The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0691 Monday, 27 July 1998.
Date: Saturday, 25 Jul 1998 23:53:46 EDT
Subject: 9.0679 Re: Laertes & Ophelia in Q1 & Q2
Comment: Re: SHK 9.0679 Re: Laertes & Ophelia in Q1 & Q2
Though I'm away from my books, so I can barely paraphrase, the
alternative versions of Q1 and Q2 HAMLET throw some light on what folk
(the "author-functoids") were thinking about these issues in 1603 and
1605. In Q1, Laertes tells Ophelia about the dangers relating to
sexuality that would apply to ANY young man. In Q2 he warns her most
specifically about Hamlet as a particularly untrustworthy case. (But
when I get home I'll be able to quote the passages.) The sexual
tensions in the family raise in pitch as one goes from Q1 to Q2. The
language used by Polonius is even fouler and more demeaning than the
And, for what it is worth, when she goes batty, in one of the versions
Ophelia sings her mournful song to the King, the bawdy song after
Laertes enters to hear it. And in the other version she sings the bawdy
song to the King before Laertes appears. One version gives Ophelia a
pointed reply to her brother after four long acts. The other version
avoids that reply to him. Someone is cooking the texts to generate
fresh possibilities. So the familial repression of sexuality in that
particular household involve different mental violations and different
long term responses depending on the text you look at.
As with so many textual alternatives, these variants can help students
and actors understand the rich possibilities of performance. By trying
out both, they appreciate the one finally selected. It's fun. Shhhh!
Don't tell the grown-ups.