Harvey’s 1593 ‘To Be and Not To Be’

The Authorship and Date of the First Quarto of Hamlet

in Critical Survey

Ever since the discovery of the first quarto of Hamlet (Q1) in 1823, it has generated fierce debate among scholars about its origin. Recently, Terri Bourus has written a powerful book-length argument that Q1 was indeed by Shakespeare, as its title page states, and that he wrote it by 1589. The present article bolsters Bourus’s conclusion with a careful look at its title page claims as well as the literary satires of Thomas Nashe, Gabriel Harvey and Ben Jonson. Specifically, Q1’s title page and apparent allusions to Hamlet in the early 1590s pamphlet war of Nashe and Harvey independently confirm an earlier chronology for the tragedy. Jonson also attributes a line exclusive to Q1 to his caricature of Shakespeare in Every Man Out of His Humor (1600). The evidence suggests Shakespeare had written Q1 much earlier than conventionally assumed and that there was no ‘lost Hamlet’.