Patrick Murray William Shakespeare.

The tragedy of Hamlet: prince of Denmark online

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Copyright, 1908,

Set up and electrotyped. Published May, 1903. Reprinted
September, 2904 | January, 1906; January, 1907 ; March, 1908;
January , 4909 ; January, 1910 ; March, 1911.

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The play df Hamlet, in its accepted form, was first
published in 1604. Shakespeare was then forty years
old, and had lived in London, it is supposed, since
1586. Daring these eighteen years he seems to have
been absorbed in the practical demands of theatrical
life, and to have been essentially denied the literary
means of enlarging his preparation for the playwright's
work. That he was able thus ; to produce in Hamlet
one of the most remarkable examples of secular litera-
ture in the world sufficiently proves the genius of the
man. Other plays of Shakespeare are more finished,
or evinbe a nobler art; but none has aroused such
interest, or become the subject of so much study, and
comment, and discussion.

The groundwork of Hamlet is borrowed from-' the
aecount of King 'Ambleth in the Historia Danica of
Saxo Grammaticus, the- earliest chrqnielter of Den-
mark,* who died in 1204. It is not cleat* how Shake-
speare bedame acquainted 'with 1fae Bttfry. There 1 *re


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reasons for supposing that the general plot had been
treated by some one of the playwrights preceding
Shakespeare, and that the present play is the product
of a reworking. It is possible, nevertheless, that
Shakespeare was the first to use the legend. The
part of the Saxo chronicles dealing with Ambleth
was translated and included in the. ffistoireai Tro-
giques of Belief orest, published at Paris in 1570, and
this in turn was rendered into English* under tjie title
of The Hy&torie ofHamblet, probably early enough for
Shakespeare to use ; that is, before 1589. Reference
to a play of " Hamlet," or at least to a character so
named, is found in Greene's Menaphon, which was
registered for publication in August of that year.
The dramatist Nash makes the allusion, while paying
his respects to .certain " trivial translators," who were
abandoning the standard Latin plays for Italian models,
in a sort of introduction that he furnishes for this
work. "It is a common practise now a daies," he
says, "amongst a sort of shifting companions, that
runne through query arte and thriufr by none, to leaue
the trade of Nouerint [or lawyer] whereto they were
borne, and busie themselues with the indeuors of, Art,'
that could soarcelie latinize their necke-verse if they
should haue neede $ yet English Seneca read by candle.

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light yeeldes manie good sentences, as Bloud is a
begyer, and so foorth: and if you intreate him faire
in a f rostie morning, he will affoord you whole Ham-
lets, I should say handfulls of tragical speaches."

There was then a " Hamlet " of some sort in exist-
ence as early as 1589, and of such a sort as to have
become a matter of popular or general remark. Yet
it is far from probable that such a drama was the work
of Shakespeare ; it is too early. He may have begun
to recast plays* but probably not to produce them
unassisted. But it appears that the piece, whatever
its quality, was played by the company of actors that
Shakespeare had joined; as an entry in Henslowe's
Diary (p. 35, Shakespeare Society edition) conven-
iently proves: —

In the name of Ood Amen, beginninge at Newington,
my Lord Admeralle and my Lorde chamberlen men, as
foloweth. 1594 : —

3 of June 1594, Kd at Heaster and asheweros . viijs

4 of June 1594, Rd at the Jewe of malta . . xs

5 of June 1594, Rd at andronicous . . . xijs

6 of June 1594, Rd at cutlacke . . • • . xjs

8 of June 1594, ne Rd at bellendon . . . xvijs

9 of June 1594, Rd at hamlet • viijs

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Shakespeare's company, called at this time the Lord
Chamberlain's Players, were evidently playing along
with the Lord Admiral's company at the Newington
theatre. Henslowe's share of the receipts from Ham-
let was as little as from the rendition of Esther and
Akasuerus, and less than from the Cutlach and the
Bellendon, which were undoubtedly very poor affairs.
We can hardly conceive then that the play is Shake-
speare's. It would surely rank in popularity as at
least the equal of Titus Andronicus, which we learn,
by turning back the leaf in Henslowe, was a new play
— being marked ne, like BeUendon in the list above —
on January 23 of the year before, and was rendered
again on the 28th, and yet again on February 6. It
is not likely that this play is the Titus Andronicus,
ascribed to Shakespeare, that we know.

A further hint that the play in question is not
the Hamlet of this volume is found in Lodge's pam-
phlet, Wits miserie, and the Worlds madnesse, discover-
ing the Devils incarnat of this Age, which dates from
1596. One of these devils, the Hate-virtue, is de-
scribed as " a f oule lubber, and looks as pale as the
visard of ye ghost, which cried so miserally at ye
theator, like an oisterwife, Hamlet reuenge." As no
such expression occurs in the present play, it would

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seem to have belonged to the Ghost's part in the
former piece, and to have been made much of sensa-
tionally by the playgoers, since several allusions to it
are met with in the literature of the time. The lines
most nearly akin (I. v. 25, 91) in the present text —
" Revenge his most foul and unnatural murder," and
" Adieu, adieu ! Hamlet, remember me " — cannot,
with their lighter elocution, be identified with such
a phrase.

The play that Shakespeare constructed out of this
earlier drama, or perhaps wrote at first hand from
the Hystorie, can hardly have taken shape before the
spring or summer of 1602. In July of this year
James Roberts secured an entry in the Stationers'
Register for "A booke called the Revenge of HAM-
LETT Prince Denmarke as yt was latelie Acted by the
lord Chamberleyne his servantes." It does not appear
that any book thus styled was ever printed. It is
believed that the work intended was issued the year
following with this title, " THE Tragicall Historie of
HAMLET Prince of Denmarke By William Shake-
speare. As it hath beene diuerse times acted by his
Highnesse seruants in the Cittie of London : as also in
the two Vniuersities of Cambridge and Oxford, and
else-where. ,, This is known a£ the First Quarto. The

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text thus published is identical with the eventual play
in many passages, but in others seems wholly at war
with Shakespeare's characteristic diction and manner.
Opening at random we find, —

" Yea, murder in the highest degree,
As in the least tis bad, a

But mine most foule, beastly and vnnaturall," —

answering (I. v. 27, 28) to these words of the Ghost
to Hamlet : —

" Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural."

Again, instead (V. i. 279-281 and 284-294) of

•' I lov'd Ophelia ; forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her ?
'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do.
Woo'tweep? Woo't fight? Woo'tfast? Woo't

tear thyself ?
Woo't drink up eisel, eat a crocodile ?
I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine ?
To outface me with leaping in her grave ?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I,
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on as, till our ground,

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Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart ! Nay, an thou'lt mouth,
I'll rant as well as thou."

we have these halting and pitiable lines, —

"I lou'de Ofelia as deare as twenty brothers could:
Shew me what thou wilt doe for her :
Wilt fight, wilt fast, wilt pray,
Wilt drinke up vessels, eate a crocadile ? lie doot :
Com'st thou here to whine ?
And where thou talk'st of burying thee a hue,
Here let vs stand : and let them throw on vs,
Whole hills of earth, till with the heighth thereof,
Make Oosell as a Wart."

There is little hint of Shakespeare's power and skill
in evidence here. "Oosell," of the last line, which
does not look like a printer's blunder, suggests the
effort of an insufficient mind to report something that
has been heard, but not understood. There are other
passages much more distantly akin to the eventual
readings, and sometimes hardly to be accepted as
better than a travesty of their sense. Hence it has
been supposed that the text in question was obtained
surreptitiously, perhaps by copying and memorizing
the parts as heard from the lips of the actors in the
playhouse. The lines often seem made tip froin catch*

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words, the metre is broken, and there are frantic efforts
to say compensatively in large something not fully
grasped or appreciated in details. Other explanations
have been proposed to account for the peculiarities
of the' First Quarto, but they are not more generally

In 1604 another edition, differing materially from
the preceding, was published with the following title-
page, " THE Tragicall Historic of HAMLET, Prince
of Denmarke. By William Shakespeare. Newly im-
printed and enlarged to almost as much againe as it
was, according to the true and perfect Coppie. AT
LONDON", Printed by I. R for N. L. and are to be sold
at his shoppe vnder Saint Dunstons Church in Fleet-
street. 1604." This is the Second Quarto, and is in
many respects the most important of all the texts.
Another issue of the play, known as the Third Quarto,
appeared in 1605. There was a Fourth Quarto, printed
in 1611, and there was also a Fifth, showing no date,
but probably published considerably later. No other
issues of Hamlet are heard of until the printing of
the First Folio in 1623. This, which is now accepted
in general a$ the standard text of Shakespeare, for the
thirty-five plays that appear in it, furnishes a some-
what less complete form of the piece than the Second

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Quarto, and shows some rather egregious typographic
errors. Most editors, and notably Clark and Wright
in the Globe and Cambridge editions, follow the Sec-
ond Quarto. The lines of the present text reproduce
where practicable the readings of the First Folio.

The Hystorie of Hamblet, from which Shakespeare
or the antecedent playwright drew, is a long and dis-
cursive story, impracticable to quote. The headings
of the first six chapters will show how closely the
original has been followed : —

Chap. I. How Horvendile and Fengon were made Govern-
ours of the Province of Ditmarse, and how Horvendile marryed
Geruth, the daughter to Boderitk, chief K. of Denmark, by
whom he had Hamb let : and how after his marriage his brother
Fengon slewe him trayterously, and marryed his brothers wife,
and what followed.

Chap. II. How Hamblet counterfeited the mad man, to
escape the tyrannie of his uncle, and how he was tempted by a
woman (through his uncles procurement) who thereby thought
to undermine the Prince, and by that meanes to finds out
whether he counterfeited madnesse or not: and how Hamblet
would by no meanes bee brought to consent unto her, and what

Chap. III. How Fengon, uncle to Hamblet, a second time
to tntrap him in his politick madnes, caused one of his counsel-
lor&Jo be secretly hidden in the queenes chamber, behind the
arras, to heare what speeches passed between Hamblet and the

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Queen ; and how Hamblet killed him, and escaped that danger,
and what followed.

Chap. IIII. How Fengon the third time devised to send
Hamblet to the kin g of England , with secret letters to have him
put to death: and how Hamblet, when his companions slept,
read the letters, and instead of them counterfeited others, willing
the king of England to put the two messengers to death, and to
marry his daughter to Hamblet, which was effected; and how
Hamblet escaped out of England.

Chap. V. How Hamblet, having escaped out of England,
arrived in Denmarke the same day that the Danes were cele-
brating his funerals, supposing him to be dead in England;
and how he revenged his fathers death upon his uncle and the
rest of the courtiers ; and what followed.

Chap. VI. How Hamlet, having slain his Uncle, and burnt
his Palace, made an Oration to the Danes to shew them what he
done; and how they made him King of Denmark; and what

The play of Hamlet, while the most unsatisfying
of Shakespeare's dramas, is perhaps to the majority
of students and readers the most inspiring. Those
who comprehend it least, or are most in doubt as to
its essential meanings, are often most completely under
its spell. It carries the reader and the spectator to
high planes of contemplation. It makes profound and
philosophical thought seem fascinating even to vulgar
minds. It reveals the subtleties, the frames, the pas-

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sions, of a singularly noble spirit. .We do not sym-
pathize with the hero in every part of the play, but
we everywhere admire and covet his integrity and
strength. Indeed, the character, with its self-ques-
tionings and intolerance of wrong and weakness, seems
a complete type of the northern mind, as Brutus, in
the Julius Ocesar, seems a type of the classical or
southern. Brutus could not be brought, by anything
less than failure, to distrust the sufficiency of his
integrity and his name. But Hamlet, had the time
not been out of joint, and had he not, in his own view,
been born merely to set it right, would still have
lived virtually in self-condemnation. It is seemingly
this aspiration and unrest, so inherent in the nature
of his race, that has brought the character and the
play so near the sympathies of the Teutonic world.

Three things are requisite for the understanding
and appreciation of Shakespeare's work. The first is
some knowledge of the Elizabethan peculiarities in
the English of a given play. The second is such
acquaintance with the Latin part of our present Eng-
lish vocabulary, and, if possible, with the elements of
Latin itself, as will insure recognition of the nice
distinctions in Shakespeare's personal use of words,
and his occasional dependence upon constructions, bor-

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rowed from that language. The Notes are intended
to supply as much as seems practicable of both these
wants, and to encourage further study of the sugges-
tive and powerful diction abounding in this play.
Finally and chiefly, there is need of gifts and training
to discern the deeper meanings of the author. These
are often missed, and indeed are not very confidently
grasped by the best of us. To reduce the unit of
difficulty in this part of the work, Outline Questions
have been added after the Notes. More mature
attempts to solve the difficulties of the piece should
be preceded, with such helps as Furness's Variorum
Hamlet, Schmidt's Shakespeare Lexicon, and especially
the Oxford English Dictionary, by a closer study of
the text. A convenient summary of the best criticism
will be found in the second volume of Dr. Furness's

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Claudius, king of Denmark.

Hamlet, son to the late, and nephew to the present king.

Polonius, lord chamberlain.

Horatio, friend to Hamlet.

Laertes, son to Polonius.






A Gentleman.

A Priest.

Marcellus, ") 0/ « cer ,

Bernardo, f ^

Francisco, a soldier.

Reynaldo, servant to Polonius.


Two Clowns, grave-diggers.

Fortinbras, prince of Norway.

A Captain.

English Ambassadors.

Gertrude, queen of Denmark, and mother to Hamlet.
Ophelia, daughter to Polonius.

Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Sailors, Messengers,
and other Attendants.

Ghost of Hamlet's Father.

Scene: Denmark.

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Scene I. Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle 9

Francisco at his post. Enter to him Bernardo

• Bernardo. Who's there ?
Francisco. Nay, answer me. Stand, and unfold

Bernardo. Long live the king !
Francisco. Bernardo ?

Bernardo. He. 5

Francisco. You come most carefully upon your

Bernardo. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed,

Francisco. For this relief much thanks : 'tis bittei

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Online LibraryPatrick Murray William ShakespeareThe tragedy of Hamlet: prince of Denmark → online text (page 1 of 17)