The differences between the second quarto (1604–1605) version of Hamlet’s soliloquy beginning ‘To be, or not to be’ and the version contained in the first quarto (1603) have often been used to argue for the authorial integrity of the former and the degenerate nature of the latter. However, recent research has questioned the customary primacy between these two texts, arguing instead that Q2 revises and expands Q1. This article will attempt to substantiate this interpretation by showing that Shakespeare’s revision of ‘To be, or not to be’ is inspired by Montaigne’s essay ‘By diuerse meanes men come vnto a like end’, translated by John Florio and published in 1603. Shakespeare’s indebtedness to Montaigne has been noted before, most notably in The Tempest. But it is significant that possibly Shakespeare’s first direct encounter with Montaigne is inspired by the very first three pages of Montaigne’s Essays.
Hamlet Q1, Q2 and Montaigne
Player Tested, Shakespeare Approved
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.
Michael M. Wagoner
Using interruptions as a specific formal structure, this article explores the varying characterisation of Ophelia/Ofelia in Hamlet. The textual differences apparent in the ‘Nunnery’ scene present an Ophelia in Q2 that is interrupted by Hamlet and possesses little power, whereas her Q1 counterpart actively engages the prince and repeatedly interrupts him. These differences highlight not only a change in characterisation but also a reconceptualisation of the status of the two texts: Q2 presents a directed and writerly dramatic text, while Q1 offers an open and performative theatrical one. By considering the repeated interruptions not as corruptions in the text but as open and artful choices, Q1’s Ofelia becomes a more equal and interesting character who asserts agency and defies Hamlet’s misogynistic invective.
W.W. Greg first identified the dumb show in Hamlet as problematic: if Claudius sees the dumb show, which replicates his murder of Old Hamlet in mime, then why does he not react until much later? Many explanations have been offered, and this article responds to (in title and argument) John Dover Wilson’s influential account in What Happens in Hamlet (1935) which inspired much further debate. First discussing the anomalous nature of the dumb show in Hamlet, before turning to the different versions of the dumb show as they appear in the three substantive texts of Hamlet, this article considers the nature and content of the information supplied by dumb shows and the critical arguments that can be developed from these slippery inset performances.