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Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE-ELSINORE; except in the fourth scene of the fourth act, where it
HISTORIC PERIOD: Supposed about the end of the 9th or the beginning of the 10th century.
TIME OF ACTION.
Mr. Marshall (Study of Hamlet, 1875), has the following scheme of time:
Day 1: Act I. Scenes 1-3.
months. Day 3: Act II.
Day 4: Act III. and Act IV. Scenes 1-3.
Day 5: Act IV. Scene 4.-Interval, about two months.
Day 7: Act V. Scene 1.
Mr. Daniel's scheme differs from this only in reducing the Interval between Days 5 and 6 to about a week; he marks no Interval between Days 6 and 7, and gives one Day only for the whole of Act V.
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK.
The Literary History of Hamlet is of such great interest, and, at the same time, so full of difficulties and of disputed points, that the most one can do, in the limited space of such an Introduction as this, is to place the chief facts clearly before one's readers, and to point out briefly the deductions which have been or may be made from these facts.
On July 26th, 1602, the Stationers' Register contains the following entry:
James Robertes. Entred for his Copie vnder the handes of master PASFEILD and master waterson warden A booke called 'the Revenge of HAMLETT Prince [of] Denmarke' as yt was latelie Acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servantes vjd
For some reason the publication was deferred; and it was not till 1603 that the first edition of the play was printed with the following title-page:
"THE Tragicall Historie of HAMLET Prince of Denmarke | By William Shakespeare. As it hath beene diuerse times acted by his Highnesse ser- uants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two V- | niuersities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where | At London printed for N. L. and John Trundell. | 1603." No printer's name is given. In 1604 another Quarto (Q. 2) was printed with the same title, but: "Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect | Coppie. AT LONDON | Printed by I. R. for N. L. and are to be sold at his shoppe under Saint Dunstons Church in | Fleet street. 1604."
There is little doubt that I. R. is James
Roberts, who had entered the book on the Stationers' Register, 1602; though N. L. (Nicholas Ling) had, in the meantime, in conjunction with Trundell, published a surreptitious edition. This latter Quarto (Q. 2) forms, with the first Folio, the principal authority for the received text of Hamlet; Q. 1 being, as is very generally known, a very imperfect copy of the play, so much so that we cannot profess to give any but a few of the various readings which it contains.
The history of the discovery of this Quarto is a very curious one. In 1821 Sir Henry Bunbury came into possession of the library of Barton, which had belonged to Sir Thomas Hanmer. Among the volumes was a shabby, ill-bound quarto, barbarously cropped, but of almost priceless value; for it contained not only this then unique copy of the early Hamlet, but also ten other Shakespeare Quartos, dated from 1598 to 1603, and The Two Noble Kinsmen, 1634. The Cambridge editors think this volume had belonged to Sir Thomas Hanmer; but surely he could never have overlooked such a treasure. Sir H. Bunbury says he found it in a closet at Barton, in 1823, and that" "it probably was picked up by my grandfather, Sir William Bunbury, who was an ardent collector of old dramas" (see Furness, vol. ii. p. 13). The volume was sold to the Duke of Devonshire, in whose possession it now is. This copy of the 1603 Quarto of Hamlet was long thought to be unique; but in 1856 a bookseller in Dublin, M. W. Rooney, purchased from a student of Trinity College a shabby quarto which he had brought from his home in a midland county of England in 1853. He had taken it from a bundle of old pamphlets as a memento of his family, and had tried in vain to dispose of it. On examining this pamphlet, Mr. Rooney found that it was another
copy of the supposed unique Quarto of Hamlet, which, though it wanted the title-page, yet had the last leaf, which was wanting in the Duke of Devonshire's copy.1 It was sold to Mr. Boone for £70, purchased from him for £120 by Mr. Halliwell (Phillipps), and is now in the British Museum. Other Quarto editions of Hamlet were published, one in 1605 (Q. 3) being a mere reprint of Q. 2 by J. R[oberts] for N. L[ing]. On November 19th, 1607, Nicholas Ling transferred all his copyrights to John Smithwicke, who brought out the Quarto printed in 1611 with the title-page substantially the same as that of Q. 3 (except that it is called for the first time The Tragedy instead of The Tragical Historie) and also another Quarto, without date, said to be "newly imprinted and enlarged." The Cambridge editors call the 1611 Quarto Q. 4, and the undated Quarto Q. 5; though Mr. Collier and some other authorities think that the latter was printed in 1607. For the convenience of reference we shall adopt the same order of numbering as the Cambridge editors. After the publication of the first Folio the sixth Quarto (Q. 6) was published in 1637, and at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century several players' Quartos were published, four of which-those of 1676, 1685, 1695, 1703-have been collated by the Cambridge editors. The Quarto of 1695 contains the cast of the play with Betterton as Hamlet, and the passages omitted on the stage are marked by inverted commas. I have carefully collated this copy with the received text of Hamlet, and some of the most remarkable omissions and alterations will be noticed.
Some time before 1603, as early as 1589, or even 1587 according to others, we find a reference to some play on the subject of Hamlet, in an Epistle to the Gentlemen Students of both Universities, by Thomas Nashe, prefixed to Greene's Menaphon (printed in 1589). The passage, so often quoted, contains the following sentence: "he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say, Handfulls of tragical speaches." In 1594 the Lord Chamberlain's men, of whom Shakespeare was one, were acting with the
1 I take these particulars from a small pamphlet published by Mr. Rooney in 1856.
Lord Admiral's men at Newington Butts under the part management of Henslowe, in whose diary we find the following entry on June 9th: "Rd. at hamlet viiis." This seems to have been an old play; for Henslowe does not put the letters ne to it, as he always does in the case of new plays, and the receipts must have been very small if his share only amounted to eight shillings. As we do not find any other record of the performance of Hamlet in Henslowe's Diary, we may conclude that the play, whosesoever it was, was not a very popular one; yet in Dr. Thomas Lodge's Wits Miserie, and the Worlds Madnesse discovering the Devils Incarnate of this age, 1596, we find another reference to it; one of the Devils, speaking of the author, says the Doctor is "a foule lubber, and looks as pale as the visard of y ghost, which cried so miserally at ye theator like an oisterwife, Hamlet revenge" (p. 56). Steevens mentions that he had
seen a copy of Speight's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey" with a note in the latter's handwriting: "The younger sort take much delight in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wiser sort, 1598" (Var. Ed. vol. vii. p. 168). Malone examined the book in question, and found that it was purchased by Harvey in 1598; but he thought the above note need not have been written until 1600. If it were written when the book was first brought out, it would prove the fact that Shakespeare's name was connected with the play of Hamlet in 1598; though, singular to state, Meres, in the oftenquoted passage from Palladis Tamia, does not mention Hamlet amongst his tragedies. In Sir Thomas Smith's Voiage and Entertainment in Rushia, &c. 1605, sig. K. ". . . his fathers Empire and Gouernment we find was but as the Poeticall Furie in a Stage-action, compleat yet with horrid and wofull Tragedies: a first, but no second to any Hamlet; and that now Reuenge, iust Reuenge was comming with his Sworde drawne against him, his royall Mother, and dearest Sister, to fill vp those Murdering Sceanes;" and lastly, Samuel Rowlands, 1620, in The Night Raven (Sig. D. 2) has:
I will not cry Hamlet Revenge my greeves, But I will call Hang-man Revenge on theeves.
All these passages are generally held to allude to the old play; but, though this may be true of the earlier allusions before 1600, I do not see any reason to believe that the later ones, because they happen to contain the words Hamlet Revenge, should not refer to Shakespeare's play. It is no uncommon thing for persons who quote from memory to make mistakes; and the words Hamlet Revenge may simply be a recollection of the line spoken by the Ghost, i. 5. 25:
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. This same sentence, "Hamlet Revenge," taken out of the old play, is perhaps referred to in the following passage in the Induction to The Warning for Faire Women, where Comedy says:
How some damn'd tyrant to obtain a crown
Then, too, a filthy whining ghost,
This last allusion is, to say the least, a doubtful one. It may have referred to one of the many ghosts in the old plays of the period before Shakespeare began to write for the stage. But these same two words, "Hamlet, Revenge," are quoted in Dekker's Satiromastix, 1602: "my name 's Hamlet, revenge," where the speaker, Tucca, is followed on to the stage by his boy, "with two pictures under his cloak;" and again in Westward Hoe, 1607. We undoubtedly have a quotation as early as 1604 in Marston's Malcontent, iii. 3: "Illo, ho, ho, ho! arte there, olde true penny?" (Works, ed. Halliwell's, vol. ii. p. 249).
We come now to the most difficult and important question, on which there has been such a great difference of opinion, What does this Quarto of 1603 represent? (1) Is it an early version of Shakespeare's play? or (2) is it a mutilated copy, disfigured by blunders of the copyist or the enterprising publisher who annexed it, of the same play from which the
Quarto of 1604 was printed? or (3) is it, as the Clarendon editors suggest in their preface, the old play partly revised and rewritten by Shakespeare? That there was an old play, founded on the prose history of Hamlet (to be mentioned hereafter), I think is almost indisputable; and though personally I venture to differ from the authorities on this point, believing that Hamlet in its first rough edition was one of Shakespeare's earliest dramatic efforts, yet it is scarcely possible to maintain that the play, referred to by Nash as one well known in 1589, could have been by Shakespeare, who was then only in his twenty-fifth year. But that Shakespeare had written a version of Hamlet some time before 1603 I firmly believe.
That the Quarto edition, surreptitiously published for N. L. (Nicholas Ling), represents this early version to a certain extent, allowing for mistakes of the copyist and printer-and, most important of all, for excisions and perhaps some interpolations made by the company or companies who had acted the tragedy-there is little doubt. Space will not allow me here to enter into an elaborate analysis of the differences between Q. 1 and Q. 2; but, after examining and re-examining, and comparing the two texts together from a literary and dramatic point of view, it seems impossible to believe that, whether obtained partly from actors' parts and partly transcribed from memory, or taken down in shorthand, the Quarto of 1603 was derived from the same version of the play as the Quarto of 1604, or from the MS. from which the play was printed in F. 1. On the other hand, there is too much of Shakespeare's Hamlet, as we know it, in the Quarto of 1603, for us to admit that it was the old play, only partly revised by him. The more and more one studies the differences, both great and small, between the two Quarto editions of the play, the more one comes to the conclusion that the first was a corrupt and incorrect copy of the play as first put together by its author. In that monumental work, Furness's New Variorum edition of Shakespeare, there will be found, admirably summed up, the various arguments on this point (vol. ii. pp. 14-33). No doubt