Harvey's 1593 ‘To Be and Not To Be’

The Authorship and Date of the First Quarto of Hamlet

in Critical Survey
Author: Dennis McCarthy
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Abstract

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’.

Contributor Notes

Dennis McCarthy is an independent researcher and co-author with June Schlueter of ‘A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels’ by George North: A Newly Uncovered Manuscript Source for Shakespeare's Plays (2018). The manuscript discovery made the front page of The New York Times and appeared in many other major newspapers around the world. He has also published articles in the flagship journals of geophysics, biogeography and literature.

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