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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Single-edition Shakespeare plays

I'm ordering books for next year's classes and I'm curious if people have any strong views on single-edition Shakespeare plays. I went with Signet last year (cheap, pretty good supplementary materials), but does anyone have anything particularly good to say about any of the other editions out there? I'm all ears. Thanks.

  • At 5/09/2006 12:41:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I think Folger is better. They separate out the paratexts: there's a quickie intro, which just gives the basics, then after the text they have a "Modern Reading of X" section, by good people, which does just that: a brief, clear, useful interpretation of the text. Michael Neill does a bunch of these, for instance, which is great. I can't think who else. My vote is for those over the Signets. Even though as a physical object I don't like the Folgers -- they look like ugly dime novels. But there it is.

    Some of those Pelicans are pretty good too -- again, good people writing the introductions. The glossing is always something you have to struggle against, I find, but I think that's just the nature of school editions.

    I ususally mix it up, depending on who did each particular play. Occasionally I also throw in one serious academic edition in the course of a semester, just for them to see what that's about -- Orgel's Oxford edition of *The Tempest*, for instance, which is great, and also not expensive, for what it is: $7.95.


  • At 5/09/2006 02:34:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I like the Folger too, and the students appreciate the facing-page glossing method, rather than foot-of-the-page, I've found. And they also like the brief plot summary of each scene, which I think can help them focus on understanding the language, since they can be a bit less anxious about following the basics of the plot.

    I've used Folger mainly for lower-level classes, and Norton complete for upper-level.


  • At 5/09/2006 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    This is our 100th post, by the way. Happy Hecatomb to us!


  • At 5/09/2006 03:07:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    Only adding that I wouldn't use the Arden for undergrads, even the most advanced ones. I think there's just too much information there, which can make it difficult for them to focus.

    I actually like the Oxford single editions better than the Folger. I taught one class with one of each (different plays) and the majority of the students didn't like the folger layout (with the notes on the opposite page). Most claimed it slowed down their reading too much. Oxfords have a great deal of prefertory material, and if the editor happens to be good (I'm thinking of Orgel's ed. of Winter's Tale), this can be quite useful.

    Great blog, by the way!


  • At 5/09/2006 04:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Happy hundredth!

    Neither a Shakespearean nor an early modern scholar, I nonetheless turned to WS to satisfy the anxiety that my literary theory course contain, in the words of our associate head, "real literature," and I found the Critical Controversies edition of *The Tempest* to be tres useful in this context. I'm sure these editions are probably not preferable in courses that can create their own renaissance controversies, but I'm still curious to see what you four think of this series, and know that I won't take personally anything you say about these books (I'm probably moving away from the volume myself, having grown weary of the particular controversies it presents).


  • At 5/09/2006 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Hi muse, good to have you with us! Interesting that your students didn't like the facing-page system; I wonder if it has something to do with level perhaps? My students definitely liked it, but they were mainly first-year students and non-majors. And so they weren't worried about anything slowing down their reading except for Shakespeare himself! On the other hand, who knows? could just be random. I really like some of the Oxfords as well; they're usually a bit more expensive than the others, aren't they?

    HW: I've never used the Crit Controversies texts, although I'm familiar with the Tempest one, and it seems useful. Are they still in print? Amazon lists only second-hand copies for Tempest. The advantage of Signet, Pelican, Folger is cost; they're cheap as all get out.


  • At 5/09/2006 06:54:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I think those critical controversies editions are good, though they're obviously best for stuff (like "The Tempest") where there actually *is* a controversy. The critical controversies edition of *Pericles*? Not so great. Same for *Henry VIII.*

    I think it's true that the Ardens are too much for most undergrads. But I do include a paragraph about editions on my syllabus, inviting them to use whatever editions they may have to hand, and talking a bit about what's out there. I mention Arden there as (generally -- but with exceptions!) the scholarly standard, and I've noticed that a few of the more ambitious students will use them. (There's an older student -- well, older than 18, I mean -- in my class right now who, the other day when I was talking about *King Lear*, raised her hand and said in a perfect, succinct, rhetorically poised sentence the thing I had been desperately struggling to articulate for 5 or 10 minutes. Anyway, I see her reading the Ardens).

    The Oxfords are $7.95, which puts them nicely in between the Pelicans et al (at about $5) and the Ardens (at -- what? -- $10? $13?).


  • At 5/09/2006 07:52:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Thanks for the responses. I'd never considered using the Oxford World Classics before because I'd assumed, erroneously, that their notes were at the back of the book, the way they are with every other Oxford edition. But they're not and the editions look good, but I ended up going with the Signets anyway because they have short essays about film versions of the plays, which none of the other editions seem to include, and the course I'm teaching has a heavy film component.

    Ardens are now going for $10 to $15(!). Same thing with the Cambridges(!!).


  • At 5/09/2006 08:04:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    With a nod to my increasing (and uncharacteristic) interest in birds, I call the Signet edition the "Lord God" edition, as in, "Lord God! Sylvan Barnet (or whomever he chose to do the real work) did NOT just actually call Othello 'a black'!" Oh yes he did! Jebus. And the way they "update" the editions by letting the ladies (c. 1983) have a go at the plays... ugh. Bad glossing, too. Tiny. Incomplete. You and I know what Stephano means when he says "I would I could see this taborer," but, Lord God! do my students?? I doubt it. I think I'm going with Folger next time around, unless someone convinces me otherwise.


  • At 5/09/2006 09:03:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    We don't read Othello, so I haven't seen that one.

    And if an edition doesn't gloss the sex jokes, that means we get to in class, producing giggles, good feelings, and the impression that we actually know something.

    About the Folger: almost inevitably when someone in my class mentioned a particularly "not smart" gloss in her edition, that student was using a Folger. It even became a kind of running joke in class. That being said, I too like the scene summaries and facing-page glosses, so if it weren't for the film aspect, I probably would have given them a try.


  • At 5/10/2006 11:22:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    You don't read Othello? I don't think I could teach a Shakespeare class without Othello (unless it was the first half of a 2-semester sequence). Just curious, why don't you do it? My experience has been that it's always one of the students' favorites.


  • At 5/10/2006 12:06:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Films, my friend, films. Also my terms aren't as long as yours.


  • At 5/10/2006 01:25:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    Which plays are you doing? I'm personally quite taken with the Bedford Shakespeare series – the editions of The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth are particularly good. That said, we've generally encouraged undergraduates to go for the Cambridge or Oxford single-play editions on account of their introductory matter, satisfactory notes, and affordability. The paper is nice too, better quality than the Signet and Pelicans (don't get me started on Norton). Has anyone used the Longman critical editions?


  • At 5/10/2006 01:55:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Yeah, *Othello* is a staple for me. Along with *Lear.* But then, I don't care about films.

    I did show the banquet scene from that *Titus* movie that Julie Taymor did in the late '90s. The movie as a whole is uneven, but that scene is perfect for excerpting in class. Also brilliant: the DVD company's struggle to figure out how to market this thing. Their decision: on the back, they write, "Brought to you by the acclaimed director of The Lion King."

    Fabulous. The kiddies'll love it.


  • At 5/10/2006 03:55:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    bdh--I like the Bedford "Texts and Contexts" Shakespeare series as well, but they're a little pricey ($12 vs. $5) and have a bit too much historical information that isn't really necessary for my students, or at least for the course I'm teaching. I have looked at them when I'm prepping, though, and found them pretty useful.


  • At 5/11/2006 02:31:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    @ simplicius – agreed, the Bedfords are probably more than most undergraduates need. I meant I like them for my own personal use : )

    @ inkhorn – the dvd of the Trevor Nunn Twelfth Night (1996) includes the different trailers for the film as screened in Europe and the US. From memory, the European shorts were tasteful, while the US trailer marketed the film as "in the tradition of Mrs Doubtfire and Tootsie..."


  • At 5/12/2006 12:21:00 AM, Blogger Bardiac wrote…

    I'm with those who like the Oxford editions, usually really solid editing, good paper with room for notes, and moderately priced.

    I've occasionally tossed in an Oxford Schools or Cambridge Schools edition; those are intended for UK students prepping for exams (pre-college), and tend to have lots of glossing and weird stuff.

    A fair number of my students in any given semester are in English Ed, and I like having them work with different editions, and especially the "Schools" editions so that they think about what they're using when they teach. (Though they don't get much choice.)

    Do you know about Berger and Thompson's *Which Shakespeare?* It's a bit outdated now, but a good resource for thinking about editions.


  • At 5/12/2006 12:27:00 AM, Blogger Bardiac wrote…


    Of all the Oxfords, the H5 doesn't, if I recall, conflate the texts (uses F only, I think?). That's fine if everyone uses the same text, but either a pain or a teachable moment when you have the inevitable student who's picked up another edition.


  • At 5/12/2006 09:38:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Good idea, Bardiac. I have a surprising number of such students myself, so I think next time I will try mixing up the editions: a little Folger here, some Signet there, an Oxford for flavoring.


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