bad quarto

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A technical term devised by the bibliographer A. W. Pollard to refer to certain early texts of Shakespeare's plays which he believed were not printed from an authoritative manuscript. These include the first quartos of Romeo and Juliet (1597), Henry V (1600), The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602), and Hamlet (1603). The theory, forwarded by Pollard, that all these texts were reconstructed from memory by some of the actors is now under attack. Alternative theories are that some or all of them are early versions by Shakespeare, or abbreviations made either for Shakespeare's company or for other companies. There are two new editions including reprints of the early quartos, New Cambridge Shakespeare: the Early Quartos (Cambridge University Press, 1994), and Shakespearean Originals: First Editions (Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992). Though they have no textual authority they may assist in the effort to establish a true text, especially in their stage directions which sometimes give us our only evidence as to pieces of stage business.

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.

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