In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In a recent issue of Shakespeare Quarterly, W. B. Worthen proposes that the "justifying critical agenda" of Shakespearean performance criticism is "to locate the space and practice of criticism in relation to the practices of performance."1 Looking back over earlier attempts to relate theatrical procedures to the signification of the dramatic text, Worthen finds inadequate those versions of performance criticism which "avowedly locate performance ( and so 'performance criticism') as supplemental to the designs of the text, mapping the text's meanings onto the histrionic and pictorial relationships of the stage." By privileging the text, he asserts, this type of scholarship "sidesteps the definitive challenges that a performance criticism ought to address: how the text is traced and transgressed both by theatrical and by critical strategies for producing it as drama."2 Worthen suggests that such challenges might be met in the field of contemporary Shakespearean editing, where controversy currently rages over the distinction between "literary" and "theatrical" versions of a play like King Lear.3 But as A. R. Braunmuller points out, even when Quarto and Folio versions of a play do not constitute two substantially different dramatic works, editorial practices may tend to construct the play as either a "literary" or a "theatrical" artifact:

Either the editor ignores the text as a theatrical script, a guide to performers and for performance, or the editor creates a performance of the play in notes, stage directions, and other commentary according to the theatrical conventions of the editor's own time, usually in fact the conventions of his or her youth .... No matter which avenue an editor follows ... there are occasions when the imagined staging of a scene will actually influence what the editor chooses to print, and I do not mean simply what stage directions the editor chooses to add or modify, but how the editor construes or distorts the ipissima verba of the Bard himself.4