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years old, this point may be regarded as sufficiently established. But, as we have seen, before 1589 a Hamlet had been written, and in 1594 there was performed at Henslowe's theatre a Hamlet, which, from the absence of his distinguishing mark, ne, and the small sum which he received as his share of the profits, we may be sure was not a new play. Finally, in 1596, two years before the appearance of Meres' book, Nash knew of a Hamlet (and had it been Shakespeare's, Meres would surely have cited it) in which the Ghost of Hamlet's father incited him to revenge. This seems to lead us to the conclusion that the first introduction of the Ghost into the plot is not due to Shakespeare, and that there was therefore an intermediate form of the tragedy between the old history and that which is now known to us. And in support of this view there is the important fact that in the earliest existing version of Shakespeare's work two characters have different names from those which they bear in all editions of the completed version, which can hardly be other than a remnant of a preceding dramatization of the story.

This first version of the tragedy is of such a character that it bears alike upon the questions of the formation of the text, the period at which the drama was produced, and the manner in which it was written. On the 26th of July, 1602, James Roberts entered upon the Register of the Stationers' Company "A booke, The Revenge of Hamlett prince of Denmarke, as yt was latelie acted by the Lord Chamberlayn his servantes." * No edition of that year is known, and it is almost certain that none was printed. But we may be sure that the play which Roberts entered was Shakespeare's, because it had been lately performed by the company to which he belonged, -the Lord Chamberlain's, -and which, before a year had passed, became the King's players. And in 1603 the earliest known edition of the play appeared, with the announcement on the title page that it had been divers times acted by his Highness' servants in the city of London, and also in the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere. The latter part of this announcement is of moment, as showing the great favor in which the play was held in the highest quarters at that period, and making it still surer that such a

* See "Extracts from the Stationers' Register," Variorum of 1821, Vol. II. p. 369.

play could not have been passed over by Meres when he mentioned Titus Andronicus.

Of the edition of 1603, only two copies are known; one without the title page, and the other lacking the last leaf. But a very exact reprint of it was made by William Nicol in 1825, in which even its minutest errors and defects are represented.* The text of this edition is but about half as long as that of the folio; and, like those of the first editions of The Merry Wives of Windsor, King Henry the Fifth, and Romeo and Juliet, it is so mutilated, as well as so corrupt, that there can be no doubt that it also was printed from a very imperfect copy which had been surreptitiously procured. The great difference in length between the texts of the first and the second edition has been generally regarded of late years as presumptive evidence that the play was revised and largely added to before the printing of the latter. And this opinion has been thought to derive very material support from the noteworthy announcement upon the title page of the second edition; of which opinion that announcement, however, (owing to what I regard as a misapprehension of its meaning.) is rather the source. On this title page the play is said to be "Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect coppie," which has been accepted on all hands as meaning that the play had been "enlarged" by the author. But upon the very

face of it, and especially under the circumstances, has it not clearly a very different purport? The previous edition is so corrupt, disconnected, and heterogeneous that the least observant reader, even of that day, when plays were printed so carelessly, must have seen that as a whole it was but, a maimed and mutilated version of the true text, and in some parts, a mere travestie of it. Therefore immediately, as soon as might be, another edition was prepared from a genuine copy, and this, with reference to the preceding notoriously imperfect and spurious edition, (sold, be it observed, by the same bookseller,) was declared to be newly imprinted, and enlarged, according to the true and perfect copy, to almost as much again as it was. It seems to be very plainly indicated that the enlargement was the consequence of the procurement of a complete and authentic text,

* Since very beautifully, but not quite so correctly, reprinted by Josiah Allen, Jr., of Birmingham, in company with the text of the quarto of 1604, under the title of "The Devonshire Hamlets."

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 Sixth, (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 pas

*Such as "Enter Ofelia playing on a lute, and her haire down singing," Act IV. Sc. 5; "he throwes up a shovel [skull]," Act V. Sc. 1; “ They catch one another's Rapiers, and both are wounded, Leartes falles downe, the Queene falles downe and dies," Act V. Sc. 2.

sages, 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.

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The first of Hamlet's two celebrated soliloquies (Act I. Sc. 2) appears in the quarto of 1603 in this form:

"Ham. O that this too much grieu'd and sallied flesh

Would melt to nothing, or that the vniuersall

Globe of heauen would turne al to a Chaos!

O God within two moneths; no not two: maried,

Mine vncle: O let me not thinke of it,

My fathers brother: but no more like
My father, then I to Hercules.

Within two months, ere yet the salt of most
Vnrighteous teares had left their flushing
In her galled eyes: she married, O God, a beast,
Deuoyd of reason would not haue made
Such speede; Frailtie, thy name is Woman,
Why she would hang on him, as if increase
Of appetite had growne by what it looked on.
O wicked wicked speede, to make such
Dexteritie to incestuous sheetes,

Ere yet the shooes were olde,

The which she followed my dead fathers corse,
Like Nyobe, all teares: married, well it is not,
Nor it cannot come to good:

But breake my hearte, for I must holde my tongue."

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;

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