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fond la pensée du poète, et de surprendre les secrets du génie en travail" — it would be gratifying to believe this, were it not that several of those passages which are found in both versions, almost word for word, are not in Shakespeare's early manner, but in that of the period when the tragedy was first published, and that on the other hand the first text contains at least as many passages which, making all possible allowance for hasty performance and surreptitious printing, we must sweep aside as wretched drivel, which Shakespeare could not have written at any time, and which is plainly the work of some verse-monger who undertook to bridge the gaps and smooth the surface of a rough and fragmentary copy of the genuine and completed tragedy — the very tragedy, “perfect in all its members,” that the reader will find in the ensuing pages.* Little more remains to be said by way of introduction to this play. The condition of the text as it appears in the old copies has been necessarily touched upon in the foregoing observations. The completest text is furnished by the quarto of 1604; the most correct, as to the parts which it preserves, in the folio of 1623. In this text, too, there are many minor variations from that of the second quarto, and where these are not plainly due to accident they are generally improvements. It seems also clear that the folio was printed, not from a curtailed copy of the edition of 1604, or an abridged manuscript of the text used for that edition, but from an independent text, which probably was the one finally used on the stage of the Globe Theatre. The pe

* I remain of this opinion after careful consideration of all that has beon so ingeniously urged in support of the opposite conclusion. As to the corresponding passages cited by Mr. Knight (Introductory Notice, Pictorial Edition) from the two versions to show that the latter text is an expansion and development of the former, there is not a single instance in which the difference may not, I had almost said must not, be attributed to the hasty and surreptitious manner in which the earlier text was issued. Mr. Collier sets forth, without argument or support, the following opinion, with which, in all essential points, my own accords: —

“As an accurate reprint was made in 1825 of ‘The Tragicall IIistorie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke,’ 1603, it will be unnecessary to go in detail into proofs to establish, as we could do without much difficulty, the following points: 1. That great part of the play, as it there stands, was taken down in short-hand; 2. That where mechanical skill failed the short-hand writer he either filled up the blanks from memory or employed an inferior writer to assist him; 3. That although some of the scenes were carelessly transposed, and others entirely omitted, in the edition of 1603, the drama, as it was acted while the short-hand writer was employed in taking it down, was, in all its main features, the same as the more perfect copy of the tragedy printed with the date of 1604.” .

culiarities of each text which establish these points are indicated specifically in the Notes. – The text of the quarto of 1603 is of course of no authority, and of little value. It is useful at times, however, as a guide in our corrections of the press errors of the folio and the second quarto. But, with all the aid which the three texts give towards the formation of one pure one, there are some passages in this tragedy which have hitherto defied the subtlest ingenuity to explain, and the boldest conjecture to amend them, and one at least in which there has been serious mutilation. Still the text of Hamlet, as we are able to present it to the reader, is distinguished rather by a very few striking and important corruptions than by many of minor import. And in fact there is hardly a passage in the tragedy, excepting that in the first Scene about the “stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,” that can give trouble to a reader intent only upon the enjoyment of his author ; which, considering the style of the work and the vicissitudes of the stage and the printingoffice to which its text was subjected, is remarkable. Shakespeare's tragedy was surely written between 1598, the date of Meres’ Palladis Tamia, and June, 1602, when Roberts made his entry of it on the Register of the Stationers’ Company; and a yet closer approximation to the exact date of its production seems to be furnished by the passage in Act II. Sc. 2, in which “the inhibition” which forced the tragedians of the city to travel is attributed to “the late innovation,” which was the performance of plays by “an eyry of children,” to wit, the Children of Pauls. Now, in 1600, theatrical performances were restricted, by order of the Privy Council, to two theatres; and in the same year the performances of the Children of Pauls were resumed after an interval of nearly ten years.” We may therefore with some certainty attribute the production of Shakespeare's version of Hamlet to the year 1600. The period of the action of this play, according to the story from which its plot is derived, is of a remote and undefined antiquity. We are told in the first chapter of The Hystorie of Hamblet that the events which it records took place “long time before the kingdome of Denmarke received the faith of Jesus Christ; ” and in the fourth chapter that the ambassadors who went with Hamlet to England bore from Hamlet’s uncle to the King of England “letters ingraved in wood,” which indicates a

* See Collier's Annals of the Stage, Wol. I. pp. 279-282.

period of the rudest manners. But in the eye of Shakespeare's imagination his characters lived in later times; and perhaps the tenth century may be accepted as the period which he had in mind. For the costume of this day early illuminated manuscripts and effigies of exceeding rarity furnish the only authorities. But, as far as concerns the effect which Shakespeare intended to produce, the action may be supposed to take place at any time previous to the Wars of the Roses.

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CLAUDIUs, King of Denmark. -
HAMLET, Son to the former and Nephew to the present Ring.
HoRATIo, Friend to Hamlet.
Polonius, Lord Chamberlain.

LAERTEs, his Son.

VoI.TIMAND,

CoRNELIUs,

RosBNCRANTZ, X Courtiers.

GUILDENSTERN,

OSRICK,

Another Courtier.

A Priest.

MARCELLUs,

BERNARDO, {off Cé?’S,

FRANCIsco, a Soldier.
REYNALDO, Servant to Polonius.
A Captain. Ambassadors.
Ghost of Hamlet's Father.
FoETINBRAs, Prince of Norway.
Two Clowns, Grave-diggers.

GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and Mother to Hamlet,
OPHELIA, Daughter to Polonius.

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A CT I. SCENE I. — Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.

FRANCIsco on his post. Enter to him BERNARDo.

BERNARDO. \ W THO'S there Francisco. Nay, answer me : stand, and unfold

Yourself.

Ber. Long live the King !

Fram. Bernardo P

Ber. He.

Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour.

Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve : get thee to bed, Francisco.

Fran. For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold,

And I am sick at heart.

Ber. Have you had quiet guard

Fran. Not a mouse stirring.

Ber. Well, good night.

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