Shakespeare’s Early Gothic Hamlet

in Critical Survey
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This article proposes that Q1 Hamlet is best understood as an early Gothic tragedy. It connects Catherine Belsey’s work on Shakespeare’s indebtedness to ‘old wives’ tales’ and ‘winter’s tales’ about ghosts with Terri Bourus’s evidence of Q1’s connections to Stratford-upon-Avon, the 1580s, and the beginnings of Shakespeare’s London career. It conducts a systematic lexical investigation of Q1’s Scene 14 (not present in Q2 or F), showing that the scene’s language is indisputably Shakespearian. It connects the dramaturgy of Q1 to the dramaturgy of Titus Andronicus, particularly in terms of issues about the staging of violence, previously explored by Stanley Wells. It also shows that Titus and Q1 Hamlet share an unusual interest in the barbarity and vengefulness of Gothic Europe (including Denmark and Norway).