The Spanish Tragedy (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Clara Calvo and Jesus Tronch.

In some cases, the publication and editing history of a play can be as fascinating as the play itself and that’s certainly the case with Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. Reprinted in eleven quartos before it fell into obscurity for three centuries, its first most certainly a pirate, its fourth filled with emendations and additions, quite rightly the editors of the Arden edition, Clara Calvo and Jesus Tronch, dedicate over a third of their introduction to explaining the process of simply fighting their way through this history in order to produce this scholarly version. At that they’ve succeeded and in such a way as to make the textual changes breath within the main text whilst still making it legible is a triumph.

The facts are these.  Q1 was a product of a feud between rival London publishers, with Eward Allde and bookseller Edward White creating it as a repost to the proper rights owner Abel Jeffes because he had knocked out a copy of Arden of Faversham which they themselves had proper rights to. Eventually, the law intervened and both stationers were fined and order to give their pirated editions to be confiscated and “either given or sold for a small sum to needy booksellers”. The upshot nevertheless of this is that The Spanish Tragedy, thought of as one of the pillars of tragedy in Early Modern English exists in several good, clean(ish) if unique copies even if the now accepted author’s name doesn’t appear on the cover.

Then there’s Q4. Q4 is published in 1602, by White and new copyright holder Thomas Pavier and substantially rewrites sections of the play and adds some extra scenes which these editors persuasively suggest must have been carried over from a theatre prompt book. Originally, these revisions were thought to be by Ben Jonson, but substantial critical back and forth across the years has dismissed all of that and now thanks to computer textual analysis, the probable candidate of at the least the whole new scene is Shakespeare. But unlike Sir Thomas More, there’s nothing substantial to confirm such and so the play still finds itself as in the Early Modern Drama series, rather than Shakespeare (presumably also because Kyd is still the substantive author).

Similarly to Hamlet and Lear then, the editors find themselves having to choose which version to favour. They choose Q1, largely because it was there first but also, I suspect, because its easier to demonstrate additions to a text than removals. So Q4 additions and revisions are included in the text in a different font with a small sans serif year next to them, which is certainly more sensible than in FA Foakes’s Arden Third Edition of Lear in which tiny Qs and Fs are employed around lines and single words and make the text distracting to read. The demands are different, I suppose, and there’s little need to change fonts in the middle of lines, for example, but there’s a sense of there being two different texts here that the Lear lacks.

The first two thirds of the introduction are structured in a more formal way than many of these Ardens, beginning with a short explanation of how play fits within European theatrical tradition before shifting into a (very short) biography of Kyd which concentrates on his death more than his life and extent to which he was the informer who led to the murder of Marlowe. In two letters to Sir John Pickering, the lord keeper, he accused Marlowe of being in possession of heretical papers, the very heretical papers which had seen his own arrest and by the editors account he comes across as “mean, cowardly, self-righteous and sanctimonious”. What would we think of Shakespeare if any of his correspondence had survived?

From there, we’re straight into the play, how it acts as a bridge between Seneca and Shakespeare in the development of tragedy, how its use of ghosts and revenge and madness and meta-theatre prefigure Hamlet and how its use of objects, and the introduction is especially good in this regard, slowly become relics as they slip between various hands across the play. Throughout there’s a genuine sense of being there at the start of theatrical history, of seeing ideas, characters and story points being employed for the very first time which are still being referred back to now in drama, even if we’re not necessarily aware of the source. But the authors treat this with a lightness of touch, so as not to overshadow the play they’re considering.

It’s in the theatrical history that we see how the textual history of the play feeds into directorial choices. How much of the emendations and additions do you include? What’s expected?  As with most of these Arden Early Modern Drama plays, there isn’t an unbroken history, The Spanish Tragedy falling out of favour for just under three hundred years, with Pepys’s viewing of a production in 1668 the last recorded performance until amateur revivals began in universities in the 1920s. Both the National Theatre and RSC have offered productions in recent years and BBC Radio in the 90s, but given its reputation, Kyd’s play still isn’t in favour as a piece of theatrical drama. Perhaps this new edition will do something to change that.

The Spanish Tragedy (Arden Early Modern Drama). Edited by Clara Calvo and Jesus Tronch. Bloomsbury. 2013. RRP: £9.99. ISBN: 978-1904271604. Review copy supplied.

WHO 50: 1998:
The Scarlet Empress

Books Over the years, one of the props I’ve kept returning to in an attempt to explain quite why I love this or that bit of Doctor Who is to evoke the bit of Doctor Who I love above all others, the bird scene from The Scarlet Empress. As I’ve been oft to explain, the scene, as best I remember it, because I haven’t returned to it for quite some time just in case it’s not quite as brilliant as I remember, is that the Doctor, trapped by a group of alien birds wanting to hear his stories, evokes Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folk Tale and breaks down this own adventures into their constituent parts, incarnation, companion, locale, adversary and genre, so that they can make up their own versions.

As I’ve also explained on those occasions, the reason this resonates with me is because it metafictionally expresses the process that every writer from the beginning of the series has had to endure, sometimes with pre-selected elements, but mostly providing a narrative roadmap so that they don’t always have a blank page. The brilliance of the franchise is that however strict all of that seems, it’s still capable of near infinite possibilities to the extent that what’s recognisable as Doctor Who can differ far more widely than most other franchises. What other shared universe could encompass both The Scarlet Empress itself and Seeing I and Legacy of the Daleks all in the same book series with the same main character in the same year?

But that’s true of most years. Only now and then does Doctor Who seem to be telling the same story over and again but even then only just. The so-called monster seasons during the Troughton era still included The Enemy of the World and season seven offers the nihilistic pleasures of the visit to the parallel universe of Inferno. There’s a sense of following a particular mood perhaps, but even when Philip Hinchcliffe took over he still had to produce some stories which were more evocative of his predecessors, just as he handed on the Horror of Fang Rock to Graham Williams means that changes in style tend to be more gradual. Variety is hardwired into the show’s DNA. It’s the ultimate in flexible formats, even though the format is otherwise pretty rigid.

Except what Paul Magrs and so the Doctor notice is that this most flexible of formats still contains a certain normalisation. On television, in the modern series, every story has to have a monster of some description it seems, a practice which now results in the likes of the Whispermen, a literally empty creation almost designed to make up the numbers, as though a given episode wouldn’t work, or couldn’t be frightening, if it didn’t have some alien monster in there somewhere, something which is even reflected in the nuWho spin-off material leading to some gossamer thin creations which due to the brevity of some of these narratives barely have time to make their mark.

The knock on effect of that is the show also doesn’t do pure historicals or stories set in the past where the only fantastical phenomena are the TARDIS, the Doctor and his companions. Spin-offs still dabble, but that’s a whole strata of story types often referenced but barely made actual, almost as though because they went of the boil in the mid-sixties they wouldn’t work now, when the lack of a monster would have its own interest, especially if a companion and the audience spends the whole episode expecting them to turn up when it’s revealed that it’s humanity itself which is the problem. Only now and then are such things glimpsed, in montage sequences as part of some much larger narrative (A Christmas Carol, The Power of Three).

But as I said, such things do still subsist off screen, in novels and on audio and although for the most part they’re in lines which pastiche their given era and to an extent have to exist in order to fulfil the requirements of that function. The genesis of these stories still fulfil The Scarlet Empress’s promise. It’s the First Doctor. He’s with Susan, Barbara and Ian. It’s Salem during the “witch” trials. The adversary is superstition. It’s a pure historical. It’s Steve Lyons’s The Witch Hunters. Which was incidentally also published in the same year as The Scarlet Empress, again two stories which couldn’t be more different, could they?

Tower of London.

War If nothing else, this footage from the other day proves that should Ice Warriors attack, the Tower of London is defended.

Despite this being a hermitage week, I couldn't help watching out for news of the royal birth, of information on Monday night and of the couple leaving the Lindo Wing on Tuesday night.

Never have so many people all gauped the same door at the same time, in reality and virtually and realised there aren't many jokes that can be told about a door.

As was noted blunty at some point in the coverage, this young thing will be King when most of us are gone.  At this rate, William or Harry will be too.

Yet, like the various jubilees and the wedding of William and Kate, there's something moving about this birth, about the sense of watching the historical lines, give or take the odd war, that began nearly millennia ago continue.

An addition to the Tower's Line of Kings.

60 words about a Penguin 60:
Henry James
The Lesson of the Master

Books  Are we suppose to agree with James’s thesis that being an artist and having a pleasurable life are mutually exclusive?

Certainly some of greatest art has been the product of panic and pain.

The apprentice and mentor are supposed to be metaphors for the author’s own warring personality traits it seems and both entirely capable of gaining the upper hand.

Ashley Chapel Logistics.

Space UK team designs human mission to Mars. Amazingly thorough proposal from Imperial College London:
"The Imperial team have designed a two-part craft, consisting of a Martian lander with a heat shield, inside which the crew would also ascend into Earth orbit.

"Directly beneath the lander on the launch pad would be a "cruise habitat vehicle", a cylindrical craft split into three floors and measuring some 10m (30ft) in height and 4m in diameter.

"Once in Earth orbit, the astronauts would move from the lander into the larger habitat vehicle before a rocket burst would propel the conjoined craft on a trajectory to Mars. The quickest journey time would be nine months when Earth and Mars are in optimum alignment."
Perhaps of significant interest is that the astronauts would be scheduled to return home when more recent plans I've seen are for a one way visit.  Not that any of this is every going to happen.  Ice Warriors are more likely to invade us first,

Lord Greyhaven.

Theatre The British Library's Theatre Archive project has a precious hour long interview with Ian Richardson. This is the first part. This is the second part. Though there is also this transcript.  The approach of the project is generally biographical, to capture the participant's voices for future posterity:
"AS: I’ve read also - and, Ian Richardson, you will tell me if it’s true - that the journalists often described the atmosphere at the RSC at that time as very puritanical, because I heard - if it’s true obviously - that thirteen-hour days for months in succession were not unusual, and you often had to rehearse during the day and play during the evening…?

IR: Yes, that’s absolutely true. I wouldn’t… I wouldn’t say it was puritanical, because in those days there wasn’t the same stigma against… a Green Room which only served tea or coffee. You could actually buy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, and they sold cigarettes and things like that. In those days practically everyone smoked, and I remember walking along the back of the stage in Stratford-upon-Avon and the smell of Guinness - which is a very strong stout ale - and cigarette smoke… Well, the unfinished drinks, not in a bottle like the children [Laughter] - young people I mean - not drunk from the bottle like young people do now - you can’t drink Guinness from a bottle, it’s too frothy - but they would be poured out into a glass and just left there with a stubbedout cigarette in a saucer, so that all along the way along the backdrop you smelt smoke, cigarette smoke and Guinness. And indeed, as I said right at the beginning of the interview, when you went onstage there were people in the auditorium who were smoking as well.
The entire archive is available here.

The National Railway Museum

The Oxford Paragraphs:
Henry James
Daisy Miller
and An International Episode

Books Having recently enjoyed Peter Bogdanovich’s adaptation with Cybill Shepherd’s peerless central performance, it’s surprising to find the judgemental mood with which Henry James characterises Daisy Miller in his original story, albeit through the eyes of a potential suitor (though his preface extract agrees). Yet despite the implications of his original sub-heading “a study”, I think he knows that she’s an extraordinary creation, strong and independent minded at pushing against the expectations of her times. An International Episode builds on those themes, sending two British blokes into the social environment of New Port, which is looser than they’re used to then brings the two sisters that they meet back to London to be greeted by our social strictures. The conclusion is subtle and took me a second reading to understand why a match isn’t made for reasons which haven’t much changed. The cultural clashes in both these stories still, sadly, occur.

Bruce Springsteen.

Music The Guardian remembers the night Bruce Springsteen played East Berlin:
"Forget David Hasselhoff," says Erik Kirschbaum, author of Rocking the Wall, referring to the actor-singer whose single Looking for Freedom was No 1 in West Germany in the spring of 1989 – and who famously claimed he brought down the Berlin Wall. "Unlike Springsteen, Hasselhoff didn't go to East Berlin to perform, and neither did he call for the wall to come down a year before it happened."

The highlight of Springsteen's four-hour concert, in which he played a total of 32 songs, was undoubtedly a passionate speech, delivered in a creaky but understandable German, that carried a subtle but clear political message. "I'm not here for any government. I've come to play rock'n'roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down," he said to a crowd that erupted, before he launched into Bob Dylan's Chimes of Freedom, whose lyrics – about the "city's melting furnace … with faces hidden while the walls were tightening" – could hardly have resonated more with his captive audience, many of whom the crowd waved homemade American flags.

Jennifer Lawrence's Comic-Com.

"I'm just wearing loose clothing."

"She's pregnant, I'm naked. Come see the movie, it's great."