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"THE Tragicall Historie of HAMLET Prince of Denmarke. By William Shake-speare. As it hath beene diuerse times acted by his Highnesse seruants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Vniuersities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where. At London printed for N. L. and Iohn Trundell." 1603. 4to. 33 leaves.

"THE Tragicall Historie of HAMLET, Prince of Denmarke. By William Shakespeare. 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 vnder Saint Dunstons Church in Fleetstreet." 1604. 4to. 51 leaves.

The same: 1605.

The same. "At London, Printed for Iohn Smethwicke and are to be sold at his shoppe in Saint Dunstons Church yeard in Fleetstreet. Vnder the Diall." 1611. 4to. 51 leaves.

"The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke. Newly Imprinted and inlarged, according to the true and perfect Copy lastly Printed. By William Shakespeare. London, Printed by W. S. for Iohn Smethwicke, and are to be sold at his Shop in Saint Dunstans Church-yard in Fleetstreet: Vnder the Diall " 4to. 51 leaves.

Hamlet occupies thirty-one pages in the folio of 1623, viz., from p. 152 to p. 280, inclusive, in the division of Tragedies, there being a mistake of 100 pages after p. 156, the page which should have been numbered 157 having been numbered 257. It is divided into Acts and Scenes as far as Scena Secunda of Actus Secundus. Rowe completed the division, and added a list of Dramatis Personæ.




NLY one Hamlet is known to English dramatic literature. But there appears to be little room for doubt that before Shakespeare wrote for the stage the legend of the Danish prince had been made the subject of a tragedy which passed into oblivion upon the appearance of the one that was to live in the world's memory forever. The earliest form in which the story of Hamlet has survived is that in which it is found in the chronicle of Saxo Grammaticus, the historian of the Danish kings and heroes, who wrote towards the end of the twelfth century, but whose work was first published in 1514. Thence it was transferred, in a French version, to Belleforest's Collection of Tales, published at Paris in 1571,* which, in turn, was translated very vilely into English, and published, probably, early in the last quarter of the sixteenth century. But no edition of an earlier date than 1608 is known; and of this only one copy is supposed to have survived the ravages of time.† The points of resemblance between The Historie of Hamblet and Shakespeare's play are neither so numerous nor so striking as they surely would have been were either of them directly founded upon the other. The likeness and the difference between them need not be set forth more particularly here than by recapitulating, in the language of the old quarto "Historie" itself, the contents of the eight chapters into which it is divided.

Chap. I. How Horvendile and Fengon were made Governours of the Province of Ditmarse, and how Horvendile maryed

* See the Introduction to Romeo and Juliet, Vol. X. p. 6. "The Hystorie of Hamblet." 4to. London, 1608. — Among Capell's books preserved at Cambridge. Reprinted in Collier's Shakespeare's Library.

Geruth, the daughter to Roderick, chief K. of Denmark by whom he had Hamblet: and how after his marriage his brother Fengon slewe him trayterously, and marryed his brothers wife, and what followed.

Chap. II. How Hamblet counterfieted the mad man, to escape the tyrannie of his uncle, and how he was tempted by a woman (through his uncles procurement) who thereby thought to undermine the Prince, and by that meanes to finde out whether he counterfieted madnesse or not: and how Hamblet would by no meanes bee brought to consent unto her, and what followed.

Chap. III. How Fengon, uncle to Hamblet, a second time to entrap him in his politick madnes, caused one of his counsellors to be secretly hidden in the queenes chamber, behind the arras, to heare what speeches passed between Hamblet and the Queen; and how Hamblet killed him, and escaped that danger, and what followed.

Chap. IIII. How Fengon the third time devised to send Hamblet to the king of England, with secret letters to have him put to death: and how Hamblet, when his companions slept, read the letters, and instead of them counterfieted others, willing the king of England to put the two messengers to death, and to marry his daughter to Hamblet, which was effected; and how Hamblet escaped out of England. Chap. V. How Hamblet, having escaped out of England, arrived in Denmarke the same day that the Danes were celebrating his funerals, suposing him to be dead in England; and how he revenged his fathers death upon his uncle and the rest of the courtiers; and what followed.

Chap. VI. How Hamlet, having slaine his Uncle, and burnt his Palace, made an Oration to the Danes to shew them what he done; and how they made him King of Denmarke; and what followed.

Chap. VII. How Hamlet, after his coronation, went into England; and how the king of England secretly would have put him to death; and how he slew the king of England, and returned againe into Denmarke with two wives; and what followed.

Chap. VIII. How Hamblet, being in Denmarke, was assailed by Wiglerus his Uncle, and after betrayed by his last wife called Hermetrude, and was slaine; after whose death she marryed his enemie, Wiglerus.

With Hamlet's return from England all, likeness between Shakespeare's play and the story from which its chief incidents were indirectly taken is at an end. Nor are the incidents of both even thus far so nearly identical as at the first blush they seem. In the story Hamlet's father is not King of Denmark,


but joint Governor, with his brother Fengon, of the province of Jute. Fengon lives in adultery with Hamlet's mother during the lifetime of his father, who is not secretly poisoned, but openly put to death by Fengon at the head of his partisans. Hamlet's madness is counterfeited upon his own suggestion, and not in consequence of an interview with his father's ghost important character in the play which is not found in the story. In the story Hamlet is tempted by a "faire and beautifull woman in a secret place," but in vain, because he is forewarned by one of the courtiers, and also because "by her he was likewise informed of the treason, as being one that from her infancie loved and favoured him, and would have been exceedingly sorrowfull for his misfortune;" and in these few words consists its entire contribution to the character of Ophelia and the Scenes in which she bears so prominent a part. No play convicts the King of conscious guilt, according to the story; and of his own accord Hamlet goes to his mother's closet, where he kills the listening courtier before her eyes; and, this done, we are told that he "cut his bodie in pieces, which he caused to be boyled, and then cast it . . . to the hogges." In the story Hamlet takes his revenge by burning his uncle's banqueting hall at a time when it was filled with courtiers overcome with wine, and by afterwards rousing his uncle himself from his drunken slumbers in his own bedchamber, and cutting off his head with his own sword. Yet with all this dissimilarity between play and story, added to that which is the consequence of the addition of new characters and new incidents, there is remarkable resemblance in minute particulars. Thus, for instance, in the story as well as in the play, Hamlet, on detecting the hidden eavesdropper in his mother's closet, calls out, "A rat, a rat!" and the purport and character of his subsequent reproaches to his mother are notably alike in both.

To suppose that in the first dramatization of the History of Hamblet there was such a departure from the course of events which it relates as that just noticed, would not be in accordance with what we know of the practice among playwrights of the Elizabethan age, Shakespeare himself included. Histories and novels were then adapted to the stage with as little alteration as would fit them for their new function. If the subject proved popular, the plays were rewritten again and again, as the exi

gencies of the theatre required, and by pen of him who was nearest at hand and most capable of the work; and, as at each rewriting they were generally more or less recast, the longer they kept the stage the more they deviated from the original story upon which they were founded. To this common fortune Hamlet appears not to have been an exception. The vestiges of its transformation are slight, indeed, and do not enable us to trace it through its various phases; but, under the circumstances, they are quite sufficient to establish the fact that there was at least one intermediate form between the old story and the play which has come down to us.


The earliest mention of a tragedy of Hamlet which has yet been discovered is in an Epistle by Thomas Nash "To the Gentlemen Students of both Universities," prefixed to Robert Greene's Menaphon, which was published in 1589, and, Mr. Dyce seems to think, two years before. In this epistle Nash says that English Seneca read by candle-light yeeldes many good sen tences, as Bloud is a begger, and so foorth: and if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfulls of tragical speaches." * — Henslowe's Diary affords the next trace of a Hamlet. In that singular and interesting record we find the following entry (p. 35. Ed. Shak. Soc.):

"9 of June 1594 at hamlet

viii s."

Next, in Thomas Lodge's Wit's Miserie, or The World's Madnesse, printed in 1596, a certain fiend is said to be "a foul lubber... and lookes as pale as the vizard of the ghost who cried so miserably at the theatre, Hamlet revenge! Last, among the plays which Francis Meres cites, in the well-known passage of his Palladis Tamia, 1598, to prove Shakespeare's excellence in tragedy, Hamlet is not mentioned, although Titus Andronicus is, and the only other pure tragedy named is Romeo and Juliet. I regard this omission as strong negative evidence that Shakespeare had not at that time written his Hamlet. That he had written it, in any form known to us, as early as 1588 or 1589, nine or ten years before Meres' book appeared, is yet more improbable; and, considering also that he was at that date but twenty-four

* Apud Rev. A. Dyce.

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