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authentic “ Hamlet,” it is of high value in enabling us to settle the text of various passages. It proves, besides, that certain portions of the play, as it appears in the folio of 1623, which do not form part of the quarto of 1604, were originally acted, and were not, as has been hitherto imagined, subsequent introductions. We have pointed out these and other peculiarities so fully in our notes, that we need not dwell upon them here; but we may mention, that in Act iii. sc. 4, the quarto of 1603 explains a curious point of stage-business, which puzzled all the commentators. Just as the Ghost is departing from the Queen's closet, Hamlet exclaims,
“Look, how it steals away! My father, in his habit as he lived !” Malone, Steevens, and Monck Mason argue the question, whether in this scene the Ghost, as in former scenes, ought to wear armour, or to be dressed in “his own familiar habit ;” and they conclude, either that Shakespeare had “forgotten himself,” or bad meant “to vary the dress of the Ghost at this his last appearance.” The quarto of 1603 shows exactly how the poet's intention was carried into effect, for there we meet with the stagedirection, “ Enter the Ghost in his night-gown,” and such was unquestionably the appearance of the performer of the part when the short-hand writer saw the tragedy: “ My father, in the habit as he lived,” are the words he recorded from the mouth of the actor of Hamlet. “Enter Ghost unarmed” is the stage-direction in our corrected folio, 1632.
The impression of 1604 being intended to supersede that of 1603, we may perhaps presume that the quarto of 1604 was, at least, as authentic a copy of “Hamlet” as the editions of any of Shakespeare's plays that came from the press during his lifetime. It contains various passages, some of them of great importance to the conduct and character of the hero, not to be found in the folio of 1623; while the folio includes other passages which are left out in the quarto of 1604, although, as before remarked, we have the evidence of the quarto of 1603, that they were originally acted. The various quarto impressions were printed from each other, and even that of 1637, though it makes some verbal changes, contains no distinct indication that the printer had resorted to the folios.
The three later folios, in this instance as in others, were printed from the immediately preceding edition in the same form ; but we are inclined to think, that if “Hamlet,” in the folio of 1623, were not composed from some now unknown quarto, it was derived from a manuscript obtained by Heminge and Condell from the theatre. The Acts and Scenes are, however, marked only in the first and second Acts, after which no divisions of the kind are noted, and when Act iii. commences is merely matter of modern conjecture. Some large portions of the play appear to have been omitted for the sake of shortening the performance; and any editor who should content himself with reprinting the folio, without large additions from the quartos, would present but an imperfect notion of the drama as it came from the hand of the poet. The text of "Hamlet” is, in fact, only to be obtained from a comparison of the editions in quarto and folio.
Coleridge, after vindicating himself from the accusation that he had derived his ideas of Hamlet from Schlegel, (and we heard him broach them some years before the Lectures Ueber Dramatische Kunst und Litteratur were published,) thus, in a few sentences, sums up the character of Hamlet. “In Hamlet Shakespeare seems to have wished to exemplify the moral necessity of a due balance between our attention to the objects of our senses, and our meditation on the workings of our minds,- an equilibrium between the real and the imaginary worlds. In Hamlet this balance is disturbed : his thoughts and the images of his fancy are far more vivid than his actual perceptions, and his very perceptions, instantly passing through the medium of his contemplation, acquire, as they pass, a form and a colour not naturally their own. Hence we see a great, an almost enormous, intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities. This character Shakespeare places in circumstances under which it is obliged to act on the spur of the moment. Hamlet is brave, and careless of death ; but he vacillates from sensibility, and procrastinates from thought, and loses the power of action in the energy of resolve." (Lit. Rem. vol. ii. p. 205.)
It has generally been supposed that Joseph Taylor was the original actor of Hamlet, and Wright, in his “Historia Histrionica," 1699, certainly speaks of him as having performed the part. This, however, must have been after the death of Richard Burbage, which happened precisely eighty years before Wright published his tract : we know from the contemporaneous manuscript Elegy upon Burbage, that he was the earliest representative of Hamlet; and there the circumstance of his being “fat and scant of breath,” in the fencing scene, is noticed in the very words of Shakespeare. We apprehend that Taylor did not belong to the company for which Shakespeare wrote at the date when “Hamlet” was produced ?.
G See “Memoirs of the Principal Actors in the Plays of Shakespeare" (published by the Shakespeare Society in 1846), p. 52.
7 Ibid. p. 253 : Taylor was only 23 years old in 1608.
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and Mother to Hamlet. OPHELIA, Daughter to Polonius.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Sailors, Messen
gers, and Attendants.
I No copy of the tragedy, before the time of Rowe, has a list of the characters.
Ber. Who's there?
Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold Yourself.
Ber. Long live the king'!
Fran. For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold,
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Not a mouse stirring.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS. Fran. I think I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there?
1 Long live the king !] This sentence appears to have been the watch-word given in answer to the demand of Francisco, “Nay, answer me," he being already on the watch.
? I think I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there ?] In all the 4tos, that of Mar.
Hor. Friends to this ground.
And liegemen to the Dane. Fran. Give you good night.
Oh! farewell, honest soldier: : Who hath reliev'd you ? Fran.
Bernardo has my place. Give you good night.
[Exit FRANCISCO. Mar. Holla! Bernardo!
A piece of him.
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy,
Hor. Tush, tush ! 'twill not appear.
Sit down awhile;
Well, sit we down,
Ber. Last night of all,
Mar. Peace! break thee off: look, where it comes again!
1603 excepted, this is a complete line: the folio of 1623 gives the latter part of it, “ Stand : who's there?"
3 — honest SOLDIER:) The 4to, 1604, has soldiers ; but only one was departing. It is followed by the later 4tos, but the literal error is corrected in the folio, 1923, and subsequently.
4- to-night?] In all the 4tos, that of 1603 excepted, this line is assigned to Horatio, who had come purposely to inquire about the Ghost. The folio, 1623, gives it to Marcellus, but the mistake is remedied by the old annotator on the folio, 1632, which is thus made to conform to the 4tos.