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THE earliest edition of Hamlet known to exist is that of 1603. It bears the following title: 'The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, by William Shake-speare. As it hath beene diverse times acted by his Highnesse servants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere. At London, printed for N. L. and John Trundell, 1603.' The copy of this edition in the library of the Duke of Devonshire wants the last leaf. This was reprinted in 1825. Another copy is known, without the title-page.

The second edition of Hamlet was printed in 1604, under the following title: The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. By William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect coppie. Printed by J. R. for N. Landure, 1604, 4to.' This edition was reprinted in 1605, in 1609, in 1611, and there is also a quarto edition without a date. Steevens has reprinted the edition of 1611, in his twenty plays. In the folio of 1623 some passages which are found in the quarto of 1601 are omitted. In our text we have given these passages, indicating them as they occur. In other respects our text, with one or two minute exceptions, is wholly founded upon the folio of 1623. From this circumstance our edition will be found considerably to differ from the text of Johnson and Steevens, of Reed, of Malone, and of all the current editions which are founded upon these. Mr. Caldecott alone. in his 'Specimen of an Edition of Shakspeare,' privately printed in 1832, recognises the authority of the folio of 1623. We cannot comprehend the pertinacity with which Steevens and Malone rejected this authority. There cannot be a doubt, we apprehend, that the verbal changes in the text were the corrections of the author. We have given the parallel passages in the quarto of 1604 in our foot notes.

In the reprint of the edition of 1603, it is stated to be "the only known copy of this tragedy, as originally written by Shakespeare, which he afterwards altered and enlarged." We believe that this description is correct; that this remarkable copy gives us the play as originally written by Shakspere. It may have been piratical, and we think it was so. It may, as Mr. Collier says, have been "published in haste from a short-hand copy, taken from the mouths of the players." But this process was not applied to the finished Hamlet; the Hamlet of 1603 is a sketch of the perfect

Hamlet, and probably a corrupt copy of that sketch. Mr. Caldecott believes that this copy exhibits, "in that which was afterwards wrought into a splendid drama, the first conception, and comparatively feeble expression, of a great mind.” We think, further, that this first couception was an early conception; that it was remodelled,-" enlarged to almost as much againe as it was," at the beginning of the 17th century; and that this original copy being then of comparatively little value was piratically published.

It is, perhaps, fortunate as regards the integrity of the current text of Hamlet, that the quarto of 1603 was unknown to the commentators; for they unquestionably would have done with it as they did with the first sketch of Romeo and Juliet. They would have foisted passages into the amended play which the author had rejected, and have termed this process a recovery of the original text. Without employing this copy in so unjustifiable a manner, we have availed ourselves of it, in several cases, as throwing a new light upon difficult passages. But the highest interest of this edition consists, as we believe, in the opportunity which it affords of studying the growth, not only of our great poet's command over language—not only of his dramatical skill,—but of the higher qualities of his intellect-his profound philosophy, his wonderful penetration into what is most hidden and obscure in men's characters and motives. We request the reader's indulgence whilst we attempt to point out some of the more important considerations which have suggested themselves to us, in a careful study of this original edition.

And, first, let us state that all the action of the amended Hamlet is to be found in the first sketch. The play opens with the scene in which the Ghost appears to Horatio and Marcellus. The order of the dialogue is the same; but, in the quarto of 1604, it is a little elaborated. The grand passage beginning

"In the most high and palmy state of Rome,"

is not found in this copy; and it is omitted in the folio. The second scene introduces us, as at present, to the King, Queen, Hamlet, Polonius, and Laertes, but in this copy Polonius is called Corambis. The dialogue here is much extended in the perfect copy. We will give an example:

[Quarto of 1603.]

Ham. "My lord, 'tis not the sable suit I wear;
No, nor the tears that still stand in my eyes,
Nor the distracted "haviour in the visage,
Nor all together mixt with outward semblance,
Is equal to the sorrow of my heart;
Him have I lost I must of course forgo,
These, but the ornaments and suits of woe."

[Quarto of 1604.]

Ham. "'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc'd breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly: these, indeed, seem,
For they are actions that a man might play;
But I have that within which passeth show;
These, but the trappings and the suits of woe."

We would ask if it is possible that such a careful working up of the first idea could have been any other work than that of the poet himself? Can the alterations be accounted for upon the principle that the first edition was an imperfect copy of the complete play, " published in haste from a shorthand copy taken from the mouths of the players?" Could the players have transformed the line"But I have that within which passeth show,"


"Him have I lost I must of force forgo,"


The haste of short-hand does not account for what is truly the refinement of the poetical art. same nice elaboration is to be found in Hamlet's soliloquy in the same scene. In the first copy we have not the passage so characteristic of Hamlet's mind,

"How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world."

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Neither have we the noble comparison of "Hyperion to a satyr." The fine Shaksperian phrase, so deep in its metaphysical truth, "a beast that wants discourse of reason," is, in the first copy, 8 beast devoid of reason." Shakspere must have dropt verse froin his mouth, as the fairy in the Arabian tales dropt pearls. It appears to have been no effort to him to have changed the whole arrangement of a poetical sentence, and to have inverted its different members; he did this as readily as if ho were dealing with prose. In the first copy we have these lines,—

"Why, she would hang on him as if increase

Of appetite had grown by what it look'd on.”

In the amended copy we have-

"Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown

By what it fed on.

Such changes are not the work of short-hand writers.

The interview of Horatio, Bernardo, and Marcellus with Hamlet, succeeds as in the perfect copy, and the change here is very slight. The scene between Laertes and Ophelia in the same manner follows. Here again there is a great extension. The injunction of Laertes in the first copy is contained in these few lines :

"I see Prince Hamlet makes a show of love.
Beware, Ophelia; do not trust his vows.
Perhaps he loves you now, and now his tongue

Speaks from his heart; but yet take heed, my sister.

The chariest maid is prodigal enough

If she unmask her beauty to the moon ;

Virtue itself 'scapes not calumnious thoughts:
Believ't, Ophelia; therefore keep aloof,

Lest that he trip thy honour and thy fame."

Compare this with the splendid passage which we now have. Look especially at the following lines, in which we see the deep philosophic spirit of the mature Shakspere :

"For nature, crescent, does not grow alone

In thews, and bulk; but, as this temple waxes,
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal."

Polonius and his few precepts next occur; and here again there is slight difference. The lecture of the old courtier to his daughter is somewhat extended. In the next scene, where Hamlet encounters the Ghost, there is very little change. We have noticed in our illustrations how the poet introduced in the perfect copy a modification of the censure of the Danish wassels. In all the rest of the scene there is scarcely a difference between the two copies. The character of Hamlet is fully conceived in the original play, whenever he is in action, as in this scene. It is the contemplative part of his nature which is elaborated in the perfect copy. This great scene, as it was first written, appeared to the poet to have been scarcely capable of improvement.

The character of Polonius, under the name of Corambis, presents itself in the original copy with little variation. We have extension, but not change. As we proceed, we find that Shakspere in the first copy more emphatically marked the supposed madness of Hamlet than he thought fit to ¿ in the amended copy. Thus Ophelia does not, as now, say,—

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Again, in the next scene, when the King communicates his wishes to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he does not speak of Hamlet as merely put "from the understanding of himself;" but in this first copy he says

"Our dear cousin Hamlet

Hath lost the very heart of all his sense.'

In the description which Polonius, in the same scene, gives of Hamlet's maduess for Ophelia's love, tho symptoms are made much stronger in the original copy:

"He straightway grew into a melancholy;

From that unto a fast; then unto distraction;
Then into a sadness; from that unto a madness;
And so by continuance and weakness of the brain,
Into this frenzy which now possesses him."

It is curious that in Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy,' we have the stages of melancholy, madness,

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