New Theatre Quarterly

Research Article

Myths and Enabling Fictions of ‘Origin’ in the Editing of Shakespeare

Gabriel Egan


The debate in NTQ about editing Shakespeare has engaged with the practices embodied in recent scholarly projects from the Oxford Complete Works (1986) to the continuing ‘Shakespearean Originals’ series. The issues raised have been philosophical, concerning the nature of authorial subjectivity, and practical, concerning the interventions made by editors in manifestly corrupt or incomplete texts. Here, Gabriel Egan surveys the progress of the debate and responds in detail to Andrew Spong's defence in NTQ 45 of the principles embodied in the ‘Shakespearean Originals’ series. Rejecting Spong's claim that editorial interference cannot be justified and that early printed texts must be ‘cordoned off’, Egan argues the necessity of explained interference based on ‘enabling fictions’ of authorial intention. Since all textual transmission is necessarily mediation, he argues that scrupulous explication of interference is called for, and that this is lacking in the ‘Shakespearean Originals’ produced to date. Gabriel Egan is completing a PhD on Shakespearean original staging at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-on-Avon.