« ZurückWeiter »
and Innnents berself, being sore grieved to see her only child made a mere mockery. He lays before her the wickedness of her life and the crimes of her husband, and also lets her into the secret of his madness being reigned, Behold," says be. “ into what dis tress I am fallen, and to what mischief your over-great lightness and want of wisdom have induced me, that I am constrained to play the madman to save my life, instead of practising arms, following adventures, and seeking to make myself known as the true heir of the valiant and virtuous Horvendile. The gestures of a fool are fit for me, to the end that, guiding myself wisely therein, I may preserve my life for the Danes, and the memory of my de. ceased father ; for the desire of revenging his death is so engraven in my heart, that, if I die pot shortly. I hope to take so great vengeance that these countries shall forever speak thereof. Nevertheless, I must stay my time and occasion, lest by making overgreat baste I be the cause of mine own ruin and overtbrow. To conclude, weep not, madam, lo see my folly, but rather sigh and lament your own offence ; for we are not to sorrow and grieve at other men's vices, but for our own misdeeds and great follies."
The interview ends in an agreement of mutual confidence be[ween Hamblet and his mother; all her anger at his sharp reproofs being forgotten in the joy she conceives, to behold the gallant spirit of her son, and to think wbat she might hope from bis policy and wisdom. She promises to keep his secret faithful ly, and to aid him all she can in bis purpose of revenge ; swearing to bim that she had often hindered the shortening of his life, and that she had never consented to the murder of his fatber.
Fengon's next device was, 10 send Hamblet into England, with secret letters to bave him there put to death. Hamblet, again suspecting mischief, comes to some speech with his mother, and desires ber not to make any show of grief at bis departure, but rather to counterfeit gladuess at being rid of his presence. He also counsels her to celebrate his funeral at the end of a year, and assures her ibat she shall then see him reluru from his voyage. Two of Fengon's ministers being sent along with bim with secret letters to the king of England, when they were at sea, the Prince, his companions being asleep, read their commission, and substiluted for it one requiring the messengers to be hung. After this was done, he relurued to Denmark, and arrived the very day wben the Danes were celebrating his funeral, supposing him to be dead. Fengon and his courtiers were then at their banquet, and Hamblet's arrival provoked them the more to drink and carouse; wherein Hamblet encouraged them, himself acting as butler, and keeping them supplied with liquor, until they were all laid drunk on the floor. When they were all fast asleep, he caused the hangings of the room to fall down and cover them ; tben, having pailed the edges fast to the floor so that none could escape, he set fire to the hall, and all were burut to death. Fengen having previously withdrawn to his chamber, Hamblet then went to him, and, after telling him what he had done, cut off bis head with a sword.
The next day, Hamblet makes an oration to the Danes, laying open to them his uncle's treachery, and what himself has done in revenge of his father's death ; whereupon he is unanimously elected king. After his coronation, he goes to England again. Finding that the king of Englaud bas a plot for putting him to deatb, be manages to kill him, and returns to Denmark with two wives. He is afterwards assailed by his uncle Wiglerus, and finally betrayed to death by one of his English wives named Hermetrude, who then marries Wiglerus.
There is, besides, an episodical passage in the tale, from which the Poet probably took some hints towards the part of his liero, especially his melancholy mood, and bis suspicion that " the spirit he has seen may be a devil:” “In those days, the north parts of the world, living then under Satan's laws, were full of enchanters, so that there was not any young gentleman that knew not something therein sufficient to serve his turn, if need required; and so Hamblet, while his father lived, had been instructed in that devlish art, whereby the wicked spirit abuseth mankind, and advertiseth them, as he can, of things past. It toucbeth not the matter herein to discover the parts of divination in man, and whether this Prince, by reason of bis over-great melaucholy, bad received those impressions, divining that which never any bad before declared ; like such as are satornists by complexion, who oftentimes speak of things which, their fury ceasing, they can hardly understand." It is hardly needful to add, that Shakespeare makes his persons Christians, giving them the sentiments and manners of a much later period than they have in the tale; though be still places the scene at a time when England paid some sort of homage to the Danish crown, which was before the Norman conquest.
The earliest edition of the tragedy, in its finished state, was a quarto pamphlet of fifty-one leaves, the title-page reading thus : « The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark : By William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much again as it was, according to the true and perfect copy. At London : Printed by J. R. for N. L., and are to be sold at his shop under St, Dunstan's Church, in Fleet-street. 1604." The same text was reissued in the same form in 1605, and again in 1611; besides an undated edition, which is commonly referred to 1607, as it was entered at the Stationers' in tbe fall of that year. In the folio of 1623, it stands the eighth of the tragedies, and is without any marking of the Acts and scenes save in the first two Acts. The folio also omits several passages that are among the best in the play, and some of them highly important to the right understanding of the hero's character. All tbese are duly allend. ed to in our notes, so that they need not be specified here. Oo ibe other hand, the folio has a few short passages, and here and there a live or two, that are not in the quartos. These, also, are duly noted as they occur. On the whole, the quartos give the play considerably longer than the folio ; the latter having been most likely printed from a play-house copy, which had been shortened, in some cases not very judiciously, for the greater conve nience of representation.
From the words,“ enlarged to almost as much again as it was," in the title-page of 1604, it was for a long time conjectured that the play had been printed before At length, in 1825, a single copy of an earlier edition was discovered, and the text accurately reprinted, with the following title-page : « The Tragical Iristory of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark : By William Shakespeare. As it hath been divers times acted by his Highness Servants, in the city of London; as also in the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere. At London : Printed for N. L. and John Trundell. 1603.” There is no doubt that this edition was pi ratical : it gives the play but about half as long as the later quar los ; and carries in its face abundant evidence of having been greatly marred and disfigured in the making-up.
As to the methods used in getting up the edition of 1603, a care ful examination of the text has satisfied us that they were muck the same as appear to have been made use of in the quarto issues of King Henry V., and The Merry Wives of Windsor ; of which some account is given in our Introductions to those plays. From divers minute particulars which cannot be specified without over. much of detail, it seems very evident ibat the printing was donc, for the most part, from rude reports taken at the theatre during representation, with, perhaps, some subsequent eking out and patching up from memory. There are indeed a few passages that seem to be given with much purity and completeness; they have an integrity of sense and language, that argues a faithful transcript ; as, for instance, the speech of Voltimand in Act ii. sc. 2, which scarcely differs at all from the speech as we have it : but there is barely enough of this to serve as an exception to the rule. As lo the other parts, the garbled and dislocated state of the text, where we often have the first of a sentence without the last, or the last without the first, or the first and last without the middle; the constant lameness of the verse where verse was meant, and the bun. gling attempts to print prose so as to look like verse; - all this proves beyond question, that the quarto of 1603 was by no means a faithful transcript of the play as it then stood; and the imper. fectness is of just that kind and degree which would naturally ad. here to the work of a slovenly or incompetent reporter.
On the other hand, it is equally clear, that at the time that copy was taken the play must bave been very different from what it afterwards became. Polonius is there called Corambis, and his servant, Montano. Divers scenes and passages, some of them such as a reporter would have been least likely to omit, are there wanting altogether. The Queen is there represented as concerting and actively co-operating with Hamlet against the King's life; and she has an interview of considerable length with Horatio, who informs her of Hamlet's escape from the ship bound for England, and of his safe arrival in Denmark; of which scene the later issues have no traces whatsoever. All this fully ascertains that the play must have undergone a thorough revisal after the making up of the copy from which the first quarto was printed. But, what is not a little remarkable, some of the passages met with in the folio, but not in the enlarged quartos, are found in the quarto of 1603; which shows that they were omitted in the later quartos, and not added afterwards.
With such and so many copies before us, it may well be asked, where the true lext of Hamlet is to be found. The quarto of 1603, though furnishing valuable aid in divers cases, is not of any real authority: this is clear enough from what has already been said about it. On the other hand, it can hardly be questioned that the issue of 1604 was as authentic and as well aoiborised, as any tbal were made of Shakespeare's plays while he was living. Wo therefore take this as our main standard of the text, retaining, however, all the additional passages found in the folio of 1623. Moreover, the folio has many important changes and corrections which no reasonable editor would make any question of adopting. Mr. Knight indeed, who, after the true style of Knight-errantry, everywhere gives himself up to an almost unreserved champion. ship of ibe folio, takes that as the supreme authority. But in this case, as usual, his zeal betrays bim into something of unfairness : for wherever he prefers a folio reading, (and some of his preferences are odd enough, he carefully notes it ; but in divers cases, where the quarto readings are so clearly preferable that he dare not reject them, we have caught him adopting them without making any note of them. Taking the quario of 1604 as our standard, whenever we adopt any variation of much importance from this, it will be found specified in our poles. And in many other cases, where the folio readings can plead any fair title to prefer ence, we give them in the margin, though not ourselves preferring tbem ; so that the reader can exercise bis own choice in the matter.
The next question to be considered is, at what time was the tragedy of Hamlet originally written? On this point we find it extremely difficult to form a clear judgment. Thus mucn, bowever, is quite certain, that either this play was one of the Poet's very earliest productions, or else there was another play on the same subject. This certainty rests on a passage in an Epistle by Thomas Nash, prefixed to Greene's Arcadia : “It is a coinmon practice now-a-days, among a sort of shifting companions that run tbrough every art and thrive by pone, to leave the trade of Noverint whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the
endeavours of art, that could scarcely latinise their neck-verse, if they slould have need ; yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as · Blood is a beggar,' and so forth; and, if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you while Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches." The words, “trade of Noverint," show that this squib was poioled at some writer of Hamlet, who had been known as an apprentice in the law; and Shakespeare's remarkable fondness for legal terms and allusions naturally suggests him as the person referred 10. Ou the other hand, Nash's Epistle was written certainly as early as 1589, probably two years earlier, though this has been disputed. In 1589 Shakespeare was in his twenty-sixth year, and his name stood the iwelfth in a list of sixteen, as a sharer in the Blackfriars play-house. The chief difficulty lies in believing ibat he could have been known so early as the author of a tragedy having Hamlet for its hero; but this difficulty is much reduced by the circumstance, that we have no knowledge how often or how much he may bave improved a piece of that kind even before the copy of 1603 was made up.
Again : It appears from Henslowe's accounts that a play of Hamlet was performed in the theatre at Newington Bulls on the 9th of June, 1594. At this time, “my lord admirell men and my lord chamberlen men" were playing togetber at that theatre; the latter of whom was the company to which Shakespeare belonged. At the performance of Hamlet, Henslowe sets down nine shillings as bis si
share of the receipts; whereas in case of new plays be commonly received a much larger sum. Besides, the item in question is without the mark which the manager usually prefixed in case of a new play; so that we may conclude the Hamlet of 1594 bad at that time lost the feature of novelty. The question is, whether the Hamlet thus performed was Shakespeare's ? That it was so, might naturally be inferred from the fact that the Lord Chamberlain's men were then playing there ; besides, it has at least some probability, in that on the 11th of the same month Henslowe poles « 'The Taming of a Shrew" as having been per formed at the same place. Whether this latter were Shakespeare's play, has been sufficiently considered in our lotroduction to The Taming of the Shrew.
The next particular, bearing upon the subject, is from a tract by Thomas Lodge, printed in 1596, and entitled “ Wit's Misery, or The World's Madness, discovering the incarnate Devils of the Age;" where one of the devils is said to be “ a foul lubber, and looks as pale as the vizard of the Ghost, who cried so miserably at the theatre, Hamlet, revenge." All these three notices are re. garded by Malone and some others as referring to another play of Hamlet, which they suppose to have been wrillen by Thomas Kyd; though ibeir only reason for thinking there was such another play, is the alleged imo-obability of the Poet's having so early wrilles on that subject.