Shakespearean revisions : Measure for Measure, King Lear and Pericles, from source to adaptation.
Theories of revision have been advanced ever since Shakespearean Studies
became a specific area of learning within the Humanities. It is however only recently
that editors have started to appreciate the consequences these theories have on the actual
editing of Shakespeare's plays. The critical implications of regarding Shakespeare as a
reviser of his sources and of his own works, and as source of inspiration for later
playwrights, on the other hand, have not been fully assessed yet.
In this thesis, I explore the impact the unprecedented popularity enjoyed by
revision theories since the early 1980s has on the current notion of source, text and
adaptation. According to a romantic, essentialist concept of creativity, a source provides
the raw material the author moulds into a new, original work of art; according to the
revisionists' view of the writing process, a source instead provides a pattern of meaning
which is appropriated and revised by the author. By the same token, I suggest that
Restoration and early Augustan adaptations should also be regarded as later stages in the
rewriting of far-travelled stories, against which. Shakespeare's own contribution stands
out more clearly.
In my introduction, I briefly review recent theories which, along with the
hypothesis of Shakespearean revisions, call for a redefinition of the concept of source.
The three main chapters of my thesis. devoted respectively to Measure for Measure,
King Lear and Pericles, show the advantages of studying a play in relation to
interrelated texts. which share common motifs and conventions. Whereas conventional
source studies aim at identifying direct sources. probable sources and analogues, my
approach allows us to establish the specific perspective each text adopts in relation to a
shared motif, and, consequently, provides fresh evidence to disentangle both critical and
textual cruxes, such as the characterisation of the Duke in Measure for Measure, or the
relationship between Quarto and Folio King Lear and between Pericles and Wilkins'
homonymous novel. This new method of analysis also offers new insight into Davenant,
Gildon, Tate and Lillo's role as both "revisers" and "editors" of Shakespeare. The
Appendix investigates Tate's critical "editing" of his source text(s) for The History of
King Lear in detail, and questions the traditional distinction between "editor" and