Page images
PDF
EPUB

Re-enter Macduff, with Macbeth's Head.

Maed. Hail, king! for so thou art. Behold, where stands The usurper's cursed head: the time is free. I see thee compass'd with thy kingdom's pearl, That speak my salutation in their minds; Whose voices I desire aloud with mine,— Hail, king of Scotland!

All. Hail, king of Scotland!

[Flourish.

Mai. We shall not spend a large expense of time, Before we reckon with your several loves, And make us even with you. My thanes and kinsmen, Henceforth be earls; the first that ever Scotland In such an honour nam'd. What's more to do, Which would be planted newly with the time,— As calling home our exil'd friends abroad, That fled the snares of watchful tyranny; Producing forth the cruel ministers Of this dead butcher, and his fiend-like queen, Who, as 'tis thought, by self and violent hands Took off her life ;—this, and what needful else That calls upon us, by the grace of Grace, We will perform in measure, time, and place. So, thanks to all at once, and to each one, Whom we invite to see us crown'd at Scone.

[Flourish. Exeunt.

HAMLET.

The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke By William Shake-speare. As it hath beene diuerse times acted by bis Highnesse seruants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Vniuersities of Cambridge and Oxford, and else-where. At London printed for N. L. and Iohn Trundell. 1603. 4to. 33 leaves.

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. At London, Printed by I. R. for N. L. and are to be sold at his shoppe vnder Saint Dunstons Church in Fleetstreet. 1604. 4to. 51 leaves.

The title-page of the edition of 1605 does not differ in the most minute particular from that of 1604.

The Tragedy 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 Coppy. At London, Printed for Iohn Smethwicke and are to be sold at his shoppe in Saint Dunstons Church yeard in Fleetstreet. Vnder the Diall. 1611. 4to. 51 leaves.

The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke. Newly Imprinted and inlarged, according to the true and perfect Copy lastly Printed. By William Shakespeare. London, Printed by W. S. for Iohn Smethwicke, and are to be sold at his Shop in Saint Dunstans Church-yard in Fleetstreet: Vnder the Diall. 4to. 51 leaves.

This undated edition was probably printed in 1607, as it was entered at Stationers' Hall on Nov. 19, in that year. An impression, by R. Young, in 4to, 1637, has also John Smethwicke at the bottom of the title-page.

In the folio of 1623, "The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke," occupies thirty-one pages, in the division of "Tragedies;" viz. from p. 152 to p. 280, inclusive, there being a mistake of 100 pages between p. 156 and what ought to have been p. 157.

INTRODUCTION.

The story upon which, there is reason to believe, Shakespeare founded his tragedy of " Hamlet," has recently been reprinted, from the only known perfect copy1, as part of a work called "Shakespeare's Library ;" and there is, perhaps, nothing more remarkable than the manner in which our great dramatist wrought these barbarous, uncouth, and scanty materials into the magnificent structure he left behind him. A comparison of " The Historic of Hamblet," as it was translated at an early date from the French of Belleforest', with "The Tragedy of Hamlet," is calculated to give us the most exalted notion of, and profound reverence for, the genius of Shakespeare: his vast superiority to Greene and Lodge was obvious in " The Winter's Tale," and "As You Like It;" but the novels of "Pandosto " and "Rosalynde," as narratives, were perhaps as far above " The Historie of Hamblet," as " The Winter's Tale " and " As You Like It" were above the originals from which their main incidents were derived. Nothing, in point of fact, can be much more worthless, in story and style, than the production to which it is supposed Shakespeare was indebted for the foundation of his " Hamlet."

There is, however, some ground for thinking, that a lost play upon similar incidents preceded the work of Shakespeare: how far that lost play might be an improvement upon the old translated "Historie" we have no means of deciding, nor to what extent Shakespeare availed himself of such improvement. A drama, of which Hamlet was the hero, was certainly in being prior to the year 1587, (in all probability too early a date for Shakespeare to have been the writer of it) for we find it thus alluded to by Thomas Nash, in his preliminary epistle to the "Menaphon" of Robert Greene, published in that year3:—" Yet English Seneca, read by candle

1 Dr. Farmer had an imperfect copy of it, but it is preserved entire among Capell's books in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge, and was printed in 1608, by Richard Bradocke, for Thomas Pavicr. "There can be little doubt that it had originally come from the press considerably before the commencement of the seventeenth century, although the multiplicity of readers of productions of the kind, and the carelessness with which such books were regarded after perusal, has led to the destruction, as far as can now be ascertained, of every earlier copy."—Introduction to Part IV. of " Shakespeare's Library."

1 Belleforest derived his knowledge of the incidents from the History of Denmark, by Saxo Grammaticus, first printed in 1514.

* We give the date of 1587 on the excellent authority of the Rev. A. Dyce, light, yeelds many good sentences, as blood is a beggar, and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches." The writer is referring to play-poets and their productions at that period, and he seems to have gone out of his way, in order to introduce the very name of the performance against which he .was directing ridicule. Another piece of evidence, to the same effect, but of a more questionable kind, is to be found in Henslowe's Diary, under the date of June 9th, 1594, when a " Hamlet" was represented at the theatre at Newington Butts: that it was then an old play is ascertained from the absence of the mark, which the old manager usually prefixed to first performances, and from the fact that his share of the receipts was only nine shillings. At that date, however, the company to which Shakespeare belonged was in joint occupation of the same theatre, and it is certainly possible, though improbable, that the drama represented on June 9th, 1594, was Shakespeare's " Hamlet." We feel confident, however, that the "Hamlet" which has come down to us in at least six quarto impressions, in the folio of 1623, and in the later impressions in that form, was not written until the winter of 1601, or the spring of 1602.

Malone, Steevens, and the other commentators, were acquainted with no edition of the tragedy anterior to the quarto of 1604, which professes to be "enlarged to almost as much again as it was :" they, therefore, reasonably suspected that it had been printed before; and within the last twenty years a single copy of an edition in 1603 has been discovered. This, in fact, seems to have been the abbreviated and imperfect edition, consisting of only about half as much as the impression of 1604. It belongs to the Duke of Devonshire, and, by the favour of his Grace, is now before us. From whose press it came we have no information', but it professed to be " printed for N. L. and Iohn Trundell." The edition of the following year was printed by I. R. for N. L. only; and why Trundell ceased to have any interest in the publication we know not. N. L. was Nicholas Ling; and I. R., the printer of the edition of 1604, was, no doubt, James Roberts, who, two years before, had made the following entry in the Registers of the Stationers' Company:—

"26 July 1602. James Roberts] A booke, The Revenge of Hamlett prince of

Denmarke, as yt was latelie acted by the Lord Charaber

layn his servantes." The words, "as it was lately acted," are important upon the

(Greene's Works, vol. i. pp. xxxvii. and ciii.) We have never been able to meet with any impression earlier than that of 1589. Sir Egerton Brydges reprinted the tract from the edition of 1616, (when its name had been changed to "Green's Arcadia,") in "Archaica," vol. i.

« PreviousContinue »