The first or ‘bad’ quarto of Hamlet is the subject of much debate. Is it an early
version of the play as some scholars suggest? Or is it corrupted memorial reconstruction, a product of ‘fast writing’ transcription, or just a pirated version of the play rushed into print? In this article I posit that the first quarto is indeed a valid text that deserves to be recognised for its unique, unfussy, playable brilliance. That the text provides clues (if one knows how to look), that elucidate answers to many of the questions that productions must contend with. I believe it to be a time-capsule version of sorts that is a product of what the actors truly performed, rather than a celebration of the poet’s aspirationally complex verse.