Reading Doran’s “Shakespeare’s Lost Play”

By Gary Taylor

I ordered Doran’s book as soon as Amazon.co.uk sent me an email telling me it was available. (They knew to tell me because the last book I bought from them was the published text of Doran’s Cardenio.) It cost more for the express mailing to the US than for the book itself, but I knew I would need to read it before we started rehearsals, just in case there was anything that I, or the company, needed to know. It arrived yesterday, and I started reading it immediately, amid the constant interruptions of meetings and emails about the production and the colloquium. Then today Sarah Neville told me that we have to provide regular new content for the colloquium blog. All I can offer, for the moment, is running responses to Doran’s memoir of his development of the RSC version.

Like all reviewers of memoirs, I first have to respond to what the memoirist says about my own, very tiny role in his story (pp. 65-6). Yes, I did meet him for lunch in London, and we were the only two people present, and yes, he gives a substantively accurate account of the meeting, or at least one that corresponds to my own memories, and he says various nice things about me and recommends some of my books.

I can supplement his account with a few unsolicited editorial footnotes. We lunched at least six weeks before the Middleton edition was published (in mid-November 2007), so strictly speaking the Oxford Middleton was not “recent” when we met, but perhaps he is writing from the present tense. More significantly, he is mistaken when he claims that, at the time we met, my version of the script “had received a successful production at the Victoria University of Wellington, in New Zealand, as part of a seminar on Shakespeare’s lost play”. That production was mounted in May 2009, more than 18 months after our meeting. The attached academic seminar was great, and led to the collection of essays to be published later this year by OUP. But I don’t think that the directors or cast or crew of the Wellington production would like to see their five sold-out performances subordinated to a seminar that took place on the last day of the run, after more than two months of rehearsal. Although I am excited about the upcoming colloquium, I do not regard the April performance as an appendix to the colloquium.

These pedantic corrections are not very important, but at least the facts are verifiable. By contrast, how can I prove that I did not say what Doran says I said? He reports that I claimed that he “had done more professional productions of Fletcher plays than pretty much anyone else” (which was then and I think still is true, and which I remember saying), but then goes on to report that I claimed to be “the scholar who probably knew most about Fletcher”. Has anyone ever heard me say such a thing? Even my edition of Tamer Tamed is co-edited. For the record, I regard Gordon McMullan, Suzanne Gossett and Jeff Masten as our leading Fletcher critics. What I do remember telling Doran, as part of my pitch, is that I was among the minority of Shakespeare scholars who had even read all of Fletcher’s work, and that I had worked intensively on one of his plays. I also pointed out that my 1986 reconstructed text of Pericles had been used successfully by several Shakespeare companies (including the RSC).

But the crucial point is that Doran was completely right to conclude that he and I could not collaborate. A director has to be good at sensing who he can work with. So although I was very disappointed at the time, in retrospect I recognize that our approaches to the problem were, from the outset, incompatible. And it is better to have as many people as possible conducting their own experiments.

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