Kim gives a critical review of Lukas Erne’s Shakespeare as Literary Dramatist. Kim mostly agrees with Erne’s assertion that Shakespeare wrote for both the page and the stage. Kim questions Erne’s proposal that Shakespeare’s intention was to elevate his literary reputation.
I have a personal interest in this topic also, having had many discussions on this matter with a colleague, Jane, who is several years my senior. Jane adamantly states that Shakespeare wrote his plays for the stage, and they should be discussed in terms of performances only. I, however, have been intrigued by the poetics of Shakespeare’s works – noticing that the text is enhanced by the performance and vice versa.
I enjoyed reading through Kim’s description of Erne’s argument because I agree with what Erne says, even where Kim disagrees with him. Erne stabilizes his point that Shakespeare wrote for the page by showing that other prominent playwrights of the day published their works. He dispels the notion that Shakespeare published out of necessity for cash – Shakespeare was wealthy at the end of the century.
Erne also “challenges Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, Editors of the Oxford Complete Works (1988), for insisting that Shakespeare’s longer plays . . . were performed in full” (Kim). Erne produces evidence that Shakespeare’s longer plays “were abridged for performance,” implying that the longer plays were meant for reading (Kim).
Erne also mentions Frances Mere’s work Palladis Tamia (1598) in which Shakespeare is held in the same esteem as writers such as Sidney, Spenser, and Drayton. I was also surprised to learn, as Erne points out, that two literary anthologies in 1600 included “excerpts from Shakespeare and other playwrights alongside excerpts from Spenser and Sidney” (Kim).
Erne also makes a distinction between the “bad” quartos and the folios – asserting the shorter “bad” quartos also lacked poetic lines found in the folios. I agree with his conclusion that the “bad” quartos are more likely what was performed (it was a common practice for actors to recite their lines to a scribe while rehearsing – a practice Erne feels resulted in the quartos) while the folios display the full poetic version.
This notion leads me to believe that Shakespeare’s last plays were shorter so the poetic language of the full plays could be seen and heard on the stage.
The next time I discuss Shakespeare with Jane, I will be more prepared to back my argument that Shakespeare is meant for the stage and the page.