Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Versions of Macbeth: Oxford Edition v.s. Literature Page

Examining Differences Between the Oxford Edition's Text and the Literature Page's e-Text of Shakespeare's Macbeth

Please refer to:
Oxford Edition's Text:
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth (Oxford World's
Classics). New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1998.

Literature Page's e-Text:

The two versions of Shakespeare's Macbeth by Oxford University Press and the Literature Page have many differences in displaying character information, language, paragraph structure, punctuation, and stage directions. By analyzing the differences between the two versions, it is clear that the Oxford University Press provides more of an organized and enriching reading experience to any student reader studying Macbeth.

Character Information

One can acknowledge a multiplicity of differences when comparing the e-Text version of Macbeth to the Oxford text. The differences between the Characters Lists in each version start at the title; in the Book, the title is “THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY”, whereas the e-Text says “Persons Represented”. However, the greatest difference lies in the order of the characters. Looking at the book’s list, it seems as though the characters were put into different categories such as Supernatural Characters (e.g. The Weird Sisters, Hecate), Scottish Characters, English Characters, and Unnamed Characters. Within these categories, they are grouped based on familial ties (e.g Duncan and his Sons, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth) and positions (e.g. Thanes) – all of these groups were ordered by significance. Conversely, in the e-Text, the characters are listed firstly in order of appearance, significance, and then they are categorized into Men, Women (including Hecate and Witches), Unnamed Characters and Ghosts/Apparitions.

Language and Paragraphs
In further examining the differences between the two versions, there are also variations in paragraph formatting, language, and syntactical changes such as adding dashes, parentheses and in punctuation. For instance, in the e-Text version, in Act One, Scene Two when King Duncan extols Macbeth for his leadership in the fight against Macdonald, “O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!” (I, ii, 1, 24) an exclamation is utilized, whereas an exclamation mark is not used in the Oxford text. Moreover, dashes are used throughout the e-Text document at the end of several lines; the author could be adding dashes to provide more dramatic fluidity since a dash as a form of punctuation would provide more interpretation to the actor, than a period or a semicolon would, which are more definite forms of punctuation. Conversely, the words are virtually identical.

The literature page site varies slightly in physical layout compared to the Oxford version. Font selection seems similar, as do the lines. The e-Text, however, does not indent a line when it starts midway. Furthermore, there is no numbering of lines, a complete absence of notes, and makes no use of italics or bolding. Stage directions regarding how a line is to be spoken (i.e. MACBETH (aside): ) are merged into the actual lines (i.e. [Aside.] Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor). Although similar in some extent, the absence of line numbers greatly takes away from the proficiency of this site.

Punctuation and Stage Directions:
Lastly, the punctuation in the literature page edition bears almost no relation to that of the Oxford Edition. Almost all of the punctuation marks are changed, and while this normally has little effect on meaning, the movement of commas in this case completely changes the meaning of a line. The stage directions also have some differences. A few of the stage directions are merely reworded, but some of the stage directions in the Oxford Edition are moved or even omitted, and a few new ones are added.

Overall Analysis
Overall, this source is more confusing that the Oxford Edition, due to the lack of line numbers, unneccessary added punctuation, and general character information grouping. Although some punctuation add more dramatic effect, such as the use of dashes, the way the word is read should be originally what Shakespeare had intended, diminishing the reliability of the site. There are also no notes, which make the reader's reading experience not as enriching as if they read the Oxford Edition, making the online resource not a beneficial resource for students studying Macbeth.

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