Internet Shakespeare Editions


5. Notes and Commentary

The notes and commentary of the Internet Shakespeare Editions are the place where you will most clearly be aware of the differences between a conventional printed edition and an electronic one. The hypertextual linking of text to notes, and notes to further resources means that the structure of your notes should be conceived in a significantly different way (see the introductory remarks on hypertext above, 1.1-2).

5.1. General considerations

Writing yet another gloss on a passage that has been discussed in dozens of editions, several appearing in the last twenty years, can be an exercise more in ingenious paraphrase than scholarship. Be aware of the kinds of problems Leah Marcus and others have identified in the long tradition of editors shaping the text according to the expectations of earlier audiences that are by now substantially changed in their expectations: be skeptical of the kinds of annotations that have embedded earlier attitudes, and exercise the capacity of the electronic text to provide the reader with multiple choices (see 5.2.5 below for the kinds of electronic resources you can include in your search for alternatives). If you retain an earlier gloss, in general it is better to quote an earlier editor who said it well, giving due credit, rather than to juggle words in an attempt to make the annotation seem different. Note, however, that longer quotations might run into copyright problems, and where it is difficult to determine the original editor who made a comment repeated by others it may be simpler to juggle.

5.1.1. Levels of annotation

There will be three levels of annotation and an independent glossary. The first two levels of annotation will be accessed immediately from the modern text.

  1. Basic annotation (level one) will be that part of the notes primarily explanatory of meanings, at roughly the level of one of the standard student texts (Bevington, Norton, or Signet, for example). This level of annotation will be used in the Broadview text, so you should be careful to make sure that it is sufficiently detailed for a student reader; for reasons of limitations of space, the version of the site accessed by mobile devices will only be able to display level one annotations.
  2. Advanced annotation (level two) will contain a more complete discussion, roughly equivalent to current annotation in editions like the Arden or New Cambridge.
  3. The third level will allow you to deal with especially interesting, controversial, or complex material in a discursive additional note. Remember, however, the injunction above that a click should be worthwhile; the third level of annotation will normally be a substantial discussion, and will be contained in a separate file. The ready availability of the third level of annotation can make the second level somewhat more concise than in equivalent printed editions. Cross-referencing should be limited to the second and third levels of annotation. For level three annotations, see section 5.4.

Tags indicating level follow this format:

<LEVEL="[number]">Text of annotation.</LEVEL>

See Appendix, section 2.6 for details.

5.1.2. What should be annotated

Explain whatever seems to you to demand explanation, bearing in mind the audience the editions are aimed at: first year university student to advanced scholar. Normally, you should avoid glossing difficult words more than once; you may, however, use your discretion on this (e.g. if many scenes intervene between two or more uses).

5.1.3. Annotate in larger units when possible

Especially in an electronic edition, fewer, more inclusive notes will be more effective and less obtrusive for the reader. For example, when characters indulge in a series of plays on words it will require fewer clicks for the reader to be told in one longer explanation when the wordplay begins, rather than explaining each pun as it appears. See the general comments about writing good hypertext above, 1.2.2.

You will be saved work later when the Broadview version is generated automatically from your level one notes if you consider carefully how these will appear in print.

5.1.4. Additional Broadview Annotation

The Broadview volumes will be enhanced from time to time with a more extended "level 2" annotation interleaved with the text. This annotation should be selected to illustrate some of the additional material that is available in the online edition, and should act as a "teaser" to encourage students to explore the Web version. Sample extended annotations will often relate to the additional materials you will prepare both for the Broadview and Web editions (see 5.5 and 5.6), and might include sections of Shakespeare's source where this interacts with the text on the facing page in an interesting way; illustrations of performance; parallel passages from related works; passages from contemporary works that illustrate manners or actions in the text in a striking way; woodcuts from contemporary documents where these illustrate some aspect of the text; and so on.

5.2. Kinds of annotation

5.2.1. Notes to passages that are obscure

Where the text contains obscurities which you can neither explain nor emend, you may choose not to refer to such obscurities in the commentary, but you may, if you prefer, say "Unexplained" or give the best guesses, indicating uncertainty by a question mark in parentheses.

5.2.2. Necessary explanations of what happens on the stage

Where it has not seemed advisable to insert stage directions or when further clarification is useful, you should indicate stage "business" implied by the dialogue.

5.2.3. Comments on vocabulary and syntax

You should indicate where usage differs from the modern or seems especially characteristic of Shakespeare. Vocabulary with technical (e.g. legal, medical) associations usually requires explanation.

5.2.4. Explanations of reference to customs, events, etc.

Customs and references to the life of the time such as are not likely to be understood by a first-year university student should be explained. Include references that may be familiar in Britain that might not be clear to readers overseas, e.g. districts in London.

5.2.5. Illustrative passages from Elizabethan literature

Use parallel passages from Elizabethan and Jacobean literature to illustrate references, vocabulary, syntax, usage, etc. Editors should if possible make use of the growing repositories of electronic texts from the period and earlier, such as the Chadwyck-Healey Literature On Line (LION) series, Ian Lancashire's Early Modern English Dictionaries Database (EMEDD) -- now expanded to his Lexicons of Early Modern English (LEME), and major searchable collections on the Internet. Although the OED will often provide adequate information, editors should check with wider references in the case of particularly interesting word usage, since such resources as LION will often uncover materials not included by the OED readers. Quotations from Shakespearean plays not yet published in the Internet Shakespeare Editions should be from a current scholarly edition, with indication in the list of abbreviations of what edition is used.

5.2.6. Parallel passages

If you are referring to parallel passages from classical authors, other works by Shakespeare, proverbial lore, the Bible, etc., you should normally provide some quotation, not simply the reference. The space offered by an additional note will be useful here; in some instances we may be able to link your quoted passage to the whole work when the edition is posted on the site.

5.2.7. Alternative meanings

If you provide alternative meanings of a word or phrase, indicate which is the primary meaning and which is innuendo or association. Bawdy innuendo, especially in an extensively bawdy scene, may require tactful handling but should not be glossed over or dealt with so circumspectly that meanings are obscure. Sometimes a single comprehensive note at the beginning of such a passage can indicate a succession of bawdy connotations, rather than itemizing each.

5.2.8. Biblical quotations and allusions

Biblical quotations should be from the Geneva Bible, preferably in folio editions subsequent to the revision of the NT by Laurence Tomson, 1576, whose completely new marginalia, full of suggestiveness, tend to be badly cropped in quartos. Biblical allusions should be glossed; you will be wise to assume that the current generation of university students is fundamentally ungodly.

5.2.9. Classical allusions

Classical allusions should be explained, if necessary with a brief synopsis of the myth or figure referred to. It will often be useful to refer to Shakespeare's source for the allusion.

5.2.9. Foreign languages

Quotations from classical or other non-English authors should normally be in the original language, surrounded by the tags <FOREIGN lang="[language]"> </FOREIGN>, followed by a translation. Greek words must be transliterated, since most browsers are at present unable to display Greek characters. Foreign-language passages should be translated

5.2.10 Headnotes

A headnote at the beginning of each scene may be used for brief comment on such matters as editorial notes of location; the dramatic significance of the sequence and juxtaposition of scenes; the relation of the scene to particular sections of known sources. Number such a headnote from the first TLN number of the scene, with the addition of a zero after a period, thus: <TLN n="1202.0"> where the first line is TLN 1202.

5.2.11 Illustration of performance

You are encouraged to comment on interesting issues in the text as they may be illuminated by specific performances. Where you are able to obtain copyright permission for graphics, these should be linked from the level two note; it is often possible, however, to indicate variations in performance traditions by referring to specific productions on stage or film without actual illustration.

Previous | Table of Contents | Next