Professor Publishes Shakespeare Edition
Posted November 15, 2001
HOLLAND -- A new edition of Shakespeare's early
history play, Henry VI, Part 3, has just been published by
Dr. John Cox of the Hope College English faculty.
Published by itself in a separate book, the
edition emphasizes the history of the play's production.
For example, Cox was able to establish that 3 Henry VI was
performed for the first time in the New World in the early
20th century by descendants of African slaves on the
Caribbean island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras.
"A report of the Honduran production from 1950
indicates that the play was cut and rearranged with a play
called Richard III to create a story of deliverance from
social oppression," Cox said. "It seems unlikely that
Shakespeare would ever have imagined that this early play
would be put to such an extraordinary purpose."
The publisher of the edition is the Arden
Shakespeare, the leading scholarly publisher of
Shakespeare's plays. The Arden Shakespeare began publishing
each play as a separate book in the early 20th century. The
best Shakespeare scholars were recruited to edit the plays,
with each editor usually being responsible for one play.
According to Cox, the Arden Shakespeare quickly established
itself as a standard of excellence for the quality of its
introduction, notes and additional explanatory materials.
The Arden Shakespeare was edited still again, by a
new generation of scholars, after World War II. "Just as
the world had changed in 50 years, so had knowledge about
Shakespeare's plays," Cox said. "New things had been
learned about the text, the times, how to understand the
plays, and how they were performed."
"The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre had been built
in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 1930s," he said. "The Second
Arden was widely recognized for its attention to changes in
understanding the texts of Shakespeare's plays and for its
response to changing critical assumptions. Successive
generations of graduate students and scholars relied on the
Arden Shakespeare for its wealth of information and
As the 20th century drew to a close, scholars were
again recruited to edit the plays afresh. By this time, Cox
noted, still more things had changed, making a new edition
desirable. The Royal Shakespeare Company had been formed in
the early 1960s. In the early 1990s a replica of
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre had been built in London--the
first thatched building put up in that city since the Great
Fire of London in 1666.
"Plays are produced there without artificial
lighting or amplified sound, just as they were in
Shakespeare's day," Cox said. "A lot can be learned from
In 1994 the senior editors of the Third Arden
Shakespeare invited Cox to submit a proposal for re-editing
3 Henry VI. His proposal was accepted, and he signed a
contract and set to work. Eventually realizing that he
could not meet the deadline without assistance, he invited
Eric Rasmussen, a respected textual editor from the
University of Nevada at Reno, to join the project.
Cox wrote the critical introduction, notes, and
appendices and researched the illustrations for the edition.
Rasmussen edited the text and wrote the textual notes and
textual introduction. Their collaboration took place mostly
by e-mail, but it also involved meetings in Reno and
In addition to discussing the first production of
3 Henry VI in the New World, Cox's edition also discusses
the latest. In March of 2001, the Royal Shakespeare Company
visited Ann Arbor for two weeks, with a production of all
three of the Henry VI plays and Richard III. The plays were
sold out. Cox was able to see the Henry VI plays on one day
and Richard III the next day. He interviewed the director,
Michael Boyd, and included some of Boyd's comments in his
Cox earned his undergraduate degree from Hope
College in 1967 and his graduate degrees from the University
of Chicago. He joined the Hope faculty in 1979, and since
1984 has served as director of the college's
interdisciplinary studies program. In 1996 he was appointed
to the newly established DuMez Endowed Professorship in
He is author of "Shakespeare and the Dramaturgy of
Power," published in 1989 by Princeton University Press;
coeditor of "A New History of Early English Drama,"
published in 1997 by Columbia University Press; and author
of "The Devil and the Sacred in English Drama, 1350-1642,"
published in 2000 by Cambridge University Press. He has
also published many scholarly articles and book reviews on
Renaissance drama and contemporary writers.