Graham Bradshaw

Graham Bradshaw is a lecturer in English at the University of St Andrews. Of the making of editions of Shakespeare there is no end, and the Oxford Shakespeare is about to commence. Graham Bradshaw will discuss this in due course.

Modern Shakespeare

Graham Bradshaw, 21 April 1983

Ann Pasternak Slater’s Shakespeare the Director is the best new book on Shakespeare I have read in the last year, and is prefaced by generous tributes to and from the General Editor of the New Arden Shakespeare. Nonetheless, that edition is unsuited to her critical purposes, and she explains that her ‘sole criterion in each case is to use the text supposedly closest to the author’s manuscript.’

On balance, we should be grateful to the BBC for finding room on its snooker station, over ten successive Sundays, for what the editor of Opera described as France’s long-delayed revenge for the Franco-Prussian War. The Boulez-Chéreau Ring has also been described, more preposterously, as ‘the Ring of the century’ – an accolade which plainly belongs to the 1951 Wieland Wagner production which inaugurated the ‘New Bayreuth’. Musically, the Boulez Ring cannot compare with Furtwängler’s La Scala performance or Knappertsbusch’s 1957 cycle, both available on record. Moreover, if the New Bayreuth approach to Wagner no longer seems new or radical enough, and if overtly socio-political interpretations have now displaced Wieland’s revolutionary emphasis on ‘psychodrama’, then the Ring productions of Götz Friedrich and Joachim Herz might be thought more substantially challenging than Chéreau’s.

A Sense of England

Graham Bradshaw, 17 February 1983

In 1976, V.S. Pritchett remarked that ‘what has always struck me in Irish writing is the sense of Ireland itself, its past or its imagined future, as a presence or invisible character.’ He added that in English short stories ‘the sense of England as an extra character is very rarely felt.’ Allowing Kipling as one obvious exception, Pritchett was too modest to mention what is probably the finest and most ambitious of his own longer stories, ‘When my girl comes home’. Here the complexity of the narrative and its oblique, carefully timed disclosures might seem to exceed the needs of an ostensibly simple subject – the return to Hincham Street of Hilda, who is thought to have suffered in a Japanese prison camp but had actually married a Japanese. Yet the responses of the various characters, including the elaborately drawn narrator, are conditioned, not only by their sustaining fantasies (‘We had all dreamt of Hilda in different ways’), but also by the challenging release from the habits and exigencies of wartime existence into a changed world: ‘we were all in that stage where the forces of life, the desire to live, were coming back’ (like Hilda). Their dreams, the shocks Hilda brings, and their subsequent adjustments, discriminations and evasions, project the ethos and changing mores of a whole community: England emerges as that ‘extra character’.

Hamlet in the Prison of Arden

Graham Bradshaw, 2 September 1982

New Arden English is a specialised, hybrid language – Elizabethan in some features, modern in others, but essentially unlike any English written in any period. That doesn’t disturb most people, including critics who would never dream of quoting Donne or Jonson from modernised texts: but it does mean that only the naive will suppose that the editorial aim is to give us, as nearly as possible, what Shakespeare wrote. The author of Hamlet wrote margent at 5.2.152, but in the New Arden text this is changed without comment to margin. Both the second Quarto of Hamlet and the Folio agree on impitious at 4.5.100, but this is changed to impetuous. Here there is a note, in which Professor Jenkins explains that the ‘secondary connotations’ of impitious were sacrificed in order to make clear the ‘primary meaning’ of the word which has gone. Given the context, that primary meaning could never have been unclear; moreover, the elimination of ‘connotations’ leaves us with a weaker idea, uncomfortably close to tautology. Jenkins should have left Shakespeare’s word in the text, and added a footnote on its ‘connotations’.


New Arden ‘Hamlet’

2 September 1982

SIR: In complaining about my ‘manners’ Professor Jenkins displays his own (Letters, 18 November), while offering indirect evidence of the authoritarian and repressive tendencies which surprised me in his New Arden edition of Hamlet. I detailed what I took to be deficiencies in that long-awaited edition, while taking pains to quote at length from, Professor Jenkins’s commentary and notes so that...


Alastair Fowler, 2 March 1989

We cannot let Shakespeare alone. He saw so deeply into life, and wrote so well, that we cannot bring ourselves to relegate him to his Elizabethan world, as we do, or used to do, with Jonson. Yet...

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