Acting in the Paratext: Theatrical Material in Horace Howard Furness’s New Variorum Shakespeare

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In 1866 amateur scholar Horace Howard Furness began work on a new American edition of Shakespeare which he designed to be the ultimate resource for all students of the plays. Inspired by the work of eighteenth-century Shakespearean scholar Edmond Malone, Furness created a new variorum edition of Shakespeare which included the text of each play, extensive textual notes and a broad selection of critical and aesthetic commentary. Additionally, unlike most of his predecessors, contemporaries and successors, Furness integrated the history of theatrical production with that of textual editing and criticism. His aim was to provide all students of Shakespeare—including theatrical practitioners—the comments of editors, scholars, critics and actors on textual, critical, aesthetic, dramatic and interpretive issues on the same page as the text to which they referred. Furness strived to give scholars, students and practitioners the ability to make informed interpretive choices about the texts of Shakespeare.

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