Shakespearean Editing and Why It Matters
Marcus, Leah S. (Leah Sinanoglou)
A generation ago, many Shakespearean scholars simply accepted the versions of the play that they were provided with by editors. So long as the label was right (Arden, Oxford, Cambridge, Penguin, Riverside, Pelican) the content was assumed to be reliable. But editing can never be transparent; it is always influenced by the cultural assumptions of the editor and his or her era, however submerged those assumptions may be in terms of the editor's stated textual practices. In the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as a result of feminist and postcolonial critical approaches to Shakespearean texts, we have begun to realize the degree to which our inherited editions are shaped in accordance with assumptions about colonialism, race, and the status of women that are no longer acceptable to us, and that in fact distort elements of Shakespeare's plays as they exist in early printed quarto and folio versions. As earlier disciplinary boundaries between editing and criticism have broken down, Shakespearean critics have increasingly turned to editing in order to undo some of the racist and sexist assumptions behind our received texts of the plays.