‘Brief Let Me Be’

Telescoped Action and Characters in Q1 and Q2 Hamlet

in Critical Survey

The first quarto of Hamlet offers a fundamentally distinct play from the versions contained in the second quarto and in the First Folio. Taking Q1 as an autonomous, finished text, and assuming that Q2 and F were not only printed but also written later, this article sets out to explore Shakespeare’s conception of key characters in this first version, how it took shape, and how and why his approach changed in subsequent revisions. In particular, I will concentrate on the characterisation of both female and male characters as they appear in Q1 and Q2, trying to underline the different poses towards which they gesture and putting them against the backdrop of a narrative frame whose speed, in the case of Q1 Hamlet, seems continually to increase.

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