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HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK.] The original story on which this play is built, may be found in Saxo Grammaticus the Danifh hiftorian. From thence Belleforeft adopted it in his collection of novels, in feven volumes, which he began in 1564, and continued to publish through fucceeding years. From this work, The Hystorie of Hamblett, quarto, bl. 1. was tranflated. I have hitherto met with no earlier edition of the play than one in the year 1604, though it must have been performed before that time, as I have seen a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey, (the antagonist of Nafh) who, in his own hand-writing, has fet down Hamlet, as a performance with which he was well acquainted, in the year 1598. His words are thefe "The younger fort take much delight in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wifer fort, 1598."
In the books of the Stationers' Company, this play was entered by James Roberts, July 26, 1602, under the title of "A booke called The Revenge of Hamlett, Prince of Denmarke, as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberlain his fervantes."
In Eastward Hoe, by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston, 1605, is a fling at the hero of this tragedy. A footman named Hamlet enters, and a tankard-bearer aíks him"'Sfoote, Hamlet, are you mad?"
The frequent allufions of contemporary authors to this play fufficiently fhow its popularity. Thus, in Decker's Bel-man's Nightwalkes, 4to. 1612, we have-" But if any mad Hamlet, hearing this, fmell villainie, and ruth in by violence to see what the tawny diuels [gypfies] are dooing, then they excufe the fact &c. Again, in an old collection of Satirical Poems, called The Night-Raven, is this couplet :
"I will not cry Hamlet, Revenge my greeves,
Surely no fatire was intended in Eastward Hoe, which was acted at Shakspeare's own playhouse, (Blackfriers,) by the children of the revels, in 1605. MALONE.
The following particulars relative to the date of this piece, are borrowed from Dr. Farmet's Effay on the Learning of ShakSpeare, p. 85, 86, fecond edition:
"Greene, in the Epiftle prefixed to his Arcadia, hath a lafh at fome vaine glorious tragedians,' and very plainly at Shakfpeare in particular. I leave all these to the mercy of their mother-tongue, that feed on nought but the crums that fall from the tranflators trencher.-That could scarcely latinize their neck
verfe if they thould have neede, yet English Seneca, read by candlelight yeelds many good fentences-hee will afford you whole Hamlets, I fhould fay, handfuls of tragicall speeches.'I cannot determine exactly when this Epifile was firft published; but, I fancy, it will carry the original Hamlet fomewhat further back than we have hitherto done: and it may be observed, that the oldest copy now extant, is faid to be enlarged to almost as much againe as it was.' Gabriel Harvey printed at the end of the year 1592, Foure Letters and certaine Sonnetts, especially touching Robert Greene' in one of which his Arcadia is mentioned. Now Nash's Epiftle must have been previous to these, as Gabriel is quoted in it with applaufe; and the Foure Letters were the beginning of a quarrel. Nash replied in Strange News of the intercepting certaine Letters, and a Convoy of Verses, as they were going privilie to victual the Low Countries, 1593. Harvey rejoined the fame year in Pierce's Supererogation, or a new Praife of the old Affe.' And Nash again, in • Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up; containing a full answer to the eldest fonne of the haltermaker, 1596."-Nash died before 1606, as appears from an old comedy called The Return from Parnaffus. STEEVENS.
A play on the fubject of Hamlet had been exhibited on the ftage before the year 1589, of which Thomas Kyd was, I believe, the author. On that play, and on the bl. 1. Hiftorie of Hamblet, our poet, I conjecture, conftructed the tragedy before us. The earliest edition of the prose-narrative which I have seen, was printed in 1608, but it undoubtedly was a republication.
Shakspeare's Hamlet was written, if my conjecture be well founded, in 1596. See An Attempt to afcertain the Order of his Plays, Vol. II. MALONE.
Claudius, King of Denmark.
Hamlet, Son to the former, and Nephew to the
Polonius, Lord Chamberlain.
Ofric, a Courtier.
Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, and Mother of
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, GraveDiggers, Sailors, Meffengers, and other Attendants.
1 Hamlet,] i. e. Amleth. the beginning of the name.
The h transferred from the end to