Not True to Troilus, Nor False to Cressid: An Introduction to Shakespearean Textual Editing in Troilus and Cressida

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Shakespeare’s plays stand on a far more precarious footing than the general reading public realizes: meaning that the text of Hamlet one can pick up from the local bookstore never existed in its present form during Shakespeare’s lifetime. The path a play takes from the Early Modern Period to today as it moves from conception to an edited edition is a particularly knotty one that takes the play through 400 years of scholarship and hundreds of pairs of hands. Troilus and Cressida is notoriously branded as one of those few plays in the Shakespearean canon deemed problematic, and without set genre. The play presents itself both textually and contextually in the form of a riddle; it is a comedy without the wedding, and a tragedy cheapened by its not-quite-tragic characters. Troilus is a play governed by innumerable “what ifs,” and it is up to contemporary editors to make sense of these cruxes for the modern reader and student. I would like to discuss general practices (using Troilus and Cressida as my test case) in modern Shakespearean textual editing, and how they impact the text that ends up in the contemporary book buyer’s hands.


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