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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Hamlet Vizitations
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0978  Monday, 19 May 2003

From:           Gerald E. Downs <
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Date:           Friday, 16 May 2003 19:56:41 EDT
Subject:        Hamlet Vizitations

In his faulty 1962 publication, <Hamlet The First Quarto 1603>, Albert
B. Weiner says of Q1's version of Hamlet 2.1. 57ff:

>Another unquestionable manuscript peculiarity comes in
>sc. 6, 22.  In the speech in which Corambis sends Montano
>to spy on Laertes he says:

                           I saw him yesterday, or tother day,
      Or then, or at such a time, a dicing,
      Or at Tennis, I or drincking drunke, or entring
      Of a howse of lightnes viz. brothell.

>Surely anyone reporting this scene would never have reported
>"viz." Corambis would have said, and the reporter would have
>heard, "videlicet," the Q2-F1 reading. The abbreviation "viz."
>would probably never have even appeared in the promptbook;
>certainly it would not have appeared in Corambis' part. The
>most likely place to find such an abbreviation, it seems to
>me, would be in the author's manuscript. Authors, not actors,
>use abbreviations. (43)

These assertions are typical of Weiner's allegiance to his theme that Q1
Hamlet is not a reported text. He silently passes over corruptions (such
as "Or at Tennis," for "There falling out at Tennis,") and he ignores
the metrical irregularity of this thoroughly botched passage by printing
it as prose in his highly disguised edition of the Q1 text.

"Videlicet" is one of the most abbreviated of words; insistence that a
reporter would never resort to "viz," or that actors do "not use
abbreviations," is special pleading. However, because Weiner made an
issue of it, I've given "viz." some thought as a minor crux.

As often, Q1 at this line is unmetrical, but so are Q2 and F. The better
texts may be corrupted by "videlicet". Q2 reads:

     There falling out at Tennis, or perchance
     I saw him enter such a house of sale,
     Videlizit, a brothell, or so foorth, see you now,
     Your bait of falshood take this carpe of truth,

F is substantively the same, except for "Cape of truth", (anticipating
Superman by centuries). The spelling in Q2 suggests that "viz." was
expanded by a compositor not familiar with the Latin word, which means
something like "It is permitted to see." Harold Jenkins in his Arden 2
edition avoids metrical difficulty by printing "See you now" as a
separate line (2.1.63).

Though Jenkins omits F's addition to line 53 ("At friend, or so, and
Gentleman") as probably an actor's interpolation, he doesn't suggest
that "see you now" is added.

Van Dam, in keeping with his theme that much in Q2 is interpolated (an
opinion I largely share), corrects the line length by deleting "see you
now".

Because Polonius's speeches are filled with phrases not readily
differentiated from actor's additions, it seems unwise to edit out
passable dialogue when the verse can be corrected by other means.
Whether extra-syllabic lines need correction is a large question applied
to particular instances; in this case I assume the need -- the passage
is in verse.

Q1 does on occasion provide better readings, and "viz." may be
preferable to the expanded form. It's a matter of pronunciation. It
seems natural to me that "viz" would often have been pronounced "viz";
that even sophisticated Latinists like Polonius and Shakespeare might
say and think the short form. If so, the line spoken

     Viz a brothell or so foorth see you now,

is decasyllabic, if not drumming. I'm not sure that "brothell" was
always stressed on its first half.

Another alternative is available. Q1 has "viz. brothell", with no
article. If (as I am convinced this month) Q1 derives from a live
performance, that authority might suggest Q2's "a" is also a
compositorial expansion.

By a twist of fait, "viz." is often pronounced "namely." Without
training, one can neither know nor voice such a substitution. But how
long has this been the practice?  Perhaps a 16th century poem rhymes
"viz" with -- what rhymes with namely?  But I doubt it:

     Namely, brothell, or so foorth, see you now,

If this is the way it was said, a reporter or scribe would have been
free to convey the word as "viz.", or a shorter form, perhaps without
realizing the degree of probability that a later confusion might result.

Needless to say, had Weiner not brought the matter up, I would never
have given it a thought. The passage is of some significance because Q1
screws it up so badly.

For example, Weiner and Hubbard reorder these Q1 lines:

    I faith not a whit; no not a whit,
    Now happely hee closeth with you in the consequence,
    As you may bridle it not disparage him a iote.
    What was I about to say,

As Jenkins glosses the better texts, "closes with" means "falls in
with," but the three uses of "closeth" in Q1 make it so hard to see the
intended meaning that Kathleen Irace defines the term as "ends with," a
surprising error. It's much better to let the muddle speak for itself.

Gerald E. Downs

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