The Good Enough Quarto

Hamlet as a Material Object

in Critical Survey
Terri Bourus Florida State University

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This article challenges A.W. Pollard's foundational distinction between good and bad quartos, which confuses ethical and bibliographical categories. Some quartos are badly inked, or printed on poor-quality paper. But Q1 Hamlet is a professional, well-made commodity. Zachary Lesser has conjectured that Q1 sold poorly, and has claimed that the similarity of the title pages of Q1 and Q2 supports that hypothesis. But both title pages are typical of Ling's books, and their similarities are no more remarkable than those in Ling's different quartos of Michael Drayton's poems. Q1 Hamlet apparently sold more quickly than Q2. Using D.W. Winnicott's theories about the ‘good enough mother’ and ‘transitional objects’, we can identify Q1 as a ‘good enough quarto’.

Contributor Notes

Terri Bourus is Professor of Theatre and Courtesy Professor of English at Florida State University, where she teaches English and Irish drama in performance and on the page. She is one of four General Editors of the four-part New Oxford Shakespeare (2016–2017). Her monograph, Young Shakespeare's Young Hamlet (2014), delves into the textual and staging quandaries of the first quarto of Hamlet. She has written essays on stage directions, the performance of religious conversion, Shakespeare and Fletcher's Cardenio, the role of Alice in Arden of Faversham, and Middleton's female roles. Bourus is an Equity actor, and has directed two very different productions of Hamlet, both based on Q1.

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