1. Ironically, Dido has received more scholarly attention than any other Gager play. Printed repeatedly, edited twice, translated into both English and German, Dido has nevertheless been accounted his weakest work. Boas NOTE 1 thought it hastily cobbled together to serve a pressing necessity, and explained the mechanical fidelity with which it follows its Vergilian model in terms of the speed with which it had to be written, just as the author himself offered this speed as an excuse in his Epilogue (1216). In April 1583 the Polish noble “Albertus Alasco, Palatine Pfalzgraf of Siradia,” as he is remembered in England (in actuality, he was Adalbert Łaski, Voivode of Siradia), arrived on a state visit. On May 13, the Earl of Leicester, Chancellor of the University, wrote to the Vice-Chancellor: NOTE 2
The Queen’s Majestie hath willed me to signifie unto you that the Palatin Lasky the nobleman that is nowe out of Polonia mindeth shortly to come downe to see the universitie of Oxford, and that her highnes pleasure therefore is that he be receaved of you with all the curtesy and solemnitie that you may. I minde myself to accompanie him thither: the time we appoint to be there shalbe on mondaye the xth daye of June, and there to remaine that daye all tuesdaye and all wednesdaye and on Thursdaye morning to depart. You must use all solemnitie of disputation, orations, and readings as you did at her majesties being with you...I doo thinke it fittest for him to lie in Christ Church.
The visit came off as planned (and given more luster by the presence of Giordano Bruno and probably also of Sir Philip Sidney) NOTE 3 and was memorable, as is recorded in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland: NOTE 4
Touching the interteinement which [Łaski] had at Oxenford, and how the vniuersitie did congratulate his comming, it is somewhat worth the noting... On the east gate wherat he entered, stood a consort of musicians, who for a long space made a verie sweet harmonie, which could not but moove and delight;
inscia plebs populusque arrectis auribus astat
dulciferumque rudi suscipit aure melos.
All up the high street vnto saint Maries church, on either side the waie, were decentlie marshalled scholars in their gownes and caps, batchelors and maisters in their habits and hoods. At saint Maries the orator of the vniuersitie (notable in his facultie) presented him a booke, in which were closelie couched verie rich and gorgeous gloues. From thense he marched to Christs church, where he was whilest he abode in the vniuersitie most honourablie interteined. And the first night being vacant, as in which he sought rather rest in his lodging than recreation in anie academicall pastimes, strange fire works were shewed, in the great quadrangle besides rockets and a number such maner of deuises. On the second daie, his first dinner was made him at Alsoules college, where (besides dutifull receiuing of him) he was solemnelie satisfied with scholerlie exercises and courtlie fare. This night and the night insuing, after sumptuous suppers in his lodging, he personaly was present with his traine in the hall, first at the plaing of a pleasant comedie intituled Riuales; then at the setting out of a verie statelie tragedie named Dido, wherein the queenes banket (with Eneas NOTE 5 narration of the destruction of Troie) was liuelie described in a marchpaine patterne, there was also a goodlie sight of hunters with full crie of a kennell of hounds, Mercurie and Iris descending from and to an high place, the tempest wherein it hailed small confects, rained rosewater, and snew an artificiall kind of snow, all strange, maruellous, and abundant. NOTE 6
Most of the actors were of the same house, six or seaven of them were of saint Iohns, and three or foure of other colleges and hals. His second dinner the third daie was at Magdalen college, with oratorie welcoming and bountifull feasting. His third dinner the fourth daie at New college. The eloquent speech in Greeke Latine and Dutch with his own vnstudied answer thervunto, and all other before rehersed, are not to be omitted: nor the publike philosophie, physike, and diuinitie disputations, in all which those learned opponents, repondents, and moderators, quitted themselues like themselues, sharplie and soundlie, besides all other solemne sermons and lectures. At afternoone the fourth and last daie, he went towards Woodstocke manour, and without the north gate by the waie he was invited vnto a banket at saint Iohns college, where the gates and outward wals ouercouered with thousands of verses, and other emblematicall poetries then offered him, argued their hartie goodwils: but his hasting to his iournies end caused him not to tarie the delicat banket: yet onelie staieng the deliuerie of a sweet oration and his owne quicke wittie replie therevnto, he departed immediatlie, acoompanied for a mile or two with the most of those reuerend doctors and heads of houses all on horssebacke, where the orator againe gaue him an orators farewell. And this is the summe of his interteinement, not deliuered in such sort as the dignitie of the same requireth; howbeit sufficient for a sudden remembrance.
2. At first sight Dido is a straightforward adaptation of Vergil, a form of innocent academic entertainment. But this is not quite the whole story. A work of imaginative fiction is a cultural artifact. Transplanted into the context of a different society, it can acquire a very different import, entirely unforeseen by its original author. Certainly this axiom is true of the present play, for in the specific context of Elizabethan England the story of Dido becomes fraught with new meaning. In a society ruled by a queen, the Dido story acquires extra contemporary significance. The parallel Gager had drawn between the virgin huntress Atalanta and Elizabeth in the first Epilogue of Meleager is superficial and unilluminating. Not so the parallel he now draws between Dido and Elizabeth. The fact that Dido is often called by her alternative name Elisa may partially be explicable in terms of metrical convenience, but the insistence with which this word is used is scarcely accidental. NOTE 7 Note, for example, the way this name is highlighted as the final word of several stanzas of the Hymn of Iopas in Act II, in which the queen’s nobility and hospitality are praised. As Boas observed (cf. the note on this passage) this is a song carefully crafted to draw a parallel between Dido’s kindly reception of Aeneas and the hospitality accorded the Polish visitor by Elizabeth. But Boas could have added that this song is much more than an exercise in courtly flattery. It serves to point up the deeper parallels between the two queens for the benefit of any spectator who cared to think about them. The play’s message is that a woman is fit to govern. We are shown an initial portrait of a queen piously presiding over a well-governed kingdom, and administering just laws. And the woman is, if not a virgin, at least the next best thing, a prudently chaste widow.
3. The play refers to another similarity between Dido and Elizabeth. Dido was a colonist who had founded a successful city, and Elizabeth was going into the colonization business herself. Line 1243 of the Epilogue seems to contain an allusion to the claiming of Newfoundland in the previous year. More generally, Gager was writing against the background of rising enthusiasm for American exploration and settlement, and he was admirably situated to hear about this ferment, since another Christ Church student was that great advocate and historian of oceanic exploration, Richard Hakluyt. But of course such comparisons between Dido and Elizabeth do not exhaust the subject. The fuller “subtext” of the Dido story is that a woman is fit to govern as long as she keeps a tight rein on her passionate female nature. But going off the rails by yielding to erotic impulses is a formula for ruin. For a regnant queen, chastity is a necessity. In case the contemporary relevance of this implicit comparison is insufficiently obvious, Gager drives it home in the Epilogue (1244f.):
Dignata nullo coniuge Sychaeo tamen,
Animumque nullus flectat Aeneas suum.
[“But she has not condescended to marry any Sychaeus, and may no Aeneas sway her affections!”]
Thus the Dido story points directly to one of the central political problems of Elizabeth’s reign. In view of this, we cannot take a dismissive view of Dido, no matter how quickly it was dashed off. Dido’s original audience can scarcely have viewed the play as a pallid rehash of a classical model.
4. The audience’s interest must have been further stimulated by the element of lavish spectacle. Boas may have overstated the case in describing Dido as “a curious blend of a Senecan tragedy and a pageant,” NOTE 8 for this assessment manages to overlook the fact that interest in stunning visual effects is very much a characteristic of Senecan drama. NOTE 9 There is undoubtedly a strange discrepancy between the impressive stage effects described by Holinshed and Dido’s exceedingly laconic stage directions. But, despite one minor factual error noted above, there is no reason for thinking that Holinshed embellished on the truth. Indeed, if he erred at all, his mistake is likely to have been in the other direction. For he does not mention such additional features as the ghost apparition in Act III, the singing nymphs in the same Act, and the sacrifice scene in Act V. These are all points where further interesting visual effects could have been introduced. We can gain some idea of the lavishness of the production from an account record quoted by Boas NOTE 10 which mentions the very considerable sum of £86 18 s. 2 d. for “the chardges of a Comedye and a Tragedye and a shewe of fireworks as appeareth by the particular bille of Mr. Vice Chauncelor, Mr. Howsone, Mr. Maxie, and Mr. Pille.” NOTE 11 There is much truth in Boas’ description of Dido as being pageant-like. Certainly, the play contained a fair amount of extra-textual material, which which helps account for the short length of the text. After Act II, scene ii the stage directions call for a pompa larvalis, indicatingthat some sort of masque occurred at this point. Act III, scene i begins with a stage direction transitur ad venationem and the direction redeunt a venatione occurs at the end of scene iii of the same Act. It was at these points that the audience was given “a goodlie sight of hunters with full crie of a kennell of hounds,” as described by Holinshed. NOTE 12 These could have been simple processions across the stage, but again these events could have been used as pretexts for masquing. At the very minimum, these stage directions indicate a fair amount of dumb-show (to which must be added the celestial descents of Mercury and Iris mentioned by Holinshed, which must have used some sort of deus ex machina device). NOTE 13 It is likely that Dido was also graced by instrumental music. The normal choruses of a neoclassical tragedy are supplemented by other lyric passages, choral or solo, performed within acts. The fact that Gager’s act-ending choruses are often divided into quasi-stanzas of unequal length does not encourage the idea that they were meant to be sung. But lyric passages interpolated into acts are written in balanced stanzas, which strongly suggests that they represent the texts for songs, I mean Iopas’ hymn in Act II and the song of the nymphs in Act III. Dido’s injunction (433) interea laeto personet cantu domus has been interpreted as a cue for a moment of instrumental music before the entrance of her’s advisors, and when she commands (1022f.) ordire, vates, carmen effare, insolens / ad hosce ritus, it looks as if the sacrifice scene may have meant to be performed against a suitably weird musical background. And, of course, if Act II and III did contain masquing, instrumental music helped to satisfy this contemporary taste.
5. Dido must have been written very quickly. NOTE 14 Word of Łaski’s projected visit reached Oxford on May 13, the play was performed on June 12, and sufficient time must have had to be allowed for part-copying and rehearsal. The suggestion has been made NOTE 15 that Gager had already had the work underway before he knew of the forthcoming visit, but a line in the Epilogue alreadty quoted (1216) surely refers to the haste with which author and performers had to work. NOTE 16 Fredrick Boas’ assessment of Dido is mordantly negative: NOTE 17
[It] makes the impression of having been ‘sharked up’ hastily for the occasion, and Gager must bear the discredit, if he is the sole author, of perverting, with the minimum of purely verbal change, the god of the Virgilian hexameters into the base metal of his neo-classical iambics. Nevertheless, in the selection and arrangement of the material from the first and fourth books of the Aeneid, and in the incidental additions made to it, Dido shows the practiced hand of its author.
It is worth pointing out, however, that the imitative nature of Dido’s dependence on a single literary model may differ from Gager’s working method in his other plays in degree, but it does not differ in kind. In Meleager he appropriates Ovid’s speeches where he can, and he goes considerably farther in this direction in Ulysses Redux. The entire first half of that play, and some scenes in the second, follow Homer no less closely than Dido follows Vergil. If you want to account the closeness with which Gager followed Vergil a sign of haste, you of course may. But much more important is the fact that the overall effect of the play is impressive. Gager’s fidelity to Vergil was only possible because the narrative in Book IV of the Aeneid (with some material taken from Book I) makes such an excellence source for a tragedy. Indeed it should: Vergil was well aware of Attic tragedy and this part of the Aeneid smacks more than a little of the stage. Book IV has an appropriate central figure, a genuinely tragic subject, plenty of dramatic situations and effectively rhetorical speeches, an interesting element of divine interference, and mounts to a highly melodramatic climax. Gager did not deviate very far from Vergil in order to produce a well constructed and highly effective play, precisely because he did not have to.
6. This does not mean that changes are not introduced. The ways in which Dido differs from its Vergilian model can be divided into two categories. First, the added elements of spectacle, masquing, and song already noted. To this category can be added scenes which are introduced for their entertainment value, such as Ascanias’ demonstration of Trojan topography, and the charming monologues of Cupid and Mercury. Second, ways in which the tragedy gravitates into the orbit of Senecan tragedy. At least one scene with no Vergilian precedent is added: the appearance of the Ghost of Sychaeus at the beginning of Act III, modeled on the prologues of Seneca’s Agamemnon and Thyestes. Some scenes having a Vergilian basis are recast, insofar as is possible, so as to resemble specific episodes from Seneca’s plays or at least generic Senecan scenes. The interview between Anna and Dido, in which Anna urges the queen to succumb to her love (Act II, scene vi), is rather reminiscent of Senecan domina-nutrix scenes in general, and particularly of the scene in which the Nurse urges Phaedra to yield to her love of Hippolytus (Hippolytus 85ff.). Dido’s sacrifice in Act V, complete with its tremendous invocation to gods, supernatural beings, and natural forces, bears a distinct resemblance to the sacrifice scene in Seneca’s Medea (740ff.); but of course there is already plenty of Medea in Vergil’s Dido, for the Roman poet was fully conscious of the comparisons that could be drawn between the two spurned and vengeful heroines. There is even a kind of resemblance in form (although scarcely in specific content) between the dialogues between Aeneas and Achates in Act III and between Aeneas and Ilioneus in Act IV, and various dialogues between Senecan tyrants and their ministers or henchmen, insofar as Gager’s dialogues too are employed to reveal the inner workings of Aeneas’ mind.
7. Dido is partially preserved in Gager’s autograph notebook, now possessed by the British Library (A). Specifically, this manuscript contains the Prologue, Argumentum, Act II, Act III, and the Epilogue. Why did he not copy the entire play? Various speculations have been adduced, NOTE 18 of which the most interesting is that advanced by Boas, that Gager only troubled himself to write out the parts of the play he had contributed, and that the rest is by a different hand. This theory is not implausible, since the speed with which Dido had to be written might have required a collaborative effort. NOTE 19 It gains further plausibility when one reflects that, speaking grosso modo, the portions of the play most liable to accusations of servile dependence on the Vergilian model are precisely those parts not copied into A. Boas’ theory can be put in stronger terms. In describing this manuscript in the Introduction to Gager's poetry, it will be argued that, since Gager was a great one for recycling bits and pieces of his unpublished poetry in his printed poems and plays, a bit of post hoc propter hoc reasoning is probably not amiss: he maintained this file of unpublished stuff to be able to borrow from it as the need arose, so that he would never again be put under the pressure to work as quickly as he had in the case of Dido. If so, his omission of large parts of Dido from that manuscript is fully comprehensible: as a conscientious autoplagiarist, he thought it unethical to appropriate another man’s work, so that there would be no point in copying out these parts of the play. On the other hand, his fair copy of Dido, identified here as B, NOTE 20 was obviously executed for some quite different purpose, where a similar omission of a collaborator’s work would not have made sense.
8. It is possible to put the multiple authorship theory to the test by doing a bit of stylometric analysis. For this purpose, analysis of meter is especially useful since metrical technique affords plenty of opportunity for the display of personal tastes, idiosyncratic mannerisms (not always conscious ones), and levels of competency, and because the results of such analysis are readily quantifiable. Let us, then, compare the first hundred iambic lines undoubtedly by Gager (the Prologue, Argument, and Act II, lines 267 - 320) with the first hundred iambic lines possibly by a second hand (Act I, 38 - 137), for convenience identifying these groups as I and II respectively. Now, let us consider some statistics. First, in I there are 70 lines containing one or more resolutions,NOTE 21 while in II there are only 38. In I there are 18 lines having multiple resolutions, in II only 7. Even more interesting is an analysis of the distribution of resolutions into the first five feet of the line:
Stylometric analysis need not be carried any farther, because these figures already delineate two radically different metrical techniques. In the parts of the play undoubtedly his, Gager uses resolutions copiously, freely introducing them into all possible feet. But in Act I the technique is far more conservative, and tends to limit resolution to the first and fifth feet. A reluctance to employ them in the second and fourth may be understandable, but the low number of third-foot resolutions is truly remarkable. This lower frequency of resolution may be taken as an index of personal technique and preference, not necessarily of lesser adroitness. But it is worth recording that Dido contains several metrical solecisms (false quantities, failure to apply positional lengthening before a double consonant, etc.): cf. the Commentary notes on 783, 795, 972, 1083, 1193, and 1195. While these errors may be explicable as signs of haste, it is noteworthy that they all occur in portions of the play that, according to the theory of multiple authorship, are not Gager’s, and so they perhaps are indications of a less sure metrician. NOTE 22
9. I have already quoted a document recording that a large sum of money was furnished for “the chardges of a Comedye and a Tragedye and a shewe of fireworks as appeareth by the particular bille of Mr. Vice Chauncelor, Mr. Howsone, Mr. Maxie, and Mr. Pille.” We happen to have (in the Christ Church accounts) a receipt signed by one of the recipients of this money, “Received by me George Peele the XXVIth day of May anno 1583 at the handes of Mr Thomas Thornton Treasurer the some of XX li I say the some of twenty pounds [signed] Geo. Peele.” NOTE 23 Presumably this money was to pay for the stage, scenery, costumes, special effects, and the like. Horne (loc. cit.) suggested that:
Both [Emmanuel] Maxie and [John] Houson were almost exactly contemporaneous with Peele and may have formed, together with Peele, [Leonard] Hutten, Gager, and [Richard] Edes (who was one of the Proctors at the time of Alasco’s visit), the nucleus of a dramatic society. All but Peele were in residence at Oxford in 1583, only Peele being called in from outside, perhaps because he alone was familiar with London and particularly with the business of acquiring theatrical materials such as would be needed for properties and effects. It may be that Peele had not yet moved his wife and family to London, and was spending a portion of his time in Oxford, and that this is why his name occurred to Convocation. More likely, however, his dramatically inclined friends needed help and thought of their schoolmate, who for two years had been gaining theatrical experience in London.
The claim has been made that Peele (a former member of Christ Church, who had taken his M. A. in 1579 but did not depart Oxford until 1581) returned from London in June of 1583 to assist in the forthcoming dramatic production. NOTE 24 But we have just seen a document placing him in Oxford towards the end of the preceding month. This is only nine days after the Chancellor’s letter was read in Convocation, where money was allocated and a committee was established to supervise the coming festivities. NOTE 25 This ad hoc committee must have selected Gager as the playwright soon thereafter (doubtless on the strength of Meleager’s recent success), so Peele was on the scene only a week or so after Gager began composition of the plays. He was present in plenty of time to assist by lending technical advice and to supervise the early stages of preparation.
10. Why issue Peele the £20 so early? Work could also begin on the construction of whatever scenery, stage machinery, etc., was used, and props and costumes could be assembled. NOTE 26 For such matters, the presence of a someone familiar with the latest resources of the London theaters would be highly useful. And Peele was present, functioning in the capacity of technical advisor, while Dido was being written. For a play with so much stage spectacle, consultation about the feasibility of stage effects would obviously have been important, so in that sense Dido may be regarded as a collaborative effort. Peele may or may not have been the second author. In all probability Tucker Brooke was right to identify him as the author of the anonymous Latin mini-epic Pareus published in 1585, so work serves to show that he was capable of serving as Dido’s second author. But of course evidence that Gager was not the sole author scarcely goes to prove that Peele was his collaborator, and so Horne was judicious to conclude that “the exact assignment of Peele in the production remains obscure.” As he also wrote (p. 87), “…if we believe all the literary historians who have published ‘discoveries’ concerning Peele, he wrote most of the anonymous plays of the period and had a hand in some of Shakespeare’s,” and one should be very hesitant to add to the roster. Nevertheless, the idea that Peele may have been his collaborator remains a tantalizing possibility. But if we are to seek another possible collaborator, we do not have far to look. At this time Christ Church contained a two playwrights, Richard Eedes, who had produced a tragedy Caesar Interfectus, probably at the same time Gager’s Meleager was acted, in 1582, and so in 1583 was every bit as distinguished as Gager (although he would write no more plays), and Leonard Hutten, author of the 1581 comedy Bellum Grammaticale. In view of the short notice on which dramatic entertainment produced, it would be somewhat strange if no help were asked from Eedes, especially because he was Gager’s senior by three years and the particular friend of the Dean of Christ Church, Dr. Tobie Mathew. NOTE 27 Eedes’ sole surviving Latin poem of any length, the satire Iter Boreale, written in this same year, reveals him to be a vigorous and talented writer but an occasionally shaky metrician, capable of committing such solecisms as introducing false scansions and ignoring elisions. Nevertheless the possibility that Eedes rather than Peele was Gager’s collaborator cannot be excluded (Hutten can probably be ruled out because his forte was comedy). Indeed, given the urgency of the occasion, it would have been remarkable if the only other Christ Church playwright of the time were to be left sitting idle, so perhaps the likeliest possibility is that Peele devoted himself to the stage production while Eedes helped with the writing. Gager never claimed to be fully responsible for Dido, and none of his contemporaries attributed it to him. All we can say, on the showing of the portions preserved in his commonplace book, is that he was the play’s principal mastermind.
11. One further question deserves consideration. The production of Dido created something of a splash. Could it have come to the attention of a Cambridge student who wrote his own Dido play not long thereafter? In general, it is easy to exclude any such possibility, Marlowe’s play is conceived along quite different lines. Only one significant point of comparison exists. At the end of both plays Anna commits suicide, a feature not inherited from Vergil. The reasons are quite different: Gager’s Anna kills herself out of grief for her sister’s death, while Marlowe’s Anna does so because of the death of her lover Iarbas. Nevertheless, one might possibly reason, Marlowe might have known of Anna’s suicide as handled by Gager and decided to supply a superior motivation, and one calculated to heighten the tragic effect. But it is far from certain that Marlowe did not hit on this idea independently.
12. Dido is represented by two manuscripts. British Library Add. ms. 22583, fols. 34v - 44r, here designated A, is Gager’s autograph ms. containing the Prologue, Argument, Act II, Act III, and the Epilogue. The entire play is preserved by the Christ Church ms. 486, which may be called B. NOTE 28 Walter Hiscock suggested that B is also an autograph, an identification questioned by Binns. NOTE 29 B is executed in a very beautiful Italic script. Our single manuscript of Gager’s long poem on the Gunpowder Plot, Pyramis, (British Library ms. Royal 12 A LIX, a presentation copy dated 1608) is written in a very similar hand, in all probability the same one. This suggestion may seem difficult to accept if you compare these mss. with that of A, executed in a much more cursive and casual hand (as one would only expect in a manuscript maintained for private use only). But by comparison with signatures of Gager in Christ Church account books, Tucker Brooke, the editor of Pyramis, has suggested that this is an autograph copy. NOTE 30 This suggestion receives support from the elegiac couplet written at the front of the Dyce copy of the Meleager quarto (poem CXCVI), NOTE 31 which closely resembles both B and D. While minor differences do exist (for example, the Dyce couplet uses a closed e while the Pyramis manuscript uses an open, Greek-style e), the close resemblance of B, D,and the Dyce epigram virtually guarantees that they are all work of the same man: if you think any of them is an autograph, they you must think the same of all of them. This conclusion receives further confirmation from a document undoubtedly written in Gager’s own hand, his holographic last will and testament (Chancellor’s Court of the University of Cambridge records, now preserved at Peterborough, Vol. III, fol. 135v). Although this will lacks the laborious copperplate formality of B and the Pyramis manuscript, and employs ligatures, scrupulously avoided in those manuscripts, a number of letter shapes are identical in all three documents, or nearly so. The present edition, therefore, is based on the premise that both manuscripts are autographs. It is true that they present a number of variant reasons, which I am disposed to regard as the results of the author's subsequently tinkering.
13. Dido first saw the light when Dyce printed the text of A in his edition of Marlowe. NOTE 32 A transcript of B, together with a collation against A and English translation, was published by Binns in 1971, NOTE 33 and a very faulty transcript of B was published by Roberts-Baytop (unaware of Binns’ work) in 1974. NOTE 34 In 1981 Binns supplied the Introduction for, a photographic reproduction of B. More recently, the work has appeared with an introduction, text (which, save in a very few places, reproduces that of Binns), German translation, and commentary, by Baumann and Wissemann. NOTE 35 It will therefore be appreciated that Binn’s edition is the only significant contribution to the establishment of the text.This edition not entirely satisfactory. Since Binns doubted that B is an autograph manuscript, his decision to base his text on that manuscript was indefensible: by his own logic he ought to have used A when available, filling in from B when it is not, and to have preferred A’s readings when the two manuscripts are in disagreement. But he clung to B through thick and thin. Baumann and Wissemann, untroubled by this questionable editorial policy, were content to reproduce his text save in a very few details. This is no mere quibble, for there are a number of points where B deviates from A in ways large and small: leaving aside details of punctuation and orthography, the two manuscripts present an impressive number of different readings (prologue inscription, 1, 36, II.i speaker list, 283, 310, 362, 365f., 429 and following scene-division in A only, 479, 499, 504, 563, III.ii speaker list and initial stage direction, stage direction after 553, 607, 609, 621, 630, 661f., 707, 725, 1216, 1226, 1238, 1241, and 1243). The great majority of these divergences involve situations where the A reading is equally acceptable in terms of sense, syntax, and meter. In making this private and hastily written copy Gager probably omitted some material by simple mistake: a stanza is left out of one chorus (580ff.) and two lines are accidentally skipped (728, 1235), as is one stage direction. And there are a very few places where text readings in A are impossible. At 283 aerumnis is not an acceptable substitute for extremis (the context calls for an adjective, not a noun). 707 et hinc merely substitutes the preceding word, and cannot stand because it deprives the line of a necessary syllable. Magnus at 609 might give one a moment’s pause, since etiam would be easier understood with maior, but the objection is probably not fatal, and would Gager be saying that there might be some greater love affair afoot in Tyre at the moment? At 661 A’s reading is acceptable, since Gager also uses the vocative form Aeneas at 884. NOTE 36 In parts of the play not covered by A, B contains a number of palpably erroneous features that must be put right by emendation, most notably at 52, 185, 222, 773, 794, 858, 1024, 1033, 1089, 1106, and 1151. NOTE 37 These errors scarcely cast doubt on the proposition that B is an autograph copy: it must be borne in mind that in dealing with the portions of the play he himself did not write, Gager was liable to the same kind of errors made by any other copyist.
24. Faced with two autograph copies differing in many particulars, what is an editor to do? For once, he may very pardonably find himself in the position of Housman’s donkey, hopelessly standing midway between two haystacks. In the event, the considerations preponderate which favor following A when it is available and presents acceptable readings, and B only when these conditions are not met. To be sure, the errors in B noted in the previous paragraph are by themselves insufficient to greatly disparage that manuscript’s value, and it might be thought that the more carefully prepared copy is preferable. But plenty of presentation copies are far from being mistake-free, and the problem with B that it is impossible to determine its date, and the purpose of its preparation. Binns elsewhere suggested, NOTE 38 “some of the surviving manuscripts [of academic plays] are so beautifully written that they may well be presentation copies given to distinguished visitors to help them follow the play in Latin.” Certainly B is a handsome enough manuscript to fall in this category, but this interesting idea is no more than speculation (albeit a considerably more likely one than that this was a performance copy). B could also be a fair copy presented by the author to his college library at some indefinite time. But, as shown in the General Introduction to Gager's poetry, Gager began his literary notebook no later than September 1583. Thus, the consideration that the A version is demonstrably executed soon after Dido’s writing, wheras the B version is not, tips the scales in favor of A. Nevertheless, of course, the realization that both manuscripts are autographs permits an eclectic edition drawing on both, and at points where B is manifestly superior, I do not hesitate to use it.