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Thread: An editing question

  1. #1
    stanley2
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    An editing question

    Professor Barnet noted that in Act 1, scene 7, Mac says: "Prithee, peace! / I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares no more is none." He goes on to inform us that since the time of Samuel Johnson, editors have replaced "no" with "do:" "Who dares do more is none." It seems to me that Barnet chose this passage as an example because he found it interesting. It also seems that Macbeth is defending his previous statement: " I have bought / Golden opinions from all sorts of people, / Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, / Not cast aside so soon." In other words, he would like to continue wearing his "Golden opinions" even though it seems silly or cowardly. Therefore, "no" is ok. Would anyone like to argue or explain why "do" is better?

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stanley2 View Post
    Professor Barnet noted that in Act 1, scene 7, Mac says: "Prithee, peace! / I dare do all that may become a man; / Who dares no more is none." He goes on to inform us that since the time of Samuel Johnson, editors have replaced "no" with "do:" "Who dares do more is none." It seems to me that Barnet chose this passage as an example because he found it interesting. It also seems that Macbeth is defending his previous statement: " I have bought / Golden opinions from all sorts of people, / Which would be worn now in their newest gloss, / Not cast aside so soon." In other words, he would like to continue wearing his "Golden opinions" even though it seems silly or cowardly. Therefore, "no" is ok. Would anyone like to argue or explain why "do" is better?
    The current scholarly trend is more towards a return to a "textual authenticity" of the original text. It comes down to how accurate one believes the original manuscripts from earlier printings are. However, I'm not informed enough about the textual history of Macbeth to give you a specific answer. The spelling in the First Folio is

    "Prythee peace:
    I dare do all that may become a man,
    Who dares no more, is none."

    There are no surviving quarto editions of Macbeth (if they ever existed) so this is the earliest version we have. Some editors might consider it a mistaken transcription that crept into the text and believe it's a spelling mistake. Eighteenth century editors probably thought Shakespear intended to create a kind of chiasmus (crossed phrase that repeats key words, like Kennedy's "Ask not..." speech), which was a popular Greek rhetorical device. I think the rationale for the eighteenth century editors would probably be that they were improving the line by adding this rhetorical flare to it.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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    stanley2
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    In the Furness Variorum edition we find a Mr. Hunter also noted the question. Johnson's comments are interesting and Mr. Pip's are informative. Still, we need a better reason to change the earliest text.

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    stanley2
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    And certainly one might suppose that like Prince Hamlet's "hire and salary" vs. "base and silly"(HAM3.3), the author may have considered and tried onstage both. Still, the phrase "no more" is found in more than one memorable line in HAMLET and the meaning corresponds to Hamlet's "Why, what an *** am I! This is most brave / That I.............Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words"(HAM2.2).

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    stanley2
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    The play is a tragedy. Therefore one might suppose that the passage in question is a "contraction," something Prince Hamlet complained about. That is, Mac should have said that in doing what may become a man, one finds oneself doing things that women and animals do also. So, editors might argue that Mac contracts the above to "Who dares no more is none" which(no pun intended) doesn't work. Does anyone have access to the 2008 revision of the Oxford edition? I wonder if there are any notes about the matter there. The recent Arden third edition has the same old [expletive deleted].

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    Unfortunately, all these musings are ignoring the context of the line. It is not a continuation of Macbeth's previously stated satisfaction with what he has heretofore gained, but a defense against Lady Macbeth's accusation that he is "afeared to be the same in (his) own act and valour, as (...) in desire.' And yes, there is rhetorical play going on, but again, it is in response to Lady's line "Letting "I dare not" wait upon "I would," In this instance, I must agree with the 18th century editors. Even if one could be sure that the 'original' text was reported correctly (and not misheard), "who dares no more is none" makes no sense. How would you paraphrase that line? Who dares to do no more is nothing (that is, if one doesn't dare to do more one is worth nothing; or, 'who dares no more doesn't exist?' Neither makes sense in context of the very human, domestic argument that is taking place.

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    I can't work out what "no more" would mean. Isn't it the complete opposite of "do more"?

    The RSC complete text is very faithful to the Folio text and it still gives "do more" without any comment.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    The emendation was by Nicholas Rowe, an earlier editor than Johnson.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    stanley2
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    The last comment in S. K. BYK's note, this "very human, domestic argument," is good. The editors of the new Arden edition wrote: "Rowe's emendation, followed by most editors, makes better sense. Macbeth wishes here to assert the adequacy of his own manliness." Mac is also responding to the lady's "Like the poor cat i'th' adage?" That is, he is suggesting that he prefers not to wet his feet, like the cat. Therefore, to do all that may become a man, he finds himself doing what also becomes a cat. The lady then pounces, like a cat: " What beast was't then / That made you break this enterprise to me?"

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    stanley2
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    So then, it seems one must choose which element of the context Macbeth is responding to. It seems to me that whereas Mac has returned from bravely fighting on the battlefield, it is more likely that he is arguing that he should continue to wear his "golden opinions," though doing so may seem effeminate. Therefore, he is doing "more" than may seem to be becoming to a man by continuing to wear the "golden opinions."

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    stanley2
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    Shucks, I erred in saying that Hamlet complained about "contraction." While complaining to his mother , Hamlet says: "O, such a deed / as from the body of contraction plucks / The very soul"(HAMLET3.4.45-6). And certainly the printer of the First Folio may also have erred when printing the passage in question. As the phrase "no more" occurs more than once elsewhere in the play, he may have thought that it occurs here again. Still, I think that it DOES occur here again. Later in the play, during the conversation between Macduff and Malcomb, we find: "But I have none. The king-becoming graces, / As justice, verity, temperance, stableness, / Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness, / Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude, / I have no relish of them, but abound / In the division of each several crime"(MAC4.3.91-6). The first line recalls the line in question as we find the words "none" and "becoming." So then, one might argue that the author is suggesting that to avoid mischief, one must do something to temper one's desire.

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    stanley2
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    Returning again to the Lady's reply to the line in question, "What beast was it then / That made yo break this enterprise to me?"(1.7.48-9) the editors of the new Arden edition wrote: " Macbeth's Lady takes 'none' as if it means an animal." Any beast will do, say, "The smallest monstrous mouse that creeps on floor"(MND5.1.123). Thus the play is no more than Macbeth's failure to deal with his wife's madness. If we accept the Folio, then, she is responding to his suggestion that yes, one may seem "like the poor cat." The emphasis is on the word "was:" "What beast WAS it then." This sends one searching for a particular beast that the author may have in mind and her earlier statement: "look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under it"(1.5.66-7). Therefore, the author has in mind the serpent from GENESIS(see my thread "Biblical References in Shakespeare").

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