Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)

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- Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (The New Cambridge Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare

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Quick ship! As You Like It. See R. Knowles's introduction to the New Variorum edition, , esp. In his edition, Jenkins supports the idea of a 'pre-prompt' transcription; see pp.

The departures from the text of the second quarto, quite apart from the cuts already discussed, and making every allowance for the inaccuracy of the Q2 compositors, are too extensive for the phrase 'fair copy' to be allowable. Bowers's phrase ' intermediate transcript' is very helpful. A scrutiny of the differences between the stage directions in Q2 and F points us towards the special quality of the transcript that lies behind the Folio text, neither a straightforward copy of Shakespeare's manuscript nor yet a full production script developed from it.

In the first act, though there are two alterations which I shall comment on, F tends to omit Q2's directions.

Indications for 'Flourish' are generally omitted; the sound of the cannon at 1. Halfway through the second act a change of attitude towards stage-business is discernible. Q2's directions are observed, altered and added to. Hamlet enters 'reading on a book' 2. By the middle of Act 3, F'S attention to music is such that all Q2's directions are noticed some of them altered , and new directions are being inserted.

By far the greater number of revisions to the stage directions occur in the last three acts. Of the 52 which are of special significance, only 19 occur up to the crucial moment of the king's exit from the play-scene 3. As concern with matters of staging develops in the Folio text, there is an increasing boldness in intervening and interfering with the text itself in connection with the changes. Nothing previous to 4. Innovations of this kind begin a little earlier, at 4. It looks as though a scribe's conception of his task changed during the course of making a transcript. At the outset, he is providing a plain text on which the promptbook may be based.

Flourishes are left out because the musical effects are to be decided later.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (New Cambridge Shakespeare) (Paperback)

But as the work of transcribing these untidy papers continues - and for all we know discussion about the staging of the play grows more detailed - the transcript begins to include proposals or decisions about the details of the staging and the size of the cast.

We can suppose that the scribe is the book-keeper himself, the man responsible for preparing the promptbook and supervising the production. Parrott and Hardin Craig in their 'critical edition' of the second quarto, , p. For the book-keeper's duties, see Greg, Shakespeare's First Folio, p. Hamlet 22 In the first place, on a number of occasions the scribe was visualising what has to happen on stage more clearly than Shakespeare seems to have done.

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In the graveyard scene 5. Secondly, the scribe was intolerant of Shakespeare's vagueness about the names and functions of characters and how many there were in group entries. So 'Enter the Players' becomes 'Enter foure or fiue Players' 2.

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The scribe's need to identify and to number is very interestingly shown in the directions for the dumb-show in 3. The scribe's constant concern to reduce the number of minor characters throws into relief the strange lavishness, for a practical man of the theatre, with which Shakespeare produced additional characters, especially late in the play, who have little or nothing to say or do. Sometimes the reduction is quite deft, as at 4.

But sometimes the attempt to stanch the unending stream of supernumeraries is more damaging to the texture of the play. The Lord who invites Hamlet to the fencing match at 5. I have already mentioned the disfigurement caused by the removal of the 'two or three' who enter with Claudius at 4. The three major entries of the full court at 1.

The many alterations for the grand entry to witness the fencing contest in thefinalscene give an impression of being tentative and provisional see Commentary. If it is accepted that the changes in the stage directions in the Folio text are notes towards a production made while transcribing Shakespeare's foul-papers, and that the book-keeper included signals to the actors, and was ready to alter the text to accommodate his more frugal standards of numbers in the cast, then some other variants which have been taken to be 'actors' interpolations' or accretions to the text sanctioned by stage custom may also be seen as the work of the scribe.

It is not in the least surprising that an experienced playhouse scrivener, accustomed to Shakespeare's script, should be able to give a more intelligent rendering of the foul-papers than the compositors in James Roberts's printing house, especially in following Shakespeare's marks for deletion and insertion. He has on many occasions preserved the true reading of the text when the second quarto has blundered. There is at 5.


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How do we know that this misascription in the Folio was the error of a scribe at an early date in the play's history and not the error of the Folio compositors? The first quarto gives us some of the strongest and clearest evidence of the nature of the manuscript which is the source of the Folio text, and helps to distinguish its various archaeological layers.

Corrupt and adulterated though its text is, it demonstrates that an acting-text of Hamlet, based on the playhouse transcription of Shakespeare's foul-papers which we have been discussing, had become established in performance by When the Folio and the first quarto agree on readings which differ from the second quarto and are manifestly or arguably inferior to the second quarto, we may consider we have evidence of changes which the book-keeper made when copying out Shakespeare's manuscript, which changes were then transmitted to the promptbook and into performance, and so were established in the theatre-text corruptly ' reported ' in the first quarto.

The invaluable tables of common and divergent readings given by Dover Wilson in The Manuscript of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' show us on pp. The second quarto's ' But who, a woe, had seene ' i. Presumably the book-keeper thought 'lauds' altogether too outlandish or unfamiliar. Once the fair copy of Shakespeare's manuscript had been made, it would be necessary to prepare from it a shorter version for acting, the promptbook, from which in turn the actors' parts would be taken.

Unfortunately we have no idea what the form of this acting version was, nor whether Shakespeare was involved in creating it. Hamlet 24 knew of some of the changes already made involving some of the minor characters in the later part of the play which have just been discussed he cannot have approved of them.


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Things already seem to be going forward without his co-operation; and it seems to me very unlikely that he was closely engaged in what to some extent must have been a mutilation of his work. Macbeth, of which we have only a single text of about 2, lines, is alone among the Histories and Tragedies in giving us what looks like an acting-text. What Shakespearean riches have been lost in achieving that brevity is beyond conjecture. With Hamlet it is the other way round.

We have two texts, one authorial of great amplitude, and one which seems to contain authorial deletions and changes and also bears signs of the play being got ready for the stage.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)

But we have no evidence of the shape of the play as it was eventually acted on Shakespeare's stage. Why in the first place Shakespeare should on this occasion as on many others have written a play manifestly too long for theatrical presentation is a far-reaching and unsettling question. The one link we have with Hamlet as acted at the Globe Theatre is the first quarto of , deriving as it must from a stage version based upon the transcript which we have postulated as lying behind the Folio text.


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