« PreviousContinue »
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK.] The original ftory ofi which this play is built, may be found in Saxo Grammaticus the Danish hiftorian. From thence Belleforest 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 translated. I have hitherto met with no earlier edition of the play than one in the year 1604, though it muft 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 Nash) 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 Jonfon, and John Marston, 1605, is a fling at the hero of this tragedy. A footman named Hamlet enters, and a tankard-bearer aiks 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 rush 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 playhoufe, (Blackfriers,) by the children of the revels, in 1605. MALONE.
The following particulars relative to the date of this piece, are borrowed from Dr. Farmer'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 fcarcely latinize their neck
verfe if they fhould have neede, yet English Seneca, read by candlelight yeelds many good fentences-hee will afford you whole Hamlets, I fhould fay, handfuls of tragicall fpeeches.I cannot determine exactly when this Epiftle was first 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 oldeft copy now extant, is faid to be enlarged to almoft 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 muft have been previous to these, as Gabriel is quoted in it with applause; 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 Nafh 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 Parnafjus. 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 profe-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 prefent King.
Polonius, Lord Chamberlain.
Horatio, Friend to Hamlet.
Laertes, Son to Polonius.
Francifco, a Soldier.
Reynaldo, Servant to Polonius.
Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, and Mother of
Ophelia, Daughter of Polonius.
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
PRINCE OF DENMARK.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Elfinore. A Platform before the Cafile,
FRANCISCO on his Poft. Enter to him BERNARDO.
BER. Who's there?
FRAN. Nay, anfwer me: ftand, and unfold Yourself,
BER. Long live the king !3
FRAN. You come moft carefully upon your hour. BER, 'Tis now ftruck twelve;+ get thee to bed, Francifco.
me:] i. e. me who am already on the watch, and have a right to demand the watch-word. STEEVENS.
3 Long live the king!] This fentence appears to have been the watch-word. MALONE.
4 'Tis now ftruck twelve;] I ftrongly fufpe&t that the true reading is-new ftruck, &c. So, in Romeo and Juliet, A& I. fc. i:
"But new ftruck nine." STEEVENS.
FRAN. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bitter
And I am fick at heart.
BER. Have you had quiet guard?
BER. Well, good night.
Not a mouse stirring,
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch,5 bid them make haste.
The rivals of my watch.,] Rivals for partners.
So, in Heywood's Rape of Lucrece, 1636:
"Tullia. Aruns, affociate him.
"Aruns. A rival with my brother," &c.
Again, in The Tragedy of Hoffman, 1637:
"And make thee rival in thofe governments."
Again, in Antony and Cleopatra, Act III. fc. v:
having made ufe of him in the wars against Pompey, prefently deny'd him rivality." STEEVENS.
By rivals the speaker certainly means partners (according to Dr. Warburton's explanation,) or thofe whom he expected to watch with him. Marcellus had watched with him before; whether as a centinel, a volunteer, or from mere curiofity, we do not learn: but, which ever it was, it feems evident that his ftation was on the fame spot with Bernardo, and that there is no other centinel by them relieved. Poffibly Marcellus was an officer, whofe bufinefs it was to visit each watch, and perhaps to continue with it fome time. Horatio, as it appears, watches out of curiofity. But in A&t. II. fc. i. to Hamlet's question,"Hold you the watch to-night?" Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo, all answer,-" We do, my honour'd lord." The folio indeed, reads-both, which one may with great propriety refer to Marcellus and Bernardo. If we did not find the latter gentleman in fuch good company, we might have taken him to have been like Francifco whom he relieves, an honeft but common foldier. The ftrange indifcriminate use of Italian and Roman names in this and other plays, makes it obvious that the author was very little converfant in even the rudiments of either lan guage. RITSON.
Rival is conftantly ufed by Shakspeare for a partner or af fociate. In Bullokar's English Expofitor, Svo. 1616, it is de