12 May 2017

The Stationer's Register and Love's Labour's Won [1981]


[12 May 1981]
O
ne of the projects that have been distracting me in here is the whole question of Love’s Labor Won. The thing is—no-one has paid attention to the Stationer’s Register evidence, which is fatal to certain ideas. If there was a quarto in 1603 then the plays entered in 1622 or 1623 or whenever it was cannot be Love’s Labor Won in any form—which rules out for instance an early draft of All’s Well that Ends Well—T. W. Baldwin’s choice. Much Ado About Nothing could be Love’s Labor Won only if the 1603 writer in this single instance gave a play a title not found on the title-page. The Taming of the Shrew is possible on the assumption that a good quarto of the play was issued after the 1594 bad quarto (if it was) and was then lost—but in that case, why did the Folio editors prefer the title of the bad quarto over the good? My suggestion is that the play is indeed lost. Why then wasn’t it included in the first folio? Either (a) because it was not by Shakespeare—but the fact that all the other plays mentioned by Meres were included makes this at least unlikely—or (b) LLW was a bad quarto and the editors lacked a good text to replace it. In support of this second conjecture may I point out that (1) Love’s Labor Lost was not entered in the SR; (2) It was issued as having been augmented or enlarged or something like that; (3) LLL was printed in the Folio exclusively from the quarto; (4) LLL seems to cry out for a sequel. It has often been suggested that LLL was first issued in a bad quarto, like Romeo and Juliet, which has been lost. What if LLW was also so issued, but was not replaced by a good quarto? What if LLL and LLW were in effect two parts of a piece? or whatever. Anyway, the only real problem I see with this is the question of why no good text would be available for the play. No text apparently available for LLL, but that could be explained on the assumption that the quarto had made a ms unnecessary. And so on and so forth. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been playing with.

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