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The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism


We note incidentally that classical scholars actually have a notation for distinguishing
archetype and autograph. The autograph is denoted by some symbol (e.g. the
autograph of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is sometimes given the symbol O), and the
archetype by that symbol followed by a ? (so the Canterbury Tales archetype was O',
read — at least in my circles — as “O prime.”). We also note that at least some
scholars, both classical and NT, have not tried to go beyond the archetype (though they
didn't really express it this way). Thus Lachmann tried to reconstruct “the text of the
fourth century,” and, as noted above, Westcott and Hort marked “primitive errors” —
readings where the original had been lost before the ancestors of all the main types.
The Archetypes of Elizabethan Dramas
In the case of Shakespeare and other Elizabethan dramatists, the question of the
archetype is even more complicated than the choices listed above might make things
appear. The relationship between original writing and original stage presentation could
be extremely complex. The likely process of composition was as follows: Shakespeare
would prepare a rough draft (the “foul papers”). This would certainly be full of
corrections and revisions, and quite unusuable for production purposes. So someone —
perhaps Shakespeare himself, but perhaps not — would produce a fair copy. The foul
copy would go in some archive somewhere, in all its disorder. But the foul copy might be
the last and only copy from Shakespeare's pen. (This is even more true of Shakespeare
than of other Elizabethan dramatists, because there is evidence that his hand was hard
to read.)
And the fair copy, even if (or perhaps especially if) written by Shakespeare, probably
wouldn't be useful for dramatic purposes. There is reason to think that Shakespeare's
work was sorely lacking in stage directions, for instance. He also used some rather
peculiar and confusing spellings. So someone would have to convert the fair copy to an
of?cial prompt book. This, in addition to adding stage directions and such, might involve
levelling of dialect, cleaning up of unacceptable language — and, in at least some
instances, clari?cation of errors. This stage of the production would not be under
Shakespeare's direct control; the producer of the play would be in charge. But
Shakespeare would be available for consultation, and might well be responsible for the
revised language of any changes.
And it's thought that Shakespeare acted in at least some of his own plays, so he himself
might have been involved in the give-and-take.
And this is before the play has even been put into production! After creation of the
prompt book, additional changes might be made — and, if the changes were cuts, the
alterations might not appear in the prompt book. In addition, Shakespeare might not
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