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Notes in English Literature: Tragedies & Comedies

Notes in English Literature: Tragedies & Comedies by SHAKESPEARE, William; James Rowley (1860)

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Author: SHAKESPEARE, William; James Rowley
Title: Notes in English Literature. The Tragedies of Wlliam Shakespeare/ The Comedies of William Shakespeare
Year: 1860
Publisher: Unpublished
Place: Dublin, Ireland
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: Yes
Price: £1750
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[pp] 168; 178 Substantial and expert notes on Shakespeare's plays, their publishing and performance history, together with textual analysis, by an early academic student of Shakespeare at Trinity College, Dublin. Two quarto volumes ('J J H 1858' watermark) bound in contemporary limp sheep, wear to extremities and loss to spines and corners; marbled endpapers, some weakening to the sewing. James Rowley prefaces both volumes with the inscription 'Jas Rowley Trin. Coll. Dublin 1860' - a date that is just four years after the College appointed its first 'moderator' in English literature and Shakespeare entered the syllabus there. Rowley has written his text continuously from both ends of the books: volume I deals with five tragedies: Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear. Rowley begins each of his play studies with two or three pages in which he sets out the performance and textual history, drawing on sources such as Collier, Johnson and Malone. So Hamlet is summarised: 'It is likely that a play, now lost, existed on the smae subject prior to this of Shakespeare's. In the year 1587 (in all probability too early a date for Hamlet) Thos. Nash in a preface to Greenes 'Menaphon' speaks of "English Seneca affording whole Hamlets..." This play was not written until the winter of 1601 (Collier)'. On the text Rowley concludes: 'From the 4to of 1603.. we may infer. 1st That great part of that edition of Hamlet was taken down in short-hand. 2d That the writer badly completed fr. memory those parts where his mechanical skills failed...' Rowley then worked his way through each text, sometimes glossing the text, thus in Hamlet: 'Sc. 1 "Sledded Polacks" Sledged Poles. "Sled" that which slides.' And Rowley offers the following commentary on a textual crux from Act I Sc 1: '"As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood/Disaster in the air" This line is hopelessly corrupt. Some read "astres" for "As Stars" and "did one cast" for "Disaster"... Astres - disasters dimmed the sun (Malone) we suspect the error lies merely in the word "Disasters" ... having misled the compositor (Collier) of a line probably lost (Malone).' This commentary as with much in these two volumes feels well in advance of what might be expected from an undergraduate but we've not been able to locate a James Rowley teaching at Trinity College, Dublin at this time. Rowley follows the same pattern throughout his study of the five tragedies from the first volume and in Volume II the comedies: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and As You Like It. The manuscript offers significant research potential.
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