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Punctuation and its dramatic value in Shakespearean drama

Author: Anthony Graham-White
Publisher: Newark : University of Delaware Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, ©1995.
Edition/Format:   Print book : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
Although punctuation is primarily used in the twentieth century to mark and clarify syntax, it functioned primarily to mark oral delivery in Elizabethan England. In this book, author Anthony Graham-White explores the uses of punctuation by Shakespeare, his predecessors, and his contemporaries. It suggests that, in those plays where it is used expressively, punctuation helps us to find the rhythm of a speech or scene
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Genre/Form: Criticism, interpretation, etc
Additional Physical Format: Online version:
Graham-White, Anthony.
Punctuation and its dramatic value in Shakespearean drama.
Newark : University of Delaware Press ; London ; Cranbury, NJ : Associated University Presses, ©1995
(OCoLC)680258347
Named Person: William Shakespeare; William Shakespeare; William Shakespeare; William Shakespeare; William Shakespeare
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: Anthony Graham-White
ISBN: 0874135427 9780874135428
OCLC Number: 30976642
Description: 191 pages ; 24 cm
Contents: 1. The Development of Punctuation in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries --
2. Prescriptions for Punctuation in Grammars --
3. The Printing Process and Punctuation --
4. Punctuation in the Playscript --
5. The Interpretation of Internal Evidence: Shaping Speeches in Grammer Gurton's Needle --
6. The Interpretation of Internal Evidence: Rhetoric and Character in Shakespeare's Richard II --
7. The Playwright's Care: Marston's Revisions to The Malcontent and Parasitaster --
8. The Playwright's Care: The Voices of Jonson's Characters --
Appendix: On Capitalization.
Responsibility: Anthony Graham-White.

Abstract:

Although punctuation is primarily used in the twentieth century to mark and clarify syntax, it functioned primarily to mark oral delivery in Elizabethan England. In this book, author Anthony Graham-White explores the uses of punctuation by Shakespeare, his predecessors, and his contemporaries. It suggests that, in those plays where it is used expressively, punctuation helps us to find the rhythm of a speech or scene and may sometimes suggest insights into a character.

The search for expressive meaning in Elizabethan punctuation is complicated by several factors. First, punctuation was rapidly changing, so any search for one system of punctuation is chimerical. Second, playwrights' punctuation marks themselves, despite being visually familiar to us, often functioned differently than they do today. Third, most Elizabethan plays survive in printed copies; playwrights usually had no involvement in their printing, and one of the printer's editorial functions was to update the punctuation. Even if we find it expressive, we can only infer that its dramatic pointing is that of the author. Thus, before the punctuation of the playscripts can be examined, the development of punctuation marks, the prescriptions for their use in the grammars of the period, and the handling of punctuation in the printing houses all need to be examined.

Drama made its special demands upon punctuation - and upon printers - and some general conventions can be described. Where possible, reference is made to plays that survive in manuscript and to successive editions of a play within the decades under study - for example, to the many editions of the anonymous Mucedorus. The last part of the book moves from general practice to individual plays from different points in the period. Because they were written at different times, and because those of Shakespeare and Jonson appeared first in quarto editions and later in the Folio works, the changing uses of punctuation in the drama are further illustrated. The anonymous comedy Gaminer Gurton's Needle is used to contrast the punctuation of the Elizabethan edition with that of a modern one. In the case of Richard II, Shakespeare's punctuation seems to provide hints for the actors' portrayal of the characters.

The last three plays - Marston's tragedy The Malcontent and his comedy Parasitaster and Jonson's Volpone - are selected because all had the authors' participation in the printing of one or more editions. Again, the focus is on the shaping of scenes, the rhythm of speeches, hints at characterization, and the contrast between the punctuational priorities of seventeenth-century and modern editions.

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