Q1 Hamlet (1603) routinely sets prose speeches so that they appear to be blank verse. This article argues that such was an attempt to confer prestige upon the text, particularly in the wake of the saturation of Shakespeare books on the literary marketplace around 1600 – a phenomenon that saw his prose works achieve less favour than those in pentameter. The publishers of Q1 Merry Wives (1602) and Q1 Hamlet may have hedged their bets on these Shakespeare texts by amplifying their verse, long the gold standard of the Shakespearean brand. Like The True Tragedie of Richard III (published 1594) and The Famous Victories of Henry V (entered 1594), which presented their opening pages to readers as iambic pentameter, Q1 Hamlet seems to have beautified its dialogue for readers in the early modern book marketplace.
Graham Holderness and Bryan Loughrey
While the articles in this volume are focussed on new research in Hamlet studies, this editorial ‘Afterword’ reverts to an earlier stage of the debate around Q1, specifically the ‘culture wars’ of the 1990s, and re-examines the controversy surrounding the publication of the Shakespearean Originals series, which was launched with a new edition of Hamlet First Quarto (1992). Shakespearean Originals sought to situate texts within the historical conditions of textual production by decomposing conflated modern editions into the various discrete, and to some degree incommensurable, textualisations that were produced by historical contingency in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. A general recovery of such textualisations, as they existed before their colonisation by the modern edition, was at that point in time clearly a priority. Although the series was prompted by ascendant currents in critical theory, the academy was not ready for this particular editorial initiative.
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).
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.
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.
Why Q1 Hamlet Matters
This introduction situates the special double issue ‘Canonizing Q1 Hamlet’ in the context of the early publication history of Shakespeare’s tragedy and the recent critical and editorial interest in the first edition. The first edition of Hamlet – often called ‘Q1’, shorthand for ‘first quarto’ – was published in 1603, in what we might regard as the early modern equivalent of a cheap paperback. Q1 Hamlet is becoming increasingly canonical not because there is universal agreement about what it is or what it means, but because more and more Shakespearians agree that it is worth arguing about. If we read or perform it, rather than simply dismissing it (as was done for most of the twentieth century), Q1 makes us think: about performance, book history, Shakespeare’s relationships with his contemporaries, and the shape of his whole career.
Within the historical context of the Spanish Civil War, 1936–39, ineffectuality, vacillation and irresolution in social and political commitment came under scrutiny as a kind of ‘Hamletism’. Catalan journalist and writer Paulino Masip (1899–1963) cites Hamlet as a type in his article ‘Carta a un español escéptico’ [‘Letter to a sceptical Spaniard’] in the Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia on 16 September 1937, as does José Bergamín (1895–1983) in his contribution to the 2nd International Congress of Writers in Defence of Culture, published in the monthly review Hora de España in August 1937. A theatre production of Hamlet in Valencia in December 1937 reveals similar conflicts and anxieties. In the novel El diario de Hamlet García [The Diary of Hamlet García], written during his exile in Mexico, Masip criticizes wartime Hamletism and reflects upon the dilemmas the civil war imposed on him, contemporary intellectuals and the civilian population of Madrid.
John V. Nance
Of the fifteen verbal links Wiggins associates with Q1 Hamlet in his catalogue of British Drama, the inclusion of Dido, Queen of Carthage is potentially the most problematic in terms of establishing a 1588–1589 date for the play. This article re-examines the editorial and critical history of the most commonly cited overlap between these two plays – the entirety of ‘Aeneas’s tale to Dido’ – and it provides new evidence that challenges their continued association.
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.
Hamlet Q1, Q2 and Montaigne
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.