Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0380. Sunday, 1 May 1994.
From: Ronald Dwelle <
Date: Friday, 29 Apr 94 09:23:35 EST
Subject: New Shakespeare Knowledge
Aware that my CV has been lacking in substance, I resolved this semester to
work harder at important scholarship. You can thus imagine my delight at
stumbling across new knowledge in the Shakespeare canon, and from the
unlikeliest of sources--my sophomore Intro-to-Shakespeare students.
Having just finished 47 hours of intensive exam grading, I can now report
convincing evidence of an hitherto unknown oeuvre by the Bard. Initial
indications are that it may be a complete play--a sort of pre-ur-Hamlet--or
perhaps an unfinished early play which Shakespeare later cannibalized in order
to create several of his greatest tragedies.
What we have evidence of, so far, is mostly some suggestion of the plot. First
action is a "cruel act by Pontius of pouring poisons in his uncle's ear" in
order to gain the throne of Stratford-upon-Avon, which is "the university where
Hamlet attended" (all quotations are from my students' exams, now safely
archived and under lock-and-key, awaiting transfer to the Folger). Following
this "haynous" act, "Hamlet gets a visit from the witches who talks about his
father who was murdered." This seems to "drive Hamlet bananas" which is well
evidenced by one particular scene in which "Hamlet is talking to his mother,
telling her that he is her son."
Also involved is a "girl Opelia," a character who is "Hamlet's love interest
before his madness overtakes him." In a central scene of the play, Hamlet is
"taking back all the things he said to her in the time he was wooing her. He
tells her off and tells her to go to a nunnary." Another source indicates
"Hamlet's brutal speach in this scene sets Opheila [perhaps a variant name?]
off in to madness and ultimately death." There may also be a parallel scene in
which "Hamlet is talking to himself about his mother, saying that he won't kill
her but she must die, so as not to betray more men like Hamlet's father."
Following this confrontation, a new setting emerges--"Elsionor, the city where
Prince Hamlet is sent when Clodius thinks he knows the truth about his father's
murder." It is unclear what happens in this city, but when Hamlet returns,
"Everything goes to hell and he kills everybody until they are all dead on the
stage, except Hippolyta, the King of Norway," who gets "Hamlet's dying breath."
In general, the play is apparently fraught with mayhem--"The murders seem to
happen when night is about, and he wants to kill his uncle."
There may or may not be additional characters in the ur-play: "a hairy ass
Bottom" and "Robin Goodfellow, who is Hamlet's college friend." [The name Robin
Goodfellow was apparently not only fictive--"This was the name of someone in
Shakespeare's family," according to another scholar.] Another character is a
busybody named "Polyonious," father to "Lartes." Another young woman in the
play is named "Beanica," though her role is quite vague (or this may be
"Banquo, who wants to be king").
In addition to the overall structure, there are several indications of the
poetic techniques employed by the author (perhaps different interpretations, or
perhaps just differing deductions from the fragmentary evidence available). One
scholar reports that the play is written in "Imbic Pentameter," that is, "there
are 10 beats to a line, with 5 beats per foot, therefore there are 2 feet in a
line." Another reports that the poetic lines "always end with some form of
punctuation at the end of each line. This is the opposite of free verse, where
all the lines don't have to have punctuation." Still another claims that the
play is in Shakespeare's usual "stile of writting where each line only had 7
syllables" [undoubtedly apprenticeship-level blank verse, circa 1587-1588]. Yet
another indicates that it is "in a type of poetry style that had a stress every
3rd beat or syllable."
One other incidental detail--this ur-play was apparently performed by "Robin
Goodfellow, Shakespeare, and Richard Bondnage, all called the Chamberland Men"
I think it would be best if we kept this preliminary information confidential
to the Shakspr list, until we can acquire additional evidence of this new play
and present it all to a refereed journal as a complete package. And, in the
spirit of collegiality, if you all will provide me with additional data as it
becomes available, I will complete the "construction" of the new play, and
leave all the de-construction to you.
For now, I must go return the exams, and offer suggestions to my young charges
on what additional fields of interest they might pursue for their final