treatment of history within its main introduction and appendix.

    1. ^ Burby acted as the wholesale retailer of the first two editions of The Taming of a Shrew (1594, STC 23667; 1596, STC 23668) and was the publisher of Orlando Furioso (1594, STC 12265; 1599, STC 12266), The Cobbler’s Prophecy (1594, STC 25781), Mother Bombie (1594, STC 17084; 1598, STC 17085), A Knack to Know an Honest Man (1596, STC 15028), Edward III (1596, STC 7501; 1599, STC 7502), Love’s Labour’s Lost (1598, STC 22294), Romeo and Juliet (1599, STC 22323), and George a Green (1599, STC 12212).
    2. ^ Examples of late Elizabethan English history plays published during the 1590s include George Peele’s Edward I (1593, STC 19535; 1599, STC 19536), the anonymous Jack Straw (1594, STC 23356), Shakespeare’s 2 Henry VI [The First Part of the Contention Between the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster] (1594, STC 26099), the anonymous The True Tragedy of Richard the Third (1594, STC 21009), Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (1594, STC 17437; 1598, STC 17438), Locrine, by “W. S.” (1595, STC 21528), Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI [The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York] (1595, STC 21006), Shakespeare’s Richard II (1597, STC 22307; 1598, STC 22308 and STC 22309), Shakespeare’s Richard III (1597, STC 22314; 1598, STC 22315), Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV (1598, STC 22280; 1599, STC 22281), the anonymous The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (1598, STC 13072), and Thomas Heywood’s 1 & 2 Edward the Fourth (1599, 13341).
    3. ^ See Paul Werstine, who has brilliantly demonstrated that “theatrical texts need not be tidy” in Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 113.
    4. ^ Tiffany Stern has also shown how the back-stage plot “highlight[ed] and extract[ed] the performance potential locked in the manuscript text … [thus] complet[ing] lacunae that the book [could] therefore permanently retain.” Documents of Performance in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 231.