New ways of looking into handwritten miscellanies of the seventeenth century: the case of “Spes Altera”

Purificación Ribes Traver

Abstract


A large number of copies of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2 circulated in handwritten miscellanies from the second quarter of the Seventeenth Century. Eleven of those copies have significant variant readings that have led critics to put forward different hypotheses regarding their nature and quality. Most critics, taking into account stylometric analyses, have regarded them as early drafts of Shakespeare’s printed version, and have agreed on their poor quality.

By paying due attention to the text’s context of production and reception, we have reached a different conclusion regarding both the nature and quality of the handwritten versions of Sonnet 2. In our view, they are the product of a conscious rewriting on the part of some educated member of the universities or Inns of Court. Close reading of the manuscript copy text (Spes Altera, Bellasys Ms, c.1630), and a line by line comparison with the 1609 Q text, suggest a deliberate attempt on the part of its adapter at increasing the poem’s metrical regularity and structural coherence.

Keywords


Rewriting; “Spes Altera”; 1630; handwritten miscellanies; Shakespeare Sonnet 2; 1609 Quarto

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18172/jes.4339

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