« AnteriorContinuar »
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK.] The original story on which this play is built, may be found in Saxo Grammaticus the Danish historian. From thence Belleforest adopted it in his collection of novels, in seven volumes, which he began in 1564, and continued to publish through succeeding years. From this work, The Hystorie of Hamblett, quarto, bl. 1. was translated. I have hitherto met with no earlier edition of the play than one in the year 1604, though it must have been performed before that time, as I have seen a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey, (the antagonist of Nash) who, in his own hand-writing, has set down Hamlet, as a performance with which he was well acquainted, in the year 1598. His words are these: younger sort take much delight in Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wiser sort, 1598."
In the books of the Stationers' Company, this play was entered by James Roberts, July 26, 1602, under the title of "A booke called The Revenge of Hamlett, Prince of Denmarke, as it was la acted by the Lord Chamber
lain his servantes."
In Eastward Hoe, by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston, 1605, is a fling at the hero of this tragedy. A footman named Hamlet enters, and a tankardbearer asks him-"'Sfoote, Hamlet, are you mad?”
The frequent allusions of contemporary authors to this play sufficiently show its popularity. Thus, in Decker's Bel-man's Nightwalkes, 4to. 1612, we have" But if any mad Hamlet, hearing this, smell villainie, and rush in by violence to see what the tawny diuels [gypsies] are dooing, then they excuse the fact," &c. Again, in an old collection of Satirical Poems, called The Night-Raven, is this couplet :
"I will not cry Hamlet, Revenge my greeves,
Surely no satire was intended in Eastward Hoe, which was acted at Shakespeare's own playhouse, (Blackfriers,) by the children of the revels, in 1605. MALONE
The following particulars relative to the date of this piece, are borrowed from Dr. Farmer's Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, p. 85, 86, second edition :
"Greene, in the Epistle prefixed to his Arcadia, hath a lash at some ' vaine glorious tragedians,' and very plainly at Shakespeare in particular.-I leave all these to the mercy of their mother-tongue, that feed on nought but the crums that fall from the translators trencher.-That could scarcely latinize their neck verse if they should have neede, yet English Seneca, read by candlelight yeelds many good sentences-hee will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say, handfuls of tragicall speeches.'-I cannot determine exactly when this Epistle was first published; but, I fancy, it will carry the original Hamlet somewhat further back than we have hitherto done: and it may be observed, that the oldest copy now extant, is said to be enlarged to almost as much againe as it was. Gabriel Harvey printed at the end of the year 1592, Foure Letters and certaine Sonnetts, especially touching Robert Greene in one of which his Arcadia is mentioned. Now Nash's Epistle must have been previous to these, as Gabriel is quoted in it with applause; and the Foure Letters were the beginning of a quarrel. Nash replied in Strange News of the intercepting certaine Letters, and a Convoy of Verses, as they were going privilie to victual the Low Countries, 1593.' Harvey rejoined the same year in Pierce's Supererogation, or a new Praise of the old Asse.' And Nash again, in Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up; containing a full answer to the eldest sonne of the halter-maker, 1596."-Nash died before 1606, as appears from an old comedy called The Return from Parnassus. STEEVENS.
A play on the subject of Hamlet had been exhibited on the stage before the year 1589, of which Thomas Kyd was, I believe, the author. On that play, and on the bl. 1. Historie of Hamblet, our poet, I conjecture, constructed the tragedy before us. The earliest edition of the prose narrative which I have seen, was printed in 1608, but it undoubtedly was a republication.
Shakespeare's Hamlet was written, if my conjecture be well founded, in 1596. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of his Plays, Vol. II.
CLAUDIUS, king of Denmark.
HAMLET, son to the former, and nephew to the present
POLONIUS, lord chamberlain.
HORATIO, friend to Hamlet.
LAERTES, son to Polonius.
OSRICK, a courtier.
FORTINBRAS, prince of Norway.
GERTRUDE, queen of Denmark, and mother of Hamlet.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-Diggers,
A Platform before the Castle.
FRANCISCO on his post. Enter to him BERNARDO.
Fran. Nay, answer me : stand, and unfold
Ber. Long live the king!!
Fran. Bernardo ?
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.
you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch,' bid them make haste.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there? Hor. Friends to this ground.
Mar. And liegemen to the Dane.
Fran. Give you good-night.
Mar. O, farewell, honest soldier :
Who hath reliev'd you?
Fran. Bernardo hath my place.
Give you good night.
Mar. Holla! Bernardo!
What, is Horatio there?
Hor. A piece of him.
Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.
This sentence appears to be the watch-word. STEEVENS.
Rivals for partners. WARBURTON.-Rival is constantly used by Shakespeare for a partner or associate. MALONE.
Ber. I have seen nothing.
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;
He may approve our eyes, and speak to it :
And let us once again assail your ears,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
When yon same star, that's westward from the pole,
The bell then beating one,
Mar. Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
Ber. In the same figure, like the king that's dead.
Mar. Speak to it, Horatio.
Hor. What art thou, that usurp'st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak.
Ber. See! it stalks away.
Hor. Stay; speak: speak I charge thee, speak.
Ber. How now, Horatio? you tremble, and look pale :
Is not this something more than fantasy?
Mar. 'Tis gone, and will not answer.
What think you of it?
 Add a new testimony to that of our eyes.
 It has always been a vulgar notion that supernatural beings can only be spoken to with propriety or effect by persons of learning. Thus Toby, in the Night walker, by Beaumont and Fletcher, says:
"Let's call the butler up, for he speaks latin,