Memorial reconstruction

Memorial reconstruction

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The theory of memorial reconstruction refers to the hypotheses concerning the transcription of 17th century plays from memory by actors who had played parts in them, and the subsequent publication of those transcripts. Examples of possible memorial reconstructions are early editions
Folios and Quartos (Shakespeare)
The earliest texts of William Shakespeare's works were published during the 16th and 17th centuries in quarto or folio format. Folios are large, tall volumes; quartos are smaller, roughly half the size...

 of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, including the second quarto (1598) of Richard III
Richard III (play)
Richard III is a history play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1591. It depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III of England. The play is grouped among the histories in the First Folio and is most often classified...

and the first quarto (1603) of Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

. It has been theorized that the only version to survive of Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

's The Massacre at Paris
The Massacre at Paris
The Massacre at Paris is an Elizabethan play by the English dramatist Christopher Marlowe. It concerns the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, which took place in Paris in 1572, and the part played by the Duc de Guise in those events....

is a text obtained in this way, although there is no concrete evidence to support this assertion.

In Shakespeare: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory, 1945-2000, Paul Werstine asserts that the theory has "yet to be empirically validated with reference to any extant Shakespeare quarto" and "there is no documentary evidence that any actor ever memorially reconstructed a play."

Alberty Freillerat, in The Composition of Shakespeare’s Plays, suggests that "it is odd that all actor-reporters should make similar mistakes and report inconsistently" and he concludes that the theory of memorial reconstruction is "as disappointing as that of stenographic reconstruction.