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A moment of Jonsonian history was made on 20 November 2018, when the Playhouse Lab at the University of Leeds gave an unrehearsed reading of A Tale of a Tub. Tub is one of the few plays in the canon for which there is virtually no backstory of stage performance. When we compiled the Performance Archive for the electronic edition we could find no record of revival later than the original stagings in 1634, so (as far as I’m aware) our scratch performance at Leeds is the first documented staging since Jonson’s death.
A few exciting Jonson volumes have turned up in the last few months which may interest readers of this occasional blog. One is a book from Jonson’s own library: Adagia, sive proverbia Graecorum (Antwerp, 1612) by Andreas Schottus. This book, which has hitherto been in a private collection and does not appear in David McPherson’s catalogue of Jonson’s library, has Jonson’s signature (‘Svm Ben: Ionsonij’) and motto (‘tanquam Explorator’). It will be sold later this year at Sotheby’s.
Last week I managed to catch the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Volpone at Stratford before the end of the run. I was looking forward to seeing Henry Goodman in the title role, as he is such a thrilling actor; I still have powerful memories of him as Kitely in the RSC Every Man In in 1986. His marvellous ability to create empathy was very much in evidence last week, though as things went on I came to think empathy is not the top quality one needs for Volpone, whose heartlessness and recklessness need equally to be on the top. Goodman managed to find some humanity in the character, but at some cost to the caustic humour and edginess.
Contribution by Christopher Highley, Ohio State University
An interesting copy of the 1616 Jonson folio is listed in a recent catalogue by the specialist booksellers Maggs Bros. Ltd (catalogue 1471, 2013, item 46). This copy was sold at auction in October 2012, and has now been bought by the Folger Shakespeare Library. The book is yet to reach the shelves at the Folger, but the following preliminary account is based on details from Maggs’s catalogue.