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"Foul Papers" and "Prompt-Books": Printer's Copy For Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors by Paul Werstine
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"Foul Papers" and "Prompt-Books": Printer's Copy For Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors
Paul Werstine

It is received opinion among late twentieth-century editors that printer's copy for Comedy of Errors, first printed in the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623, was Shakespeare's "foul papers" as annotated (sparsely) by a bookkeeper. According to G. Blakemore Evans, for example: "the manuscript behind the F1 [First Folio] text seems to have been some form of Shakespeare's autograph, probably his 'foul papers.' There is also perhaps some slight evidence of a book-keeper's hand in a few stage directions. . . . That the manuscript could ever have served as a prompt-book, however, seems highly unlikely, because there is a good deal of confusing variety, ambiguity, and inconsistency in the form of the speech-prefixes, and Luce [the 'Kitchen wench'] is once referred to as Nel, Luciana as Juliana."[1]

This view had been developed by E. K. Chambers and W. W. Greg in opposition to J. Dover Wilson's complex theory of a text assembled from actors' parts (with reference to a plat or plot) and then revised.[2] The Chambers-Greg position has been challenged only once, and then only in part. R. A. Foakes, editor of the new Arden edition (1962), attempted to trace to Shakespeare's manuscript and to the printing house the few errors and duplications that Chambers and Greg assigned to the theatrical annotator (pp. xiii-xv). I find Foakes's argument convincing and believe that it can be further developed. I shall argue that the Chambers-Greg identification of copy as annotated "foul papers" has never been effectively demonstrated, that the evidence for it has been eroded by study of the printing of the Folio, and that its final articulation by Greg in the Shakespeare First Folio, which


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most subsequent editors have almost slavishly imitated, misrepresents what he himself has taught us about theatrical manuscripts in Dramatic Documents of the Elizabethan Playhouses (2 vols., 1931). I believe that Comedy of Errors exemplifies the following generalization recently offered by Professor Bowers concerning "what Greg called 'the general character' of the manuscript from which a Shakespeare print was made": "So important is the subject for one's total information about the text that almost every editor these days feels it incumbent to discuss the question at some length in his introduction. I must say, however, that except in a few clearcut cases the evidence is subject to such varying interpretation and in its history has had such reversals of opinion . . . that insufficiently rigorous standards have governed the usual discussion and little conviction may result."[3]


As always, Greg sought clues to the nature of the underlying manuscript in the stage directions of the printed text. But when, like Greg, one addresses the stage directions of Comedy of Errors with questions about whether their origin is authorial or theatrical, one finds that they offer divided testimony. Some provide information essential to a reader, but not strictly necessary to the book-holder in an acting company: 'Enter Adriana, wife to Antipholis Sereptus, with Luciana her Sister'; 'Enter Adriana . . . and a Schoolemaster, call'd Pinch' (TLN 273-274, 1321-22).[4] These may have been written by the author with a view to guiding his company through the play when he first read it to them, or they may have been directed either by the author or some other agent (perhaps a Folio "editor") toward a post-production reading audience.

Another of the directions is indefinite in its reference to the number of actors taking part in a scene: 'Enter three or foure, and offer to binde him: Hee strives' (TLN 1394-95). Now this, we might think, is almost certainly authorial, for it compares closely to authorial directions in the extant dramatic manuscripts The Book of Sir Thomas More ('Enter [t]hree or foure Prentises of trades' [Malone Society Reprint (1911), l. 453]) and The Launching of the Mary ('Enter Lo. Ad: [Lord Admiral] wth .2. or .3. attendantes' [Malone Society Reprint (1933), l. 1216]). Yet such comparison is possible only because the manuscript directions survived transmission through the hands of theatrical book-keepers; both More and Launching are listed as "prompt-books" by Greg himself (Dramatic Documents I, 243-251, 300-305). Thus even though the call for 'three or foure' in Comedy of Errors may originate with the author, its appearance in the printed text does not necessarily rule out the possibility that printer's copy was a theatrical manuscript, rather than the author's "foul papers."

A third kind of stage direction in Comedy of Errors names properties that may have been of interest to a book-keeper and so perhaps suggests his hand, although these directions, too, may well be authorial, since Shakespeare was so familiar with the needs of the stage: 'Enter Angelo with the Chaine'; 'Enter Dromio Eph. with a ropes end'; 'Enter Antipholus Siracusia


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with his Rapier drawne, and Dromio Sirac' (TLN 955, 1288, 1440-41). On the whole, the stage directions in Errors offer no decisive evidence for editorial identification of printer's copy either as an authorial manuscript or as a theatrical playbook.[5] There are certainly authorial touches, but these could have been transferred to a playbook. As Greg wrote in Dramatic Documents of the Elizabethan Playhouses, "It is time we asked the question: What treatment did the book-keeper mete out to the author's stage-directions? The answer is that as a rule he left them alone" (I, 213).


In quest of the nature of printer's copy for Errors we must then turn, to quote Evans again, to the "variety, ambiguity, and inconsistency" in the naming of characters in the stage directions and speech prefixes. What chiefly separates us from Greg in evaluating these is the detailed reconstruction of the printing of the Folio that Hinman has provided and that has been modified by subsequent investigation.[6] The most significant part of this bibliographical project, for our purposes, has been the discrimination of three compositors at work on Folio Errors and the identification of their pages and columns. The order in which the pages were printed and the stints of the three typesetters are as follows:

Compositor  Page or Col.  TLNs  Act, scene, line[7]  
H3v  616-742  III.i.1-81  (Hinman, Howard-Hill, Werstine) 
H4a  743-808  III.i.82-III.ii.22  (Howard-Hill) 
H4b  809-874  III.ii.23-83 
H3a  486-549  II.ii.92-154  (Howard-Hill) 
H3b  550-615  II.ii.155-219 
H4v  875-997  III.ii.84-IV.i.15 
H2v  354-485  II.i.78-II.ii.91  (Howard-Hill) 
H5  998-1127  IV.i.16-IV.ii.21 
H2a  230-288  I.ii.65-II.i.14 
H2b  289-353  II.i.15-77  (Howard-Hill) 
most of H5v  1128-1234  IV.ii.22-IV.iii.51 
lower H5vb  1235-1254  IV.iii.52-71  (O'Connor) 
H1va  100-164  I.i.97-I.ii.2  (Howard-Hill) 
H1vb  165-229  I.ii.3-64 
H6  1255-1381  IV.iii.72-IV.iv.93 
H1  1-99  I.i.1-96  (Howard-Hill) 
H6v  1382-1503  IV.iv.94-V.i.37 
I2v  1889-end  V.i.400-end 
I1v  1631-1760  V.i.159-282 
I2  1761-1888  V.i.283-399 
I1  1504-1630  V.i.38-158 


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As a general rule, one can trace to copy inconsistencies that are found in the work of more than one of the compositors—for example, the failure, on all but a few occasions, to distinguish between the speech prefixes for the two Antipholi until both are onstage at the same time. By the obverse of the same rule, inconsistencies that are concentrated in the work of just a single compositor need not be attributed to copy, unless the compositor was demonstrably incapable of introducing them himself; an example is Compositor B's apparent refusal to distinguish between the speech prefixes of the two Dromios, in contrast with the regularity with which both Compositor C and Compositor D maintained the distinction.

Most—but by no means all—of the inconsistency in Errors probably does derive from printer's copy, although editors have exaggerated its quantity and seriousness to support Greg's position that printer's copy cannot have been a playbook. Four major characters (the Antipholi and the Dromios) and six minor ones are affected. Antipholus of Siracusa is called 'Antipholis Erotes' or 'Antipholis Errotis' in stage directions until the scene now numbered III.ii, when he becomes 'Antipholus of Siracusia'. Antipholus of Ephesus is called 'Antipholis Sereptus' in the opening stage direction of II.i, but thereafter becomes 'Antipholus of Ephesus'. Neither the use of Latinate epithets nor the spelling Antipholis is compositorial, for Compositors C and D each used both spellings—Antipholis and Antipholus—and both kinds of naming.[8]

As editor after editor has shown (however inadvertently), it is easy to overemphasize the ambiguity arising from this variety in naming.[9] Indeed no ambiguity at all could have arisen in the theatre from the naming of Antipholus of Ephesus as 'Sereptus' in the opening stage direction of II.i because he does not even enter in this scene—Adriana, who does enter, is merely being identified, superfluously from a theatrical point of view, as 'wife to Antipholis Sereptus' (TLN 273). The only ambiguity that a book-keeper might have encountered would be in determining whether the character called, in the printed text, 'Antipholis Errotis' or 'Erotes' who occupies the stage for most of the first two acts is to be identified as 'Antipholus of Siracusa' or as 'Antipholus of Ephesus', each of whom must get on stage and off during the last three acts. But the extent to which this particular inconsistency would even have been a problem for a putative book-keeper is difficult to determine. We now have only the opaquely corrupt Latin 'Errotis' and 'Erotes'—both spellings obviously errors and probably Compositor C's, if not a scribe's—for whatever Shakespeare may have originally written.[10] A putative book-keeper may well have had the correct Latin before him, which may have designated the character in question in a quite unambiguous way. In spite of the corrupt Latin in the Folio, no editor has ever had any difficulty associating Antipholus 'Errotis' with Antipholus of 'Siracusa'. This association is enforced by an important theatrical consideration, the so-called "law of reentry"; the 'Antipholis Errotis' who exits with Luciana and Adriana at the end of Act Two cannot be the 'Antipholus of Ephesus' who enters with Angelo and Balthaser at the beginning of Act Three. It may be dangerous for editors to assume that


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they have so much more expertise in interpreting theatrical texts than did the companies who performed them. Yet editors make just such an assumption when they assert that printer's copy for Folio Errors cannot have been a playbook because of such a minor ambiguity—and one that may well have been compounded or even introduced only when the play was printed.

Whatever the terms of the distinction, the Antipholi are distinguished from each other in stage directions for their entrances by all three compositors. There are only two exceptions; these are Compositor B's only attempts to reproduce the entrances together of Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant Dromio of Ephesus: 'Enter Antipholus Ephes. Dromio from the Courtizans'; 'Enter Antipholus, and E. Dromio of Ephesus' (TLN 995, 1665). Neither attempt is quite satisfactory, the first hanging the modifier 'Ephes.' between the names it may modify, the second leaving Antipholus unmodified and duplicating the modification of Dromio. Since both directions were set by a single workman, he is the likely source of such confusion, which therefore can hardly be taken to indicate the nature of his copy; the other two compositors, who presumably used comparable printer's copy, did manage, after all, invariably to reproduce unambiguous entrances for the Antipholi, and so did Compositor B on all but two occasions.

But in the speech prefixes the Antipholi are rarely distinguished from each other until they meet for the first time in the last scene. Then Compositor B, who alone set type for the last scene, invariably used 'E. Ant.' for Antipholus of Ephesus and 'S. Ant.' for Antipholus of Siracusa. There are two reasons why we cannot credit B in this scene with imposing the necessary distinction on the prefixes: never before in the play did Compositor B attain anything close to consistency in preserving a distinction between the Antipholi in speech prefixes—what a compositor fails to do in one place he can hardly be credited with doing in another; and furthermore, earlier in the play, the distinction is occasionally found not only on B's pages, but also on those of his fellow compositor, D—what is common to the pages of two different compositors would seem more likely to derive from copy than from the independent intervention of two different typesetters.[11] Indeed it is quite impossible to attribute to Compositor D addition of the initial E to the five E. An(t)(ti). speech prefixes that he set in the first column of page H3v because this was the first column of the play on which he worked, and so he could not have known yet that there were two different characters both named Antipholus, between whom it might be necessary to make a distinction. So it would appear that copy occasionally made a distinction between the Antipholi in speech prefixes even when it was not strictly necessary to do so, and that copy maintained a consistent distinction between the speech prefixes of the two characters on the only occasion that matters in the theatre, the occasion when they are on stage at the same time in the play's last scene.

What editors display as a most serious ambiguity in printer's copy is the single instance very early in the play (TLN 409) when Antipholus of Siracusa is designated by the speech prefix 'E. Ant.', the speech heading later associated


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only with Antipholus of Ephesus. It is more likely, however, that Compositor C introduced this form under the influence of the name Antipholis Errotis that he had seen in the stage direction he had last set into type (TLN 394), and so this anomalous speech prefix cannot be assumed to derive from copy.[12] Compositor C was the only compositor to encounter in stage directions the Latinate form that he reproduced as Errotis or Erotes and the only one to typeset a speech prefix for Antipholus of Siracusa as E. Ant.; anyone who wished to trace the speech prefix to copy would have to dismiss this conjunction of evidence as mere coincidence.[13]

Whereas the lack of any consistent distinction between the Antipholi in speech prefixes until absolutely necessary in the last scene probably originates with printer's copy, failures to distinguish between the Dromios in speech prefixes are comparatively rare, and most of them probably compositorial in origin. Dromio of Ephesus is always identified as such in entrance directions; Dromio of Siracusa is merely Dromio only twice in entrance directions (TLN 162, 1476). The first lapse is probably Shakespeare's, since it involves the character's first entrance in the play, but, in the order of printing, it involves the second and last entrance set for him by Compositor C, who had previously used the unambiguous designation Dromio Siracusia (TLN 401). The second lapse is hardly a lapse at all: 'Enter Antipholus and Dromio againe' (TLN 1476) must refer to the Siracusian pair who had left the stage only a dozen or so lines above (TLN 1461).

Two of the Folio compositors almost invariably distinguished between the Dromios in speech prefixes, using 'S. Dro.' and 'E. Dro.' ('Dromio.', 'Drom.', 'Dr.'). Compositor C's pages contain thirty-five examples of these forms, Compositor D's forty-eight. Compositor C omitted the distinguishing initial only three times, Compositor D five times. In numerical terms then these two compositors maintained the distinction 91% of the time. Compositor C's three omissions form a sequence at the end of II.i that stretches from the bottom of column H2b into the top of column H2va (TLN 352, 355, 358). Earlier in this scene, in column H2b, Compositor C set 'E. Dro.' six times (TLN 320, 324, 328, 333, 335, 347). Since column H2va was already in type before the compositor turned to column H2b, the sequence of omissions does not correspond to the sequence of his typesetting, and so he was probably not responsible for the omissions. It would seem instead that Shakespeare never bothered to include the distinguishing initials for Dromio of Ephesus' last three speeches in this scene, and that Compositor C merely followed copy. Five times in Compositor D's pages a speech is headed simply 'Dro.' Three times the omission of distinguishing initials on Compositor D's pages may have been caused by justification of long lines. The most convincing example concerns the last speech prefix that Compositor D set at the bottom of column H4b (TLN 872; see Fig. 1); here the first line of the speech is so tightly set that there is much less white space to the left and to the right of the speech prefix than is ordinarily found in D's work, and no room for the usual initial. Although the first line of Dromio of Siracusa's penultimate speech in the


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same column is much more generously spaced, the suspicion still may arise that Compositor D again left out the S in order to justify the line (TLN 868; see Fig. 1). A third instance of Dro. alone as a prefix in a long line occurs immediately after the entrance of 'S. Dromio' near the top of the first column of page H5v (TLN 1136; see Fig. 2). Since, as I will discuss later, there is a possibility that speech prefixes were sometimes omitted from copy immediately after such entrances, perhaps Compositor D alone was responsible for the choice of the form Dro. here—a choice that he may have taken when he came to justify the line. In two other cases, however, Compositor D may have reflected copy in setting Dro. alone as a speech head; neither of these instances displays any evidence that the exigencies of typesetting interfered with the faithful replication of copy forms (TLN 179, 550). Printer's copy may not then have been perfectly consistent in distinguishing between the Dromios in speech prefixes—only nearly perfect, to judge by the work of Compositors C and D.

The longstanding editorial impression that printer's copy was far from perfect in this regard is based primarily then on Compositor B's pages. Until


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the last scene, when the appearance of the Dromios onstage together makes distinction mandatory and when Compositor B scrupulously maintained the distinction, his pages contain only eighteen examples of the initials S and E in speech prefixes for the Dromios, compared to thirty instances of Dro. alone. That is, Compositor B made the distinction only 38% of the time, in sharp contrast to Compositor C and D's 91%. Nevertheless, it might be argued that the breakdown of the distinction in the printed text merely reflects a comparable breakdown in copy for the last half of the play, which was chiefly the work of Compositor B alone. But B's stint overlaps those of C and D, B having set pages H4v-5 and 6-6v, C and D having shared page H5v. While on pages H4v-5, Compositor B maintained the distinction only three of a possible twenty-three times, Compositors C and D kept it up eighteen of nineteen times on page H5v—the single exception on TLN 1136 probably arising, as has already been noted, from a lack of space for the initial S in a long line. It seems likely then that whoever wrote what became printer's copy for the Folio was, with isolated exceptions such as I.ii and the end of II.i, generally careful to distinguish the Dromios, but his care had little effect on Compositor B.

Printer's copy seems to have been much less consistent in the naming of five of the six minor characters whose names editors have cited as evidence that Folio Errors is based on "foul papers." It is true that none of the alleged confusion surrounding these five can be compositorial in origin, but again editors may have overstated the difficulties. (1) Egeon is never called by his proper name in either stage directions or speech prefixes. Yet in both his entrances, he does appear under the same unambiguous designation—'the Merchant of Siracusa'; he is 'Marchant', 'Mer.', or 'Merch.' in the speech prefixes of the play's first scene, and first 'Mar. Fat.' (Marchant Father) and then simply 'Fa.' or 'Fath.' in the speech prefixes of the last scene (TLN 2, 4, 30, 35, 101, 127, 160, 1599, 1671, 1761, 1771). The shifts in his speech prefixes do not, however, produce further ambiguity in the designation of speakers; instead they serve, in the play's final scene, to distinguish Egeon from the nameless 'Merchant' who is also a speaker in this scene. (2) A second minor character enters as 'Angelo the Goldsmith' and 'Angelo' in Act Three, but simply as 'Goldsmith' twice in Acts Four and Five (TLN 617, 955, 981, 1466). His speeches are prefixed 'Angelo.' or 'Ang.' during his initial appearance, but in Acts Four and Five the prefix becomes 'Gold.' (TLN 715, 783, 956-972, 988-1071, 1467-1869). There is no other goldsmith in the play, however, and no other Angelo; here we have some inconsistency in naming but no ambiguity. (3, 4) A third minor character, the 'Marchant' who speaks to Antipholus of Siracusa in I.ii as 'Mer.' (Compositor C's preference, TLN 163) or 'E. Mar.' (D's preference, TLN 187, 195), is in no way distinguished from a fourth character, the 'Merchant' who speaks in the last two acts set by Compositors B and D (TLN 981, 982, 1038, 1045, 1056, 1466 and so on). But it is so obvious that the two characters cannot be the same that no one before Alexander Dyce in his 1857 edition saw the ambiguity as serious enough to warrant


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editorial interference. (5) Three names are used for the 'Kitchen wench' ('Luce', 'Nell', and 'Dowsabell'), but on her single entrance she is invariably called 'Luce' both in the stage direction and in the speech prefixes (TLN 679-704). Since the names Nell and Dowsabell are found only in dialogue references to her when she is not onstage, one wonders why her various names have ever been cited by textual critics as a reason that printer's copy could not have been a theatrical manuscript, since this inconsistency has no bearing on performance (TLN 900, 1099).[14] (6) Finally, a sixth variant name arising from the substitution of 'Juliana' for Luciana in column H4a (TLN 786-787) is almost certainly compositorial. Compositor C probably misread 'Luciana' on seeing it for the first time here in the first column of the play that he set into type. From the inconsistencies just recorded, Greg, in The Shakespeare First Folio, drew what I believe is too strict a conclusion: "since it is difficult to believe that the confusion in the character names and prefixes would have been tolerated in a prompt-book, it would seem that the manuscript [behind Folio Errors] was most likely foul papers" (pp. 201-202).


To evaluate Greg's categorical statement we need to summarize the "confusion" in Errors that cannot be discounted as a probable consequence of printing and compare it to what can be observed in the manuscripts that Greg himself designated "prompt-books." The most serious confusion in the copy for Errors seems to have been the variant identification of Antipholus of Siracusa, first, only with Latinate epithets (corrupted to 'Errotis' or 'Erotes' in the Folio) and, then, only with the place-name 'Siracusa'—different designations for the same character. A far less serious example of the same thing arises with the variants 'Angelo the Goldsmith', 'Angelo', and 'Goldsmith' in entrance directions. Yet neither of these compares to what we find in the manuscript of Thomas Heywood's The Captives, one of Greg's "prompt-books" (Malone Society Reprint [1953]). There a figure enters three times under the clear designation 'Lord de Averne' but comes on a fourth time as simply 'the knight' in an entrance direction (ll. 869-870, 1306, 1721, 2464). But the theatrical annotator of Heywood's manuscript would apparently have been satisfied with even less uniformity and specificity than Heywood offered: when the annotator recopied the direction for de Averne's first entrance, placing it in the left margin for greater visibility, he reduced the name to a simple 'Lo:' (l. 868). The same play has what may be a single character named 'gripus the ffishermann', as he is called when he enters at line 2850 (compare 'Angelo the Goldsmith'). Yet the various names of this figure are so problematic that Arthur Brown, who edited the manuscript for the Malone Society, had to reserve judgment about Gripus's identity (p. xiv). Gripus may or may not be one of the '2 ffishermen' who enter at line 904; he does seem to be 'the ffishermann' whose appearance is called for at line 1907. In this context, the variable designations of Antipholus of Siracusa and Angelo the Goldsmith in Errors would scarcely forbid us from thinking that


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Folio copy may have been a theatrical manuscript. Nor would the use of the generic name 'the Merchant of Siracusa' for Egeon in entrance directions.

In Errors and in Greg's "prompt-books" characters also enter under designations that could apply just as well to other characters in the same plays. Dromio of Siracusa is simply 'Dromio', also his brother's name, when he first enters. The two different merchants in Errors each enter as 'a Merchant' or 'Marchant'; nevertheless, it would require a concerted effort to mix them up since one is found only in the play's first scene and then only in the company of Antipholus of Siracusa and the other, on both his appearances in the last two acts, in the company of Angelo the Goldsmith. In the playbook Edmond Ironside there are two Archbishops, Canterbury and York (Malone Society Reprint [1928]). The latter does not make an appearance until the beginning of Act Three; there was little effort expended then to distinguish Canterbury from York until that time. Although Canterbury is called 'Archbishope of Canterburye' in the first direction for his entrance, the next time he is just 'Arch: Bish:' and the next 'ArchB' (see the entrance directions in ll. 1, 385, and 564); on these occasions, he appears only in the company of Canutus. When the two Archbishops appear together in Act Three, and thereafter, they are always distinguished from each other by name. There is no more need to distinguish Canterbury from York when he appears alone in the first two acts of Edmond Ironside than there is to specify which of the nameless merchants enters in Errors, since in both cases the characters' identities are established by the groups in which they appear; Antipholus of Siracusa has his merchant, Angelo his; in Edmond Ironside, Canutus has his archbishop (Canterbury). To grant the possibility that printer's copy for Folio Errors could be a "prompt-book," Greg requires that it display a level of gratuitous precision in the identification of characters that exceeds that found in an extant "prompt-book" which is thoroughly representative of that class of manuscript.

The same is true of Greg's implicit demand for uniform and distinctive speech prefixes for each character throughout a printed text before he will allow printer's copy to be a "prompt-book." The frequent use of Ant. for both the Antipholi until they appear together in the last scene, the occasional use of Dro. for one or the other of the Dromios on their separate entrances, the use of Mer. for Egeon in the first scene, for Antipholus of Siracusa's merchant in the second, and for Angelo's merchant in the last two acts all sink Folio Errors below Greg's expectations. So do the variant speech prefixes for Egeon—Mer., Mar. Fat., and Fath. But some speech prefixes in Greg's "prompt-books" are themselves neither uniform nor distinctive. In Henry Glapthorne's The Lady Mother, the steward Alexander Lovell speaks as 'Lo:' (or simply 'L:') until line 1919, after which, in violation of any principle of uniformity, 'Alex:' is used for the rest of the play (Malone Society Reprint [1959]). In John a Kent and John a Cumber, the speech prefix Iohn is always used for John a Kent, even when he shares the stage with John a Cumber (Malone Society Reprint [1923]). This is hardly an example of the use of


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distinctive speech prefixes in "prompt-books." Nor are "prompt-book" speech heads necessarily uniform even within a single scene. In The Lady Mother, Sir Hugh speaks both as 'Sr Hu:' and as 'Re:' for Recorder (ll. 2204-2570), a shift much harder to follow than Egeon's change from Mar. Fat. to Fath.

In a "prompt-book" we might expect at a minimum to find clear distinctions among speech prefixes when the characters to which they refer are onstage at the same time, but such is often not the case. For example, an entrance direction in The Launching of the Mary calls for the presence of '1.2.' committeemen—presumably it means "committeeman 1 and committeeman 2" (l. 142). In the scene that follows this entrance direction, some speeches are prefixed 'Com: I.', but others, including two very long ones, are headed 'Com:' or 'Committ:'—a heading that could designate either one of the committeemen (ll. 216, 255, 278, 280, 284, 349). Similar ambiguity in speech prefixes arises in The Captives in a passage beginning with an entrance direction calling for the appearance of three women, 'Ashburne . . . his wyffe. Palestra Scribonia. . . .' The first speech prefix employed in this scene is the thoroughly ambiguous 'woman', which can be seen to refer, only upon examination of the speech and the reply to it, to Ashburne's wife. No such problems obtrude in Folio Errors, which can therefore be said to exhibit, in some respects, a clarity in the designation of characters that surpasses what is to be found in extant "prompt-books." By 1955, when Greg published The Shakespeare First Folio, he seems to have forgotten how much inconsistency was tolerated in playbooks. His judgment of the possibility of theatrical provenance for the manuscript behind Errors in The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare (1942) seems closer to the mark: "the text is generally clean, and at this early date it is particularly dangerous to dogmatize. Perhaps a tolerably careful author's copy may have been made to serve on the stage with a minimum of editing" (p. 140).


Although Greg came to believe by 1955 that printer's copy for Errors could not have been a playbook, he continued to argue, following Chambers, that copy contained annotations by a book-keeper. In early formulations of this argument, both Greg and Chambers had relied upon slight evidence of (1) duplication and contradiction in three stage directions and (2) discrepancies in the spellings and forms of characters' names between the initial speech prefix in a scene and later prefixes. The first of the discrepancies in speech prefixes they cited is found at TLN 163, where the initial speech prefix for the Merchant is 'Mer.', although later in the scene he is called 'E. Mar.' The other two such anomalies affect Dromio of Siracusa's entrances at TLN 1073-74 and TLN 1135-36. In each case, his first speech, to be delivered immediately upon his entrance, is prefixed by 'Dro.', but the rest of his speeches in each scene are prefixed by 'S. Dro.' Greg reasoned that since, in the Folio, speech prefixes were twice omitted after entrances of single characters who spoke as soon as they came onstage (TLN 1183, 1641), then Shakespeare habitually


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omitted speech prefixes immediately after entrances. The omissions were then, in Greg's opinion, repaired by a book-keeper whose hand can be traced through the discrepancies in forms and spellings. Greg may well have been right to argue that Shakespeare omitted some speech prefixes, but there is no need to invoke a book-keeper to account for the variant forms 'Mer.' and 'E. Mar.' or 'Dro.' and 'S. Dro.' The Mer. / E. Mar. variants seem to be merely compositorial. Compositor C set the entrance direction 'Enter Antipholis Erotes, a Marchant, and Dromio' near the bottom of his column H1va. He also set the prefix 'Mer.' immediately after the entrance; whether he copied the prefix or supplied it in its absence from copy we cannot know. Compositor D, however, was the one who set column H1vb, which contains the only two other speeches by this merchant, both prefixed 'E. Mar.' Since the variant forms were set into type by two different workmen, it would be superfluous to invoke two different hands in the copy as well—one the author's, the other the book-keeper's—merely to account for the variants. In the other two cases (Dro., S. Dro.), the discrepancies very probably did result from omission of speech prefixes after entrances, but the omissions could have been repaired by the compositors—there is no need to postulate a book-keeper's hand in the transmission of the play.[15]

By 1942 Greg had abandoned, without explanation, this half of his case for a book-keeper's hand in the copy for Errors and had come to rely solely upon the errors and contradictions in three stage directions. He suggested that the book-keeper added 'Exeunt omnes' to the stage direction at TLN 1898-99 to produce the contradiction: 'Exeunt omnes. Manet the two Dromio's and two Brothers'. However, such contradictory stage directions appear in plays identified by Greg as set from "foul papers" that could not be demonstrated to have passed through a book-keeper's hands. Foakes has cited parallels from 3 Henry VI ('Exeunt. | Manet Richard.' TLN 1646-47) and Coriolanus ('Exeunt | Manet the Guard and Menenius.' TLN 3329-30), and even closer parallels are to be found in the first quarto of Titus Andronicus, in which the stage direction 'Exeunt Omnes' (TLN 374) is contradicted by Titus' remaining on stage, and in the Folio Antony and Cleopatra with 'Exit omnes. | Manet Enobarbus, Agrippa, Mecenas' (TLN 880-881). The second stage direction cited by Greg as evidence of a book-keeper's annotations is split between the two columns of page H6v. The bottom of column H6va reads, 'Runne all out', a direction repeated in part in the second line of H6vb: 'Exeunt omnes, as fast as may be, frighted' (TLN 1445-47). Greg blamed the book-keeper for the alleged duplication, but Foakes offered an alternative explanation:

The fact that the passage . . . is split between the foot of one column and the top of another needs to be taken into account; it may be that the author wrote one direction in the right margin of his manuscript, but divided it because of its length into two lines, 'Runne all out / as fast as may be, frighted,' then, in the accident of printing, and of the division between columns, the direction was split into two and attached to different lines. If so, the 'Exeunt omnes' could be the compositor's addition to make sense of 'as fast as may be, frighted'. (pp. xiv-xv)


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The first half of this apparently split stage direction appears in the direction line of the first column. Since no other stage direction in the Folio Comedies section is located in the direction line, it would appear that Compositor B was ready to take extraordinary measures to avoid setting a marginal stage direction at the top of a column. For this reason, he would not have completed the direction begun at the bottom of column H6va with the top line of column H6vb. That is, if Foakes (and Greg) are right in believing that Shakespeare wrote only a single stage direction, it is probable that Compositor B would have split it in two to avoid the typographical blemish of a marginal stage direction beginning a column. It would be a lucky hit if Foakes's explanation represented precisely what happened in Jaggard's shop in the early 1620's, but the unusual position occupied by this stage direction forbids an editor from using it to draw inferences about the nature of printer's copy.

My only reservation about Foakes's account is the possibility that Shakespeare himself could have written both directions as they now stand. 'Exeunt omnes, as fast as may be, frighted' closely resembles the following stage direction in the First Folio text of The Taming of the Shrew : 'Exit Biondello, Tranio and Pedant as fast as may be' (TLN 2490). The Shrew, like Errors, has long been thought to have been printed from Shakespeare's "foul papers" as annotated by a book-keeper, but since The Shrew direction is not a duplication, it is regarded as authorial in origin. No other text contains as close a parallel to 'Runne all out', which no one has doubted is Shakespeare's, although TLN 840 of the fragment of the first printing of 1 Henry IV might be mentioned: '. . . they all runne away . . . .' This fragment is believed to have been printed either from "foul papers" or from a transcript of them.

The last erroneous stage direction charged to the book-keeper by Greg is the redundant 'Enter Antipholus, and E. Dromio of Ephesus' (TLN 1665) already discussed. Since no other evidence in Errors suggests a book-keeper's annotation of printer's copy, this error, too, might better be charged to Compositor B, especially since the same compositor apparently had some difficulty with the only other entrance direction that he set for these two characters: 'Enter Antipholus Ephes. Dromio from the Courtizans' (TLN 995). In my view it is time that editors abandoned Greg's speculations about a book-keeper's annotations in the printer's copy for Errors—for lack of evidence.


What then is the nature of the manuscript underlying the Folio text of Errors? This question, it seems to me, must go without an answer. Certainly Greg's attempt to resolve the problem in terms of a "rigid dichotomy" between "foul papers" and a "prompt-book" fails in part because he characterized "prompt-books" as exhibiting a regularity in the identification of characters in stage directions and speech prefixes that was not achieved until the edited texts published in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Once the effects on the Folio Errors of its passage through the printing house have been discounted, comparison of the variety, inconsistency, and ambiguity in


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the naming of its characters with the standards achieved in playbooks actually used to guide Renaissance performances has indicated that the alleged confusions in Folio Errors do not, in spite of Greg's later belief, eliminate the possibility that Folio Errors could have been set from such a playbook. Yet there is no positive evidence in the printed text of theatrical annotations such as would be found in a playbook. As a consequence, Folio Errors resists secure classification in either of Greg's categories for printer's copy—"foul papers" or "prompt-books."[16] Such is the case, I suspect, for a good many printed plays of the English Renaissance. Textual theory and editorial practice that rest on putative identification of printer's copy in Greg's terms are probably then grounded only in sand.



The Riverside Shakespeare (1974), p. 104.


For Chambers's discussion, see William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (1930), I, 305-312; the earlier of Greg's accounts appeared in The Editorial Problem in Shakespeare (1942), pp. 140-141, the later in The Shakespeare First Folio (1955), pp. 200-202. There is no need for discussion of Wilson's theory of revision because he himself disowned it. See his edition of The Comedy of Errors (rev. ed. 1962), pp. 65ff. Theatrical plots, according to Greg, "are skeleton outlines of plays, consisting mainly of the entrances and exits of characters [but also including] the name of the actor of each part . . . on his first appearance[,] . . . occasional notes of the action and of the properties and noises required, and fairly full descriptions of dumb-shows and the like" (Shakespeare First Folio, pp. 163-164).


"Authority, Copy, and Transmission in Shakespeare's Texts," in Shakespeare Study Today: The Horace Howard Furness Memorial Lectures, ed. Georgianna Ziegler (1986), pp. 24-25.


TLN (Through Line Number) references are from The Norton Facsimile: The Shakespeare First Folio, prepared by Charlton Hinman (1968).


I prefer the term "playbook" to Greg's "prompt-book" because his term is not recorded in Shakespeare's period and because, when it later entered the language, it referred to a highly regularized and thoroughly annotated theatrical manuscript quite different from those that survive from Shakespeare's time. For recent discussion of playbooks and encouragement to reexamine them, see William B. Long, "'A bed / for woodstock': A Warning for the Unwary," Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 2 (1985), 91-118; "Stage-Directions: A Misinterpreted Factor in Determining Textual Provenance," Text 2 (1985), 121-137.


Charlton Hinman's compositor and type-case identifications in the Comedies section of the Folio (The Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare [1963], I, 400-424; II, 341-503) have been refined in a series of articles stretching over a decade: T. H. Howard-Hill, "The Compositors of Shakespeare's Folio Comedies," Studies in Bibliography 26 (1973), 61-106; John O'Connor, "Compositors D and F of the Shakespeare First Folio," SB 28 (1975), 81-117; and my "Cases and Compositors in the Shakespeare First Folio Comedies," SB 35 (1982), 206-234. When Hinman's attributions have been revised or when scholars have disagreed about attributions, I append to the chart the names of the investigators upon whom I depend for attributions.


In The Riverside Shakespeare.


TLN 162, 273, 393, 505, 615, 617, 786.


For representative comment, see Paul Jorgenson's edition of Errors in William Shakespeare: The Complete Works, The Pelican Text Revised, gen. ed. Alfred Harbage (1969), p. 58; Irving Ribner in his revision of Kittredge's edition (1971), p. 88; the New Penguin edition, ed. Stanley Wells (1972), p. 183; and Evans in The Riverside Shakespeare,


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quoted at the beginning of this paper. In The Complete Works, Original Spelling Edition (1986), editors Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor appear to follow this tradition in asserting that the First Folio text "is probably based on Shakespeare's own papers" (p. 291). In their General Introduction, they list the following as indications that these papers "in a rough state" served as copy for some printed plays: "loose ends, duplications, inconsistencies, and vaguenesses" (p. xxxiii). The version of this paper cited in the forthcoming Textual Companion to the Oxford Shakespeare is an earlier one presented at the Shakespeare Association of America meeting of 1985.


Chambers suggested that Errotis and Erotes were misreadings of Erraticus or Errans, and Sereptus a misreading of Surreptus (p. 312).


E. Ant. (Anti., An.) stands for Antipholus of Ephesus in speech prefixes in TLN 619, 633, 638, 641, 662, 1666, 1673, 1680, 1691, 1742, 1755, 1777, 1851-1901, as does Eph. Ant. (TLN 1005). S. Ant. (Anti.) is the speech prefix for Antipholus of Siracusa in TLN 815, 1448, 1822-1903.


Perhaps the word Errotis represents C's misreading of copy—hence I write "that he had seen."


The following facts may provide a larger context for this conclusion: the entrance of 'Antipholis Errotis' at TLN 394 was the first entrance for one of the Antipholi that Compositor C set into type. For the character's first speech, Compositor C used the prefix 'Ant.' (TLN 395). (Whether he took over this form from copy or supplied it himself we cannot know; although, as I shall later discuss, printer's copy may have sometimes omitted prefixes before the speeches of characters whose entrances immediately precede their speeches, we can scarcely assume that copy always omitted prefixes in such cases.) In the middle of Antipholus' speech, Compositor C set the entrance of 'Dromio Siracusia' (TLN 401). Then on TLN 408 he set the speech prefix 'S. Dro.' and only then, on TLN 409, E. Ant. Perhaps then Compositor C was influenced to set E. Ant. for Antipholis Errotis by his copy's use of S. Dro. for Dromio Siracusia. There is independent evidence to be presented shortly that copy did ordinarily distinguish between the Dromios in speech prefixes.


Nell is used for a pun on 'an Ell' and Dowsabell is not even used as a proper name by Dromio in the only speech in which it appears.


The view challenged in this paragraph is reported by Chambers as originally Greg's. It would be wrong to suppose that the omission of speech prefixes for speeches delivered by characters entering alone immediately upon their entrances is a definitive characteristic of "foul papers." In the manuscript "prompt-book" of Charlemagne there is an exactly contrary example:

I'm easlye chydd from tumulde; but deare Sr
Ent alofte tell me in pryuatt howe yow darre mayntayne it | Whisper, Enter
Ganelon yonder a standes, consultinge wth my foes | Ganelon alofte
(Malone Society Reprint [1938], ll. 2131-33)

The theatrical annotator has recopied from the right margin to the left the direction for Ganelon's entrance, but in the course of doing so he has incorporated the speech prefix 'Ga' that originally stood in his manuscript into his duplicate of the entrance direction as the first two letters of 'Ganelon'. Here then a speech prefix is omitted as part of the process of theatrical annotation, not as a consequence of an author writing "foul papers" currente calamo.


There are, of course, still other categories of printer's copy for English Renaissance plays, most notably intermediate scribal transcripts of "foul papers" that may preserve many features of the original papers. Yet so many of the same features survive in contemporary playbooks that I find it impossible to distinguish, in the case of printer's copy for Errors, among "foul papers," an intermediate transcript of "foul papers," and a playbook.