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Shakespeare’s Lost Sonnets: A Restoration of the Runes
by Roy Neil Graves, Professor of English
The University of Tennessee at Martin

An Index Page for the
 Edited Texts of the Runes
in the 1609 Quarto: Sets I-XI
Copyright © Roy Neil Graves 2003, All Rights Reserved

 
       

Click on one of these links to view the Edited Texts of the Runes:

Sets I-III
(Runes 1-42)

Sets X-XI
(Runes 127-154)

—Background on the Edited Texts—

            Using modernized punctuation and (mostly American) spelling, here as first editor of the 154 Runes I try to make sense of the texts—by definition an interpretive enterprise—while staying as faithful to the original lines as possible.

            Because most texts are already knotty, I seldom select “open” punctuation that would allow the broadest ranges of meanings. Editors of the Sonnets have traditionally had to deal with the same dilemma, though the Runes are even more obfuscatory than the Sonnets are—more teasing, gamelike, slippery, and difficult to reduce to linearity. Sonnets editor Stephen Booth’s decision to use minimal punctuation as he edits the Sonnets seems admirable because it reduces editorial intrusion, but here as elsewhere his paradigm cannot be mine. For my role, as I see it, is to point the texts with clear road-markers so a first-time meanderer will not get hopelessly lost. “Open” or minimal punctuation would tend to trigger too many forking-paths effects and thus defeat the goal of moving directly toward some kind of understanding of what a string of lines may “mean.”

           Given the ambiguity of the runic linestrings, I offer my edited versions undogmatically, routinely sensing and regretting the loss of options I don’t or cannot choose because other choices rule them out. Every line or so exemplifies some syntactic or lexical “road not taken.”

           My line glosses add options, clarifications, and puns that amplify or even in many cases run counter to the sense I’m trying to follow and point up—thus helping keep alive the gamy spirit of the texts. Since vague pronoun reference is a routine riddlic aspect in the Runes, I often try to clarify pronouns in the glosses. While I try to stay close to details of the Q lines, sometimes punning forms of terms in Q seem to allow more meaning and wit to flow than stricter readings. As editor I am not a purist, and I can’t claim any kind of consistency, except that I do try to keep each text as “seriously” meaningful as I can—not reducing it to its lowest level of joking or to its most specific potential for conveying personal commentary about the poet. In this sense, I think, I follow the precedent of previous editors of the Sonnets. Occasionally I do resort to a personal reading—as Will himself does in the overt sonnets about “Will having his will” and so on.
  
        Like editors of the visible Sonnets, I might be accused of “pushing the ‘low’ wit into the footnotes” as I construe Will’s licentious lines. In any case, reader/players who dislike my editorial choices can start from scratch with the paste-up strings and devise their own versions. Improving on what I offer is not unlikely and can legitimately be a part of what other gamesters in future years and ages aim for.

          Altogether, I probably make fewer changes in Q’s wordforms than editors of the visible Sonnets usually do. I make no real emendations (in the sense of “correcting” Q’s “errors”) but—as I say—I do sometimes regard puns as primary forms, for purposes of construing a given text.
   
       As the background notes on the eleven individual sets indicate, the sets often display some degree of thematic unity; sometimes they show formal, numerologic, or typographic indicators of beginnings or endings. Some of their puns comment on the positions of individual visible texts on the set leaf—much as the “erroneous” heading of Sonnet 119 (labelled 116 in Q) links with the comment about an “error ” that might or might not be "upon me proved."



Click on one of these links to view the Edited Texts of the Runes:

Sets I-III
(Runes 1-42)

Sets X-XI
(Runes 127-154)

 
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