Sunday, 13 February 2011

Dark Hero Texts

I chose the editions—and some of the texts—for my new course, The Dark Hero [ATS2914/ATS3914] on the KISS-principle (i.e., keep it simple). So, they are all from the OUP World's Classics series. The upshot is, as you can see, that they make a very neat and pretty display.

The only problem is, I am already reconsidering this decision because Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (front text above) isn't very good. No doubt I am biased. I wanted to use Doctor Faustus: The A-text, ed. David Ormerod and Christopher Wortham (University of Western Australia Press, 1985), which is an excellent edition, but it is out of print.

Having re-read the play in the Ormerod and Wortham edition yesterday, I turned to the World's Classics edition this morning to see how it compared, and it compared poorly. I chose this edition, edited by David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen, because it contains both the A- and B-text versions of the play, which promised to be great for comparison, and other plays by Marlowe, which might encourage students to read others plays by Marlowe.

The problems is, the editors are pretty cavalier with the text, modernising, moving chunks around and imposing a 5-Act structure on both versions of the play, though there is no textual authority for doing so in any quarto. (See, the "Note on the Text," p. xxv and xxvii (here)). The introduction, to the life and times of Marlowe is wildly inadequate for a student, with gaping omissions, and the introduction to the plays in Marlowe's canon is brief and very uneven (excellent on Tamburlaine I and II, pretty good on The Jew of Malta and Faustus and pretty pathetic on Edward II).

And so, I have now ordered the New Mermaids edition (here), Norton Critical Edition (here) and the Revels Plays, New edition (here). The last of these is edited by Bevington and Rasmussen, but there is supposed to be a substantial introduction in this edition.

These three student editions of Doctor Faustus are all in the same price range as the World's Classics edition, though you get a lot fewer pages for your money. I am hoping that at least one of them is at least as good at the Ormerod and Wortham edition, demonstrating more respect for the text and including an introduction that compensates for the absence of Marlowe's other plays. We'll see …

[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After all my pictures disappeared again I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files and, for now on, will stick with the smaller images (500px), which Blogger is prepared to host.]

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