Home / News / Margrethe Jolly: Memorial Reconstruction, Juliet, and the Grafter

Margrethe Jolly: Memorial Reconstruction, Juliet, and the Grafter

Margrethe (“Eddi”) Jolly, PhD’s presentation, ‘Juliet and the Grafter’ given at the SOF conference in Ashland, Oregon in September 2015 is now available on the SOF YouTube Channel. As Dr. Jolly described her presentation:

Magrethe ("Eddi") Jolly, PhD

Margrethe (“Eddi”) Jolly, PhD

‘Juliet and the Grafter’ reports on part of an investigation into the relationship of the first two quartos of Romeo and Juliet, dated 1597 and 1599 respectively. The popularity of the play hasn’t resulted in as much research upon it as, say, Hamlet, but the two plays have much in common. Tycho Mommsen paired them together in 1857, and since then many scholars have seen the first quarto of each as ‘bad’ or ‘piratical’, and the result of (communal) memorial reconstruction (by actors). The latter is a hypothesis which has gained a significant number of adherents among the major Shakespearean scholars of the last 150 years. It leads to the belief that Shakespeare’s ‘genuine’ and ‘authentic’ text is the second quarto of Romeo and Juliet and that the first quarto is a ‘bad’ quarto, a ‘spurious’ reconstruction from memory, possibly by the actors who played Romeo and Paris. The idea that the first quarto might be a first draft is rejected firmly by one scholar, who declares that ‘all those theories which … have contributed to the conception of Shakespeare as an artist much given to the revision of his own past work are quite without evidence or plausibility’.

A three way comparison between the underlying French source of Hamlet and the first two quartos of that play provided an external reference point for indications of which quarto came first. This text-based evidence indicates clearly that the first quarto of Hamlet is closer to the source than the second quarto is. It also shows that the first quarto has almost double the echoes of the source that the second quarto has. The comparison supports the view held particularly by early reviewers that the first quarto was a ‘first sketch’. In contrast, the second quarto draws away from the source, and from the first quarto. It appears that the second quarto is substantially revised, and that the playwright was not afraid of a bit of hard graft to ensure his play achieved the effect he wanted on stage.

What would another three way comparison show, this time between the first two quartos of Romeo and Juliet, and their source, Arthur Brooke’s Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet? Might there be any justification for the note on the title page of the second quarto, ‘Newly corrected, augmented, and amended’? ‘Juliet and the Grafter’ delves into Brooke’s presentation of Juliet and her transformation in the plays, with a sideways glance at the most memorable images of the play. It also notes that the second quarto isn’t exactly error-free. The paper concludes with considering what these findings suggest about the playwright, his writing habits, and the relationship of the two quartos; could we see the first quarto as an example of ‘juvenilia’? And what does this new three way comparison suggest about the hypothesis of memorial reconstruction?


Margrethe Jolly, PhD — a lecturer in English literature and language turned independent researcher — took her first degree at Southampton University and her second at Brunel. She has been exploring issues relating to the Shakespeare canon where there has been scholarly debate, such as the value of Francis Meres’ testimony in Palladis Tamia. Her principal focus has been on Hamlet: ‘Hamlet and the French Connection’ (Parergon, 2012), and The First Two Quartos of Hamlet: A New View of the Origins and Relationship of the Texts (2014) resulted from her doctoral thesis. These texts argue that the original responses to Hamlet, that the first quarto was the anterior text, are right, and that the date of the play needs reconsideration. Her current research is on the hypothesis of memorial reconstruction and the alleged ‘bad’ quartos.

Other conference videos are available at the SOF Conference Videos page. You can support the SOF’s goal of making more of these videos available to the general public by joining the SOF or renewing your membership for 2016.

[Article posted February 3, 2016.]
Stay Informed
Join our FREE Email list to get the latest news on the Shakespeare authorship controversy
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.