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wanting altogether. The Queen is there represented as concerting and actively co-operating with Hamlet against the King's life; and she has an interview of considerable length with Horatio, who informs her of Hamlet's escape from the ship bound for England, and of his safe arrival in Denmark; of which scene the later issues have no traces whatsoever. All this fully ascertains that the play must have undergone a thorough revisal after the making up of the copy from which the first quarto was printed. But, what is not a little remarkable, some of the passages met with in the folio, but not in the enlarged quartos, are found in the quarto of 1603; which shows that they were omitted in the later quartos, and not added afterwards.
With such and so many copies before us, it may well be asked, where the true text of Hamlet is to be found. The quarto of 1603, though furnishing valuable aid in divers cases, is not of any real authority : this is clear enough from wbat has already been said about it. On the other hand, it can hardly be questioned that the issue of 1604 was as authentic and as well authorised, as any that were made of Shakespeare's plays while he was living. We Therefore take this as our main standard of the text, retaining, however, all the additional passages found in the folio of 1623. Moreover, the folio has many important changes and corrections which no reasonable editor would make any question of adopting. Mr. Knight indeed, who, after the true style of Knight-errantry, everywhere gives himself up to an almost unreserved championship of the folio, takes that as the supreme authority.
But in this case, as usual, his zeal betrays bim into something of unfairness : for wherever he prefers a folio reading, (and some of his preferences are odd enough,) he carefully notes it; but in divers cases, where the quarto readings are so clearly preferable that he dare not reject them, we have caught him adopting them without making any note of them. Taking the quarto of 1604 as our standard, whenever we adopt any variation of much importance from this, it will be found specified in our notes. And in many other cases, where the folio readings can plead any fair title to preference, we give them in the margin, though not ourselves preferring them ; so that the reader can exercise his own choice in the matter.
The next question to be considered is, at what time was the tragedy of Hamlet originally written? On this point we find it extremely difficult to form a clear judgment. Thus much, however, is quite certain, that either this play was one of the Poets very earliest productions, or else there was another play on the saine subject. This certainty rests on a passage in an Epistle by Thomas Nash, prefixed 10 Greene's Arcadia : “It is a common practice now-a-days, among 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 entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches.” The words, “trade of Noverint,” show that this squib was pointed at some writer of Hamlet, who had been known as an apprentice in the law; and Shakespeare's remarkable fondness for legal terms and allusions naturally suggests him as the person referred to. On the other hand, Nash's Epistle was written certainly as early as 1589, probably two years earlier, though this has been disputed. In 1589 Shakespeare was in his twenty-sixth year, and his name stood the twelfth in a list of sixteen, as a sharer in the Blackfriars play-house. The chief difficulty lies in believing that he could have been known so early as the author of a tragedy having Hamlet for its hero; but this difficulty is much reduced by the circumstance, that we have no knowledge how often or how much he may bave improved a piece of that kind even before the copy of 1603 was made up.
Again : It appears from Henslowe's accounts that a play of Hamlet was performed in the theatre at Newington Butts on the 9th of June, 1594. At this time, “my lord adınirell men and my lord chamberlen men were playing together at that theatre; the latter of whom was the company to which Shakespeare belonged. At the performance of Hamlet, Henslowe sets down nine shillings as his share of the receipts ; whereas in case of new plays he commonly received a much larger sum. Besides, the item in question is without the mark which the manager usually prefixed in case of a new play; so that we may conclude the Hamlet of 1594. had al that time lost the feature of novelty. The question is, whether the Hamlet thus performed was Shakespeare's ? That it was so, might naturally be inferred from the fact that the Lord Chamberlain's men were then playing there ; besides, it has at least some probability, in that on the 11th of the same month Henslowe notes “ 'The Taming of a Shrew” as having been performed at the same place. Whether this latter were Shakespeare's play, has been sufficiently considered in our Introduction to The Taming of the Shrew.
The next particular, bearing upon the subject, is from a tract by Thomas Lodge, printed in 1596, and entitled “ Wit's Misery, or The World's Madness, discovering the incarnate Devils of the Age;" where one of the devils is said to be “a foul lubber, and looks as pale as the vizard of the Ghost, who cried so miserably at the theatre, Hamlet, revenge." All these three notices are regarded by Malone and some others as referring to another play of Hamlet, which they suppose to have been written by Thomas Kyd ; though their only reason for thinking there was such another play, is the alleged improbability of the Poet's having so early written on that subject.
It is to be observed, further, that a copy of Speight's Chaucer once owned by Gabriel Harvey, and having his name written in it, together with the date of 1598, has, among others, the following manuscript note: “The younger sort take much delight in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, have it in them to please ihe wiser sort.” This, however, does not seem to infer any thing with certainty as to time; since the name and date may have been written when Harvey purchased the book, and the note at some later period.
The only other contemporary notice to be quoted of the play, is an entry at the Stationers' by James Roberts, on the 26th of July, 1602 : “A Book, - The Revenge of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberlain his Ser. vants." As the quarto of 1604 was printed by James Roberts, we may reasonably conclude that this entry refers to the “enJarged” form of the play. Why the publication was not made till two years later, is beyond our reach : perhaps it was because no copy could be obtained for the press, until the maimed and stolen issue of 1603 bad rendered it necessary to put forth an edition in self-defence, “according to the true and perfect copy." We have repeatedly seen that in the spring of 1603 “ the Lord Chamberlain's Servants” became “ His Majesty's Servants ;” or, as they are called in the title-page of 1603, “ His Highness' Servants."
A piece of internal evidence fixes the date of the enlarged Hamlet soon after the 22d of June, 1600. It is the reason as. signed by Rosencrantz, in Act ii. sc. 2, why the players have left the city and gone to travelling : “I think their inhibition comes by means of the late innovation.” What this « inhibition been set forth in our Introduction to Twelfth Night; so that it need not be repeated here. The passage just quoted is not in the copy of 1603 : a different reason is there assigned why the players travel : “ Novelty carries it away; for the principal public audience that came to them are turned to private plays, and the humour of children.”
Plays were acted in private by the choir-boys of the Chapel Royal and of St. Paul's before 1590, several of Lyly's pieces being used in that way. It appears that in 1591 these juvenile performances bad been suppressed; as in the printer's address prefixed to Lyly's Endymion, which was published that year, we are told that, “since the plays in Paul's were dissolved, there are certain comedies come to my hand.” Nash, in his “ Have with You to Saffron Waldon,” published in 1596, expresses a wish to see the “plays at Paul's up again;" which infers that at that time the interdict was still in force. In 1600, however, we find that the interdict had been taken off, a play attributed to Lyly being that year “ acted by the children of Paul's." From this time forward
these juvenile performances appear to have been kept up, both in private and in public, until 1612, when, on account of the abuses aliending them, they were again suppressed.
It would seem, then, that the reason assigned in the text of 1603 refers to a period when the acting of children was only in private, and was regarded as a novelty; whereas at the time of the later text the qualities of novelty and privacy had been removed. And it appears not improbable, that the taking-off of the interdict before 1600, and the consequent revival of plays by children, was “ the late innovation” by means of which the “inhibition" had been brought about. Howbeit, so far as regards the date of the older text, the argument is by no means conclusive, and we are not for laying any very marked stress upon it; but it seems, at all events, worth considering. Its bearing as to the time of the later text is obvious enough, and will bardly be questioned.
Knight justly remarks, that the mention of Termagant and Herod, which occurs in the quarto of 1603, refers to a time when those personages trod the stage in pageants and mysteries ; and that the directions to the players, as given in the older text, point to the customs and conduct of the stage, as it was before Shakespeare had, by his example and influence, raised and reformed it. The following passage from the first copy will show what we mean : “ And then you have some again, that keeps one suit of jests, as a man is known by one suit of apparel ; and gentlemen quote bis jests down in their tables before they come to the play, as thus : •Cannot you stay till I eat my porridge ?' and, You owe me a quarter's wages ;' and, “My coat wants a cullison ;' and, · Your beer is sour ;' and, blabbering with his lips, and thus keeping in his cinque-a-pace of jests, when, God knows, the warm clown cannot make a jest unless by chance, as the blind man catcherh a bare.” From the absence of all this in the enlarged copy, we should naturally conelude that the evil referred to had at that time been done away, or at least much diminished. And indeed a comparison of the two texts in this part of the play will satisfy any one, we think, that, during the interval between them, the stage had been greatly elevated and improved : divers bad customs, no doubt, had been “reformed indifferently ;” so that the point still remaining was, to “reform them altogether."
As to the general character of the additions in the enlarged Hamlet, it is to be noted that these are mostly in the contempla. tive and imaginative parts; very little being added in the way of action and incident. And in respect of the former there is indeed no comparison between the two copies : the difference is literally immense, and of such a kind as evinces a most astonishing growth of intellectual power and resource. In the earlier text, we have little more than a naked, though, in the main, well-ordered and firm-knit skeleton, which, in the later, is everywhere replenished and glorified with large, rich volumes of thought and poetry; where all that is incidental or circumstantial is made subordinate 10 the living energies of mind and soul. The difference is like that of a lusty grove of hickory or maple brethren in December with the winds whistling through them, and in June with the birds singing in them.
So that the enlarged Hamlet probably marks the germination of that “thoughtful philosophy," as Hallam calls it, which never afterwards deserted the Poet ; though time did indeed abate its excess, and reduce it under his control; whereas it here overflows all bounds, and sweeps onward unchecked, so as to form the very character of the piece. Moreover, this play, in common with several others, though in a greater degree, bears symptoms of a much saddened and aggrieved, not to say embittered temper of mind : it is fraught, more than any other, with a spirit of profound and melancholy cogitation ; as if written under the influence of some stroke that had shaken the Poet's disposition with thoughts beyond the reaches of his soul; or as if he were casting about in the darker and sterner regions of meditation in quest of an antidote for some deep distress that had touched him. For there can he little doubt, that the birth and first stages of “the philosophic mind” were in his case, for some cause unknown to us, hung about with clouds and gloom, which, however, were afterwards blown off, and replaced by an atmosphere of unblemished clearness and serenity. Hallam bas remarked upon this introversive and darkly-brooding season of the Poet's mind, in a superb strain of criticism, which has been quoted in our Introduction to Measure for Measure.
From all which may be gathered bow appropriately this play has been described as a tragedy of thought. Such is indeed its character. And in this character it stands alone, and that, not only of Shakespeare's dramas, but of all the dramas in being. As for action, the play has little that can be properly so called. The scenes are indeed richly diversified with incident; but the incidents, for the most part, engage our attention only as serving to start and shape the hero's far-reaching trains of reflection ; them. selves being lost sight of in the wealth of thought and sentiment which they call forth. In no other of Shakespeare's plays does the interest turn so entirely on the hero ; and that, not because he overrides the other persons and crushes their individuality under, as Richard III. does ; but because his life is all centered in the mind, and the effluence of his mind and character is around all the others and within them ; so that they are liule interesting to us, but for his sake, for the effects they have upon him, and the thoughts he has of them. Observe, too, that of all dramatic personages, " out of sight, out of mind,” can least be said of him : on the contrary, he is never more in mind, than when out of sight; and whenever others come in sight, the effect still is, to remind us of him, and deepen our interest in him.