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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1585  Wednesday, 25 August 2004

[1]     From:   Tom Krause <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Aug 2004 22:27:14 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 15.1573 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Aug 2004 23:00:29 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1573 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Krause <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Aug 2004 22:27:14 -0400
Subject: Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
Comment:        SHK 15.1573 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

David Richman wrote . . .

"If I have to cut "Hamlet," I will begin with Q1. . . ."

Carey Upton wrote . . .

"When I've cut HAMLET, I found some help in looking at the First Quarto,
often called the bad Quarto. I believe it is an early Shakespearean draft .
. . ."

Hardy M. Cook wrote . . .

"I too have explored the performance implications of basing a Hamlet
production on the Q1 scene structure . . . ."

I'm glad to see there are so many Q1 devotees here, and would be
thrilled to hear your reactions to my paper "A Picture in Little Is
Worth a Thousand Words: Debasement in Hamlet and Measure for Measure"
(to be posted on this site sometime soon, I hope), in which I argue that
Q1 most likely was an edited - indeed censored - version of the "true"
version (best reflected in Q2).  I base this conclusion on (1) the
absence of a debasement theme in Q1, and (2) the more sympathetic role
of the queen in Q1.  The newly-ensconced King's Men changed the play for
performance before King James to avoid appearing to be referring to (1)
his disastrous policies of debasement in Scotland, and (2) his mother's
role in his father's murder.

What debasement theme in Hamlet, you ask?  At the risk of being called
"credulous" again, the thumbnail sketch is as follows:  Hamlet is
talking about debased Claudius coins when he refers to the large sums of
money that people must pay for Claudius's "picture in little."  In the
two pictures/ "counterfeit presentment" scene, Hamlet shows his mother
coins, one of which is a debased Claudius coin (Gertrude's remark: "This
is the very coinage of your brain" provides strong support here).
Finally, the "innovation" that has caused the players to travel (and
which gives rise to Hamlet's "picture in little line") is the debasement
of the coinage initiated by Claudius.  These and several other Q2
references that appear to be to debasement (see paper) are simply
missing from Q1, suggesting that they were intentionally and
systematically taken out.

I don't intend for my argument to be the last word; you might well argue
that someone intentionally put the debasement references in.  But the
censorship theory has the merit of providing an explanation of WHY the
changes were made, and shows how two different changes converge on the
same conclusion (i.e. an edited version to avoid offending James).

Back to the original question - even if I'm right, there's nothing wrong
with using Q1 as a guide to how to cut Hamlet.  In fact, doing so has
the merit of removing a theme that has absolutely no currency
(unavoidable pun; sorry) today.

Tom

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Aug 2004 23:00:29 -0400
Subject: 15.1573 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1573 Hamlet: Who Cuts It Best?

In 1988, Paul Barry used the Q1 structure at the NJ Shakespeare Festival
(1963-1990, RIP).  (The production was also complicated by being in rep
with /Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead/.)  I believe he first got
the idea from /Shakespeare's Game/, by William Gibson.

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