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and was merely the work of the printer or publisher, and not of the author.
A close examination of the text of the quarto of 1603 has convinced me that it is merely an imperfect, garbled, and interpolated version of the completed play, and that its comparative brevity is caused by sheer mutilation consequent upon the haste and secrecy with which the copy for it was obtained and put in type. This could easily be shown in an analysis and comparison of the two texts, like those which have been instituted in regard to The Merry Wives of Windsor, King Henry the Sixth, and Romeo and Juliet.
For instance, the conformity of the two texts, which is nearly absolute at first, diminishes as the play advances, as if the reporter had grown weary and careless over his protracted task. In the case of rhyming couplets at the end of Scenes, impressive speeches, and the like, the rhymes, (easily caught and remembered,) and generally the lines themselves, are the same in both texts, although in the elder confusion and corruption may precede and follow them. Of the few stage directions there are enough which record a spectator's impression, instead of issuing a stage manager's order, to show that, like those in the first edition of Romeo and Juliet, they are due to observation of the performance, and not to the prompter’s book.” In Sc. 1 of Act III. the phrase “to a nunnery go is baldly repeated eight times within a few lines; showing that the reporter jotted down a memorandum of Hamlet’s objurgation, but forgot to vary it as Shakespeare did — a kind of evidence of the share that he had in the text of 1603, which he has left us on more than one occasion. The phrases “for to,” “when as,’ and ‘where as,’ Shakespeare's avoidance of which has been noted in the Essay on the Authorship of King Henry the Siath, (Vol. VII. pp. 431, 432,) occur in the earliest version several times; but in the quarto of 1604 the two latter are not found at all, the former but once, and in the folio it disappears entirely.
But, not to weary the reader with such minute analysis, I shall consider three or four prominent and characteristic passages, and leave a closer comparison to those who desire to make it; resting assured that they will be led to the same conclusion which I myself have reached. For although they must observe, as others have observed before them, that many of the passages found in the later but not in the earlier version are distinguished by that blending of psychological insight with imagination and fancy which is the highest manifestation of Shakespeare's genius, they should also remember that the quarto of 1603 was hastily printed to meet an urgent popular demand, and that the philosophical part of the play would be at once the most difficult to obtain by surreptitious means, and the least valued by the persons to supply whose cravings that edition was published. It may safely be presumed that those persons were chiefly interested in the plot, the incidents, and the characters ; and the passages of the play which would give them these were just those which could be most easily reproduced from notes or from memory. To minds undisciplined in thought, abstract truth is difficult of apprehension and of recollection, even when poetry drapes its austere outlines with beautiful associations; whereas a mere child can remember a story, and even the most interesting speeches of the people who figure in it. And in addition to this very important consideration, there is the yet more important fact that some of the most profoundly thoughtful passages in the play, - passages most indicative of maturity of intellect and wide observation of life, – are found essentially complete, although grossly and almost ludicrously corrupted, in the first imperfect version of the tragedy. Two of the most celebrated and most reflective passages of the play shall furnish us examples in point of the last remark, and also characteristic specimens of the kind of corruption to which the text of the play was subjected in the preparation of the quarto of 1603. The first of Hamlet's two celebrated soliloquies (Act I. Sc. 2) appears in the quarto of 1603 in this form : —
* Such as “Enter Ofelia playing on a lute, and her haire down singing,” Act IV. Sc. 5; “he throwes up a shouel [skull].” Act W. Sc. 1; “They catch one another's Rapiers, and both are wounded, Leartes falles dowme, the Queene falles downe and dies,” Act W. Sc. 2.
“Ham. O that this too much grieu’d and sallied flesh
Within two months, ere yet the salt of most
A comparison of these lines with those of the perfect soliloquy makes it apparent that these are but an imperfect representation of those. The latter are no expansion of the former. The thoughts are the same in both, with the exception of seven lines which were plainly omitted from the first version, not added to it in writing the second. The maimed and halting second and third lines in the version of 1603, which it is absurd to suppose that Shakespeare could have written at any period of his life, are the best that the person who furnished it could do to supply the place of the corresponding lines and the seven which follow them in the perfect soliloquy. The rest is all tangled and disordered, though but slightly defective, and shows in its very confusion of parts that it represents the perfect speech. Notice the misplacement of lines, such as the one containing the comparison to Hercules, and that about the shoes, and the unrighteous tears; and see that “Why she would hang on him " is not only misplaced, but that ‘him' is without an antecedent, owing to the omission of the allusion to Hamlet's father and his love for the Queen. Yet see in this very derangement and in these defects the proof that the earlier version is merely mutilated, not a sketch ; the later, merely perfect, not elaborated. The evidence of the same relation of the two texts is perhaps yet stronger in the case of the second and more important soliloquy, which is printed thus in the first quarto: —
“ Ham. To be or not to be, I there's the point, To Die, to sleepe, is that all ? I all;
No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,
This reads almost like intentional burlesque, so completely, yet absurdly, are all the thoughts of the genuine soliloquy represented in it. Like the shadow of a fair and stately building on the surface of a troubled river, it distorts outline, destroys symmetry, confuses parts, contracts some passages, expands others, robs color of its charm and light of its brilliancy, and presents but a dim, grotesque, and shapeless image of the beautiful original; while yet, with that original before us, we can see that it is a reflection of the whole structure, and not merely of its foundation, its framework, or its important parts. How ludicrously the well-known sentences, “To sleep, perchance to dream,” and that, several lines below, about “the dread of something after death,” are lumped together, and crushed into shapelessness in the lines, –
“No, to sleep, to dream, aye marry there it goes
That this soliloquy, as it stands in the quarto of 1603, is merely a mutilated version of that which is found in the quarto of 1604 is as clear to my apprehension as that the latter was written by William Shakespeare.
Another proof that the quarto of 1603 is but an accidentally imperfect representation of the completed play is found in the fragment which it gives of the Scene (Act IV. Sc. 4) in which Fortinbras enters at the head of the Norwegian forces. This consists only of the speech of Fortinbras, which appears in the following shape: —
“Captaine, from vs goe greete
This has the same distorted likeness to the genuine speech that the soliloquies just cited have to their prototypes in the true text. But — to look farther — with this speech the Scene ends: we have, “eaceunt all,” and immediately, “enter King and Queene.” Now, will any one believe that Shakespeare brought Fortinbras at the head of an army upon the stage merely to speak these half dozen lines of commonplace Plainly the only object was to give Hamlet the opportunity for that great introspective soliloquy in which, with a psychological insight profounder than that which is exhibited in any other passage of the tragedy, the poet makes the Prince confess in whisper to himself the subtle modes and hidden causes of his vacillation. Considering the motive of the play, the introduction of Fortinbras and his army without the subsequent dialogue and soliloquy is a moral impossibility which overrides all other arguments. Yet this one is not unsupported. For the speech of Fortinbras in the first version itself furnishes evidence that it was written out for the press by a person who had heard the dialogue which it introduces. The latter part of the line —
“Tell him that Fortinbras, nephew to old Norway” —
has no counterpart in the genuine speech; but we detect in it an unmistakable reminiscence of the following passage of the subsequent dialogue which is found in the edition of 1604: —