From 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, in the Quiet Wing of Urbana University Library, Dr. David George will present the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare’s last tragedy, “Coriolanus” (1608). This two-volume work (1,155 pages) was begun in 1988 with sponsorship by the Modern Language Association of America, a generous National Endowment for the Humanities grant and two teams of editorial assistants at the Univ. of Minnesota and Urbana University. Thomas Clayton, Regents Professor of English at the Univ of Minnesota, was the chief editor.
In 1998, George took over this editorial task and formed teams of UU students in 1999 and again in 2010. The work proceeded slowly because it required visits to research libraries in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Austin (TX), Pasadena (CA). London, Cambridge and Oxford (U.K.). These libraries all hold manuscript materials and rare books not available elsewhere.
A Variorum records all variants of criticism and scholarship in books and articles on the play, including not only works in English but also in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish and Russian. A Variorum has 10 sections, three of which demand a lot of research: the Commentary on the play’s text, Criticism, and Stage History.
Shakespeare’s English is over 400 years old and dozens of his words have become obsolete or changed their meanings. For example, the senator Menenius tells two Senate representatives “your helpes are many, or else your actions would growe wondrous single” — which means “you need a lot of help, and without it your efforts would be extremely feeble.” The Criticism section covers every observation on the play made since the late 17th century, when remarks were often written in book margins. The Stage History describes all productions of the play, wherever reviews are available, from 1682 to 2007. This all added up to a bibliography of 125 pages.
George said he is grateful to Urbana and Franklin universities for the support they have given over 30 years, and especially to Julie McDaniel, former UU librarian, Samantha Kapp-Williamson, present UU librarian, and Megan Johnson (student) and Ashley Spriggs (secretary) at UU. “These latter two were the most accurate researchers I have ever met,” George said. He expressed gratitude to Dr. Sylvia Bryant (UU professor) and Ian Aspinall (Oxford Univ.) for German translations and especially to his wife, Rita George, for hours of typing, checking and endless patience.
The edition is produced in book format, as an e-PUB searchable disk, and on six on-line platforms. Attendees on March 6 can sign up to purchase the volumes or the e-PUB disk. Also, refreshments will be available, and the presentation is open to the public.
Submitted by Dr. David George.