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monstrance with his mother, his voyage to England, his return and revenge, are all incidents of the original story, which goes on to relate how Hamlet after his uncle's death became King of Denmark, how he went again to England and married two wives, by one of whom he was betrayed on his return to Denmark into the power of another uncle, Wiglerus, his mother's brother, and was finally slain in battle. Long before the story assumed the shape in which it is familiar to us, it had in all probability been modified in adapting it for the stage. There is evidence that as early as 1587 a drama on this subject had been written and performed in England. In the preface by Thomas Nash to Robert Greene's Menaphon, the first edition of which, according to Dyce, was printed in 1587, though no copy appears to be known of an earlier date than 1589, occurs a passage which certainly refers to a play of Hamlet, and has been thought to contain an attack on Shakespeare. We quote from the reprint of the edition of 1616 as it is given in Sir Egerton Brydges' Archaica, vol. i. 'It is a common practice now-a-days, amongst a sort of shifting companions, that run through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of noverint, whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the endeavours of art, that could scarcely latinise their neck-verse if they should have need: yet English Seneca read by candle-light yields many good sentences, as “Blood is a beggar,” and so forth; and if you intreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say, handfulls of cal speeches. In Henslowe's Diary, under the date 9 June 1594, is mentioned the performance of a play “Hamlet' at the Newington Theatre. Lodge, in his • Wits Miserie, and the Worlds Madnesse, printed in 1596, thus describes the fiend ‘Hate-Virtue': 'He walks for the most part in black vnder colour of grauity, and looks as pale as the Visard of ye ghost which cried so miserally at ye Theator like an oister wife, Hamlet, reuenge.' This last quotation would alone be sufficient to prove that the play in question was not the Hamlet of Shakespeare, and if the date (1587) which has been given to Greene's Menaphon be correct, it is difficult to imagine that the reference in Nash's Address could be to Shakespeare, who was then only in his twenty-third year.
We now come to something which is undoubtedly connected with Shakespeare. In the Registers of the Stationers' Company is an entry, under the date 26 July 1602, made by James Roberts the printer, of ' A booke, The Revenge of Hamlett prince of Denmarke, as yt latelie was acted by the Lord Chamberlayn his servantes.' This is evidently the book which was printed in the following year with this title : 'The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, By William Shakespeare. As it hath beene diverse times acted by his Highnesse servants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Vniversities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where. At Londun printed for N. L. and Iohn Trundell, 1603.' Coupling the fact of the entry by Roberts with the fact that the quarto of 1604 was 'Printed by I. R. for N. L.' that is by James Roberts for Nicholas Ling, we may infer that Roberts also printed the quarto of 1603. When James the First came to the throne 'he accepted the Lord Chamberlain's servants as his own' (Chalmers, Farther Account of the Early English Stage, in Boswell's Shakespeare, iii. 463), so that “the Lord Chamberlayn his servants' of the Stationers' Register are the same company with his Highnesse servants' of the printed book, and to this company Shakespeare belonged. No evidence has yet been discovered of the occasion on which the play was acted at the two universities; but if we might hazard a conjecture, it seems not improbable that it might have been at some entertaininent in honour of the king's accession, and it may have been selected as being connected with the native country of his queen.
In the following year, 1604, appeared for the first time in the shape in which it has come down to us, “The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. By William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much-againe as it was, according to the true and perfect coppie.' The statement with regard to the enlargement of the play is substantially true, for whereas the edition of 1603 contained thirty-two leaves, that of 1604 contained fifty, exclusive of the title. This last mentioned was followed by other editions in quarto in the years 1605, 1611, 1637, and by one without date which was evidently printed from that of 1611. The text of the play, as it is found in the first folio of 1623 and the subsequent folio editions, is from sources independent of the quartos. The quartos contain many passages which are omitted in the folios, probably for the purpose of shortening the play when acted, and on the other hand there are a few passages which are in the folios but not in the quartos. These we have generally indicated in our notes. But notwithstanding these minor differences the play as it appears in the quarto of 1604 and the folio of 1623 is the same play. It remains to enquire what relation it bears to the edition of 1603.
It is clear upon a very slight examination that the latter is printed from a copy which was hastily taken down and perhaps surreptitiously obtained, either from short-hand notes made during the representation, or privately from the actors themselves. These notes when transcribed would form the written copy which the printers had before them, and would account for the existence of errors which are errors of the copyist rather than of the hearer. But granting all this, we have yet to account for differences between the earlier and later forms of the play which cannot be explained by the carelessness of short-hand writer, copyist, or printer. Mr. Knight, with great ingenuity, maintains that the quarto of 1603 represents the original sketch of the play, and that this was an early work of the poet. We differ from him in respect to this last conclusion, because we can see no evidence for Shakespeare's connexion with the play before 1602. First, there is the complete absence of any, positive evidence on the point, and next there is the very strong negative evidence that in the enumeration of Shakespeare's works by one who was an ardent admirer of his genius, Francis Meres, in his Palladis Tamia, or Wit's Treasury, published in 1598, there is no mention whatever of Hamlet. That Hamlet should be omitted and Titus Andronicus inserted is utterly unintelligible, except upon the supposition that in 1598 the play bearing the former name had not in any
way been connected with Shakespeare. Herr Karl Elze appeals to the omission of Pericles and Henry VI. from the list as a parallel instance, but we submit that there is no reason at all for associating Shakespeare with Pericles at this period, and that his connexion with the three parts of Henry VI. is doubtful. In any case the last-mentioned play would hardly be quoted by an admirer as a proof of his genius; whereas if Hamlet had existed, even in the imperfect form in which it appears in the quarto of 1603, it would have supplied at least as good an instance of his tragic power as Titus Andronicus or Richard III. At some time therefore between 1598 and 1602 Hamlet, as retouched by Shakespeare, was put upon the stage. We are inclined to think that it was acted not very long before the date of Roberts' entry in the Stationers' Registers, namely, 26 July 1602. Our reason for this opinion is, that if the play had been long a popular one and had been frequently represented, the printer or publisher would have had many opportunities of procuring a more accurate copy than that from which the edition of 1603 was made. The errors of this edition, and the manifest haste with which it was printed, seem to show that the play had only been acted a short time before, and that the publisher went to press with the first copy he could obtain, however imperfect. This supposition is favoured by the expression in the Stationers' Register,' as it was lately acted,' which would hardly have been used of a play which had long been popular. Steevens endeavoured, very unfairly we think, to make it appear that Shakespeare's Hamlet was known in 1598, by quoting a MS. note written by Gabriel Harvey in a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer published in that year. He attributed to the note the date of the book, but Malone has shown that, although Harvey may have purchased the volume in 1598, there is nothing to prove that he wrote the note till after 16co, in which year Fairfax's translation of Tasso, mentioned in another note, was published. In fact, Harvey may have written the note in any one of the thirty years which he lived after the book came into his possession. Malone himself fixed the date of the first performance of Hamlet in the autumn of 1600, because in the June of that year all players were 'inhibited' except those at the Fortune and the Globe; and this he supposes will explain the reference in ii. 2. 323, 'their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation. But as this passage appears for the first time in 1604 and is not in the edition of 1603, with which Malone was unacquainted, it would seem, if it had any special meaning at all, to refer to something which had happened between those two years:
After a careful examination of the quarto of 1603, and a comparison of the play as there exhibited with its later form, we have arrived at a conclusion which, inasmuch as it is conjectural and based to a large extent upon subjective considerations, we state with some diffidence. It is this :— That there was an old play on the story of Hamlet, some portions of which are still preserved in the quarto of 1603; that about the year 1602 Shakespeare took this and began to remodel it for the stage, as he had done with other plays; that the quarto of 1603 represents the play after it had been retouched by him to a certain extent, but before his alterations were complete; and that in the quarto of 1604 we have for the first time the Hamlet of Shakespeare. It is quite true, as Mr. Knight has remarked, that in the quarto of 1603 we have the whole 'action of the play; that is to say, the events follow very much the same order and the catastrophe
There are however some important modifications even in this respect. The scene with Ophelia, which in the modern play occurs in iii. 1, is in the older form introduced in the middle of ii. 2. Polonius is Corambis in the older play, and Reynaldo is Montano. The madness of Hamlet is much more pronounced, and the Queen's innocence of her husband's murder much more explicitly stated, in the earlier than in the later play. In fact, the earlier play in these respects corresponds more closely with the original story. In the earlier form it appears to us that Shakespeare's modification of the play had not gone much beyond the second act. Certainly in the third act we find very great unlikeness and very great inferiority to the later play. In fact, in the first, third, and fourth scenes there is hardly a trace of Shakespeare,