Monday, April 03, 2017

What is the Shakespearean notepad shown on Antiques Roadshow?

I drew a Shakespearean colleague's attention to this intriguing item. The notebook is held open in the valuer's hand during the clip, so we got our early modern telephoto lenses out, and have tried reading what's visible.

In various screengrabs of this page one can read:

[above the binding gutter]
For such a warped slip of wilderness 
 Ne'er issued from his blood.
~ from III i of Measure for Measure
[Then on main page visible in this view, continued quotations from Measure for Measure

I have laboured for the poor gentleman to the extremest shore of my modesty: 
~ III ii
There is scarce truth enough alive to make societies secure; but security enough to make fellowships accurst:
~ III ii
To draw with idle spiders' strings 
Most ponderous and substantial things! 
Shame to him whose cruel striking 
Kills for faults of his own liking! 
~ from the Duke's end soliloquy in Act III, quoted with a little look back to the earlier couplet after getting the spiders' strings couplet down first.
 thousand escapes of wit 
Make thee the father of their idle dreams, 
And rack thee in their fancies
~ start of IV (that stray moment of soliloquy, as the Duke continues to ruminate)
Sith that the justice of your title to him 
Doth flourish the deceit.
~ IV i
As fast lock'd up in sleep as guiltless labour 
When it lies starkly in the traveller's bones: 
~ IV ii
he spurs on his power 
To qualify in others: were he meal'd with that 
Which he corrects ...
~ IV ii

At the top of this page view are qq's from Comedy of Errors, from Aegeon's speech in Act V. I can see bits of 'In sap-consuming winter's drizzled snow ... and all conduits of my blood froze up / yet hath my night of life'

Now, the 1623 Folio order runs:
Tempest, 2 Gent, Merry Wives, Mfor M, Errors, Much Ado, LLL

So after the compiler had done with Errors, the quotations naturally switch to Much Ado:

"Never came trouble to me in your likeness" adapts 'Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace'.

Then we have :
"Pick out mine eyes with a ballad maker's pen and hang me up for a blind Cupid", missing out the '[hang me up at the door of a brothel house for the sign of] bit.

'and hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me, and he that hits me let him be clapped on the shoulder and called Adam'

rendered as:

"and hang me FOR a bottle like a cat, shoot at me, and he that  FIRST hits clap on the back and call him Adam"

Claudio's "Drive liking to the name of love"
and part of Don Pedro's response:

<'Thou wilt be a lover presently / And'> "tire thy hearer with a book of words"

and finally from Don Pedro's scene-ending speech 

'and in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart' which may be rendered as:
"And unclasps my head in thy bosom", but it looks more like 'He unclasps'

We then jump to Act 1 scene iii, and Don John:

"apply a moral medicine to a mortifying mischief"

"and claw no man in his humour" (but looks a bit like 'he claw[s])

My screengrabs then start to go blurry, but I can see portions of:

'had rather be a canker in his hedge than a rose in his grace'

'I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog'

The last bits I can make out go forwards to Act 2 and Beatrice:

'I never can see him but I am heartburned an hour after'

'to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl.'

That's what I could make of these two pages; my colleague could see a similar set of seriatim quotations from Two Gentlemen of Verona in an earlier page held open.

So, what it seems to be, on the evidence that can be accessed, is someone who has got hold of a 1623 Folio, and is working through creating their own aid to discourse. Bits of Shakespeare to drop into his talk, or maybe re-word a little to sound like a witty or sententious talker himself. I assume a male, because it seems to me a very male thing to be anxious about your discourse in such a manner, making a conscious effort to load up the memory with aphorisms and clever-sounding stuff. He - if it is a he - seems quite drawn to Duke Vincentio in Measure for Measure . A sententious speaker attracting a sententious reader. 

It very definitely represents reader reaction to the Folio. One cannot tell without a full transcript how far the reader got, or any sense of favourite plays. It's certainly material for the Reading Experience Database, and Shakespeareans should get a lot of fun from it. The BBC seems inclined to regard the note-taking as 'analytic'. I don't think what can be seen so far sustains that, but there are scores more pages.


glenk said...

many thanks for this early insight into the notepad's contents. it looks like 4 consecutive pages are shown on the tv clip; if all are similar to the one you've analysed, there is going to be less scholarly interest than might have been hoped. your conclusion seems very plausible from the limited evidence so far available. fingers crossed for better things, but thanks anyway. -glen kinch

DrRoy said...

Thanks for the comment, Glen. It will be interesting to see how far the compiler got, whether he (?) went mad about 'Hamlet'(for instance). The small size of the notepad really does make it look like this was someone who really wanted to talk Shakespeare, and have the quotable quotes about his (?) person.