The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1327  Monday, 30 June 2003

[1]     From:   Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Jun 2003 01:21:59 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Q1 Hamlet

[2]     From:   Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Jun 2003 01:21:41 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Q1 Hamlet

From:           Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Jun 2003 01:21:59 EDT
Subject:        Re: Q1 Hamlet

While commending G I Duthie for his 1941 book on Q1 Hamlet, Sidney
Thomas remarks finally, "Curiously, however, Duthie neglects to discuss
specifically some of the most convincing evidence for the corruption of

I believe there are several reasons for Duthie's perceived lapse.
First, others preceded him and one naturally hopes to adduce original
argument. Second, his own theory fails to come to grips with some of the
corruptions. Last, Q1 is a bottomless pit of corruption. Unless one is
determined to defend the text as somehow legitimate (thereby forced to
ignore anomaly), evidence of corruption jumps out at every turn of the

For example, Harold Jenkins cites 3.2.331, Hamlet's

      I lack advancement.

This statement, delivered in Q2 after the momentous play, is found in Q1
before the play as:

      I want preferment.

In each instance the remark is somewhat out of place. A few days ago I
was reading 3.2 for its own sake:

      Ros.  Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?
               You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty
               If you deny your griefs to your friend.
      Ham. Sir, I lack advancement.
      Ros.  How can that be, when you have the voice of the
               King himself for your succession in Denmark?

Hamlet's invariable habit is to play upon the words of his now-suspect
friends. When told that denying his griefs to his friend bars the door
to liberty, his response is, in effect, "I won't tell you a thing, so
bar the door. If that's the case, 'I lack advancement.' "

As expected, Rosencrantz misses the joke; the conversation takes a
predictable turn, incidentally confirming Hamlet's erstwhile

In Q1, the transposition "I want preferment" loses the wordplay
altogether. Is it likely that Shakespeare began with Q1's usage, then
developed the quibble on revision? Or is it more probable that the
players missed the point too?

I think we have to consider two inferences related to this minor muff.
One, Elizabethan actors may have been far from perfect; and two, they
may not always have understood their author.

Gerald E. Downs

From:           Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Jun 2003 01:21:41 EDT
Subject:        Re: Q1 Hamlet

Ben Spiller said:

>I wish the debate could move on from being underpinned by the
>antiquated belief that the First Quarto should be labelled the
>so-called 'Bad Quarto'.

So far as 'bad quarto' seems prejudicial, 'First Quarto' may be
preferred. But the origin of the 'bad' label is understood by most and
probably does little damage.

Beliefs in respect of Q1 are almost all antiquated. The 1825 Payne and
Foss reprint speaks of it "as originally written by Shakespeare, which
he afterwards altered and enlarged." Singer shortly agreed, but in 1843
Collier expressed his opinion that Q1 represents a shorthand report. In
1857 Tycho Mommsen proposed the "memorial reconstruction" theory that
was subsequently argued strongly by Duthie in 1941. Perhaps the newest
antique is Weiner's 1962 argument that Q1 is legitimately abridged. But
as Jenkins notes, "it is a strange fallacy which assumes that
abridgement excludes memorial reconstruction."

Authority should not be conferred by indiscriminate re-labelling.
Perhaps the mirror of fashion (the theory that relegates the others to
antiquity) should be called the "Osric Quarto."

Annalisa Castaldo agrees with Ben, saying:

>I . . . would further add that there are aspects of Q1 that,
>at least to me, make it extremely unlikely that Q1 represents
>only a mangled version of Q2/F.

But no one says that.

>First, there are the name changes, such as Corambis for
>Polonius, an unlikely memorial slip.

A theory of lasting acceptance must accommodate or account for all the
evidence; but the "either memorial or authoritative" choice is
unsatisfactory given the current forms of the theories.

My current support (not that anyone cares), proceeding from respect for
antique scholarship, is for the most neglected of theories, that Q1
derives from a shorthand report of performance, as argued by my
seldom-cited hero Van Dam, from whom this excerpt from 1923 is taken:

"Both in 4.5 and in 4.7 the King and Laertes talk about Laertes'
intention of avenging the murder of his father. In the middle of a very
much curtailed and corrupt passage . . . we find line 1790 which forms
the latter half of Q2 4.5.137:

                                 Q2 1788-1791

             King.  Leartes, content your selfe, be rulde by me,
          And you shall haue no let [hindrance] for your reuenge.

             Lear. My will, not all the world.

             King. Nay but Leartes, marke the plot I haue layde,

This transposition may well serve to show once again the inadequacy of
explaining it as being due to rewriting.  However much a first sketch
may need correcting and improving, in no first sketch will there appear
a perfectly unintelligible dialogue, as is here the case. Line 1790
lacks any logical connection with the context. The corruption is an
actor's slip, for only as such can it be completely explained.  The
player who acts the part of Laertes hears the last words of line 1789,
'no let for your revenge', which remind him of the first half of Q2
4.5.137: 'King. Who shall stay you {from revenge}?' . . .

[The passage in Q2 reads:

                    Let come what comes, onely I'le be reueng'd
                    Most throughly for my father.
                         King. Who shall stay you?           137
                         Laer. My will, not all the worlds:
                    And for my meanes I'le husband them so well,
                    They shall goe farre with little.

Where Van Dam adds as a gloss 'from revenge', referring to the king's
'Who shall stay you?', I accept the meaning: "who will support you in
your revenge?" Laertes says, "my will."]

. . .upon which [the actor], by reflex action so to speak, answers with
line 1790, that is with the second half of Q2 4.5.137.  The actor
personating the King of course notices the mistake, and by means of the
words, which really do not belong to his part, 'Nay, but Leartes, marke
. . .'  very cleverly sets the dialogue right again.

To repeat Van Dam's argument: "My will, not all the world" comes from
another scene, where it fits. At 1790, it makes no sense.  The actor
took the 'revenge' reference as cue for the wrong line.
The King's portrayer covered the mistake with an ad lib.  This sequence
could hardly occur in composition or even in a written reconstruction.
It could only happen in performance.

Q1 is so corrupt that similar rationale applies to unnumbered passages.
Many are discussed by Van Dam, and Duthie, Sidney Thomas and others
elucidate more. As Thomas says in his perceptive article, "To accept
feeble or incoherent verse as truly Shakespearean is to reveal a basic
incomprehension of Shakespeare's achievement as a poetic dramatist. It
is in the attempt to bypass or equivocate away the gross corruptions of
language in Q1 that the theory of Shakespearean revision, even
enlargement, of Hamlet falls apart.

In a long footnote in <Shakespeare, Co-Author>, Brian Vickers suggests
that critics of the elder 'bad quarto' theorists "have failed to give a
fair account of the evidence and arguments" and refers to the "effects
of this scepticism" as "disastrous." It would seem that not everyone
considers the 'bad quarto' concept antiquated.

Thomas Heywood and George Buc testify to stenographic reporting of
plays. Is it probable that an author of over 200 plays, and the Master
of the Revels from 1610 to1622 (and nephew of Tilney, Master from 1579
to 1609) knew what they were talking about? I think it is.

Gerald E. Downs

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.