On marking up Henry VIII

F1-tnThis week I submitted the F1 old-spelling transcription of Henry VIII to ISE. To be specific, I submitted a light mark-up to an already thorough one undertaken by ISE’s research assistants. All of the hardcore TEI had already been done (character id’s, line numbering, indication of long s’s, and much more); I was responsible for going through the file, adding stage directions and props, identifying verse or prose mode where I could, things like that. It was one of those projects that made me grateful for my dual monitor set-up: I had the file open in Oxygen on one monitor and the F1 facsimile open in the other.

Going into this phase of the edition process I assumed that I would be considering spelling and looking ahead to glosses and other notations. What I didn’t anticipate, and what made the process so valuable to me, was the foregrounding of the materiality of the text as a printed document (which, of course, is complicated by my interaction with the folio text in digital form – ahhh!) I had to adjust my thinking about the play text – in essence ignoring (for the time being) the work that previous editors have done to the text and looking at the compositors’ work without interpolation. I had never, for example, stopped to think about how the rules were drawn (my apologies to Jill Levenson for not paying closer attention in Bibliography class) or the visual interplay between italic and roman type. Or how the long s affects the letter that comes after it: <I>{{s}i}nging</I>.

By far the parts I enjoyed most were the stage directions for the royal processions. Here, for example, is the order of Anne Boleyn’s coronation in 4.1:

Excerpt of King Henry VIII 4.1 from the First Folio
The same excerpt in the ISE old-spelling transcription (working copy)

The attention to identification of characters, the order in which they ‘pass over the stage’, their costumes, and the props they carry (seemingly so at odds with other contemporary printed plays) makes me want to look more thoroughly about how the directions in Henry VIII might have affected the company’s performance decisions: questions such as doubling (tripling? quadrupling?), the need for costume and prop access and storage at the Globe and Blackfriars, what a contemporary audience would have made of the representation of ceremony (would it, for example, have stood out from other plays and encourage a reaction along the lines of what Karen Marsalek calls the play’s “cultural memory” ((Karen Marsalek, “Staging Allegiance, Re-membering Trials: King Henry VIII and the Blackfriars Theater,” in Shakespeare and Religious Change. Kenneth J.E. Graham and Philip D. Collington, eds. Houndmills, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 133-150.)) and how London audiences would have had a particularly viceral reaction to the play’s reliance on places and royal presences in the City. I’m also curious to consider how much attention the play’s editors who have generated print editions could commit to the intricacies of the printed Folio as compared or contrasted with editors of digital editions. Are R.A. Foakes’s old-spelling transcriptionss extant somewhere in his papers? Where can I find them? (they must be and someone out there knows!)

I know these are questions that have been asked and probably answered any number of times, but I haven’t really thought about them since I submitted my edition proposal last summer and I’m excited all over again at the prospect of digging around in all of this information.


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