The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 30.095 Thursday, 7 March 2019
Date: March 7, 2019 at 11:33:06 AM EST
Subject: Q1 Hamlet
Is Q1 Hamlet Reported?
The aim of this research project has been to test the hypothesis that Q1 Hamlet (1603) was put together by actors and reporters and represents an unauthorised text. This hypothesis was supported by two major scholarly studies published during the Second World War: G. I. Duthie, The ‘BAD’ QUARTO of HAMLET (Cambridge, 1941), and Alfred Hart, Stolne and Surreptitious Copies. A Comparative Study of Shakespeare’s Bad Quartos (Melbourne, 1942; reprinted 2014). This explanation was endorsed by a generation of Hamlet editors, including Harold Jenkins (1982), Philip Edwards (1985), and George Hibbard (1987), and those who edited the complete works between 1974 and 1986. It remained the consensus scholarly judgment until a backlash in the late 1980s against the New Bibliography, and especially the work of W. W. Greg, succeeded in discrediting the theory of memorial reconstruction and the whole concept of “Bad” Quartos. Setting aside Pollard’s unfortunate name for these texts, and the outdated notion of “pirates” violating the rights of stationers, the theory of memorial reconstruction was validated by Kathleen Irace in her book Reforming the “Bad” Quartos (1994) and in her edition, The First Quarto of Hamlet (1998).
The starting point for all these scholars was the fact that Q1, allegedly “acted by his Highnesse seruants in the Cittie of London”, was soon replaced by Q2 (1604-5), firmly stated to be “By William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie”. It seemed obvious to the scholarly tradition to start by comparing the two editions, to see what it was about Q1 that caused Shakespeare’s company to replace it with the authorised text. Yet Laurie Maguire, in her schematic overview, Shakespearean suspect texts (1996), although acknowledging that Hamlet Q1 and Q2 are “parallel texts” (342 n. 38), announced (155) that
I approach the Shakespearean suspect texts as if no parallel text existed i.e. I ignore any help or bias offered by a Q2 or F version. This puts the Shakespearean suspect texts on an equal footing with the non-Shakespearean, and facilitates contextual understanding.
That remains a puzzling decision. Where does the implied “bias” reside? What is “contextual understanding”? Most serious, how can we put Q1 Hamlet on “an equal footing” with Q2, of which it is an attempted clone? Whatever its merits as a shortened acting version, preserving about half the text, it mangles Shakespeare’s language to the degree that a reader can often only understand it by referring to the authorised edition. Maguire’s example encouraged Terri Bourus, in Young Shakespeare’s Young Hamlet (2014), which not only avoided comparing Q1 with Q2 but barely quoted from Q1. Bourus also avoided engaging with the scholarly tradition, briefly dismissing G. I. Duthie, and never mentioning Alfred Hart (Maguire at least mentioned Hart a few times, albeit never engaging with his case). Bourus revived the long-discredited thesis that Q1 represents Shakespeare’s first draft (c. 1589), a theory treated with great respect by Gary Taylor and Rory Loughnane in the New Oxford Shakespeare Authorship Companion (542-8).
It seems a matter of some urgency to re-assess the possibility that Q1 Hamlet is a reported text. Previous scholars who have endorsed this hypothesis have studied internal evidence, ranging from sequences of high accuracy (derived from one actor still having his original “part”) to corrupt and unintelligible passages and the frequent misplacing of the text by anticipation and repetition. As I reported here (SHK 30.024, 19 January 2019) MacDonald Jackson recently devised new tests of the play’s prosody and vocabulary that decisively date Q1 to 1602-3. I endorse his dating and agree with his assessment of the play’s un-Shakespearian language, its confusedly elliptical utterances, narrative incoherence, “pedestrian, clumsily repetitive, and sometimes barely meaningful verse”. My own approach derives from having noticed that Q1 contains many reminiscences of plays in the repertoires of the London theatres between 1587 and 1603. I am not the first person to compile such a list: Alfred Hart did so, briefly listing ‘Inter-play Borrowings’ (Stolne and Surreptitious Copies, 391-402).
Hart relied on his memory and wide reading, I have had the benefit of Pervez Rizvi’s database of 527 plays www.shakespearestext.com/can, marked up to automatically identify every instance of verbal repetition, whether n-grams (contiguous sequences of two or more words) or collocations (dispersed sequences within a ten-word window, the approximate length of a line of verse). Rizvi’s database contains 13,364 n-grams shared by Q1 Hamlet and the 526 other plays performed between 1552 and 1657. I have concentrated on the first 5,000, and given priority to unique n-grams, verbal matches occurring only twice in the corpus – that is, in this text and only one other -- which are the most reliable form of evidence. Some of the matches occur 3 or 4 times elsewhere, but I have only included phrases within the relevant period (1587-1603) that are echoed for the first time in Q1. I have worked with a copy of that text in modern spelling, reproducing the lineation of the Arden3 edition by Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (2006), which I have marked up to identify material not included in Q2. I have chosen the 1604-5 text as my reference point to bring out the many differences that Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have noticed had they compared it with the unauthorised edition. I am aware that some material from Q1 occurs in the Folio but not in Q2; however, that does not affect the present enquiry. The advantage of marking Q1-only material is that it enables us to see that most echoes from earlier plays occur in the reporters’ own text. Reminiscences of alien material are much rarer in the passages of authentic Shakespeare, suggesting that the reporters’ memories were more intensely exercised when they were forced to create their own material. In several instances we find echoes clustering together as they eked out their invention. The full list of matching phrases can be found on my website http://www.brianvickers.uk/?page_id=1357. Hart identified about 50 borrowings, I have added over 100 more. But I have also omitted about 50 instances of a unique parallel – occurring only in Q1 and in one other play – expressed in everyday language that any character in such a situation might have been expected to use. These “ordinary” utterances are often dismissed by readers unfamiliar with attribution studies, where the significance of verbal matches does not reside in their rarity. I am not claiming that every match is significant: readers will vary in their acceptance of each. But the total evidence, I submit, allows us to affirm that Q1 Hamlet is indeed a reported text, put together in 1602.
A detailed discussion of this evidence is impossible here, but some general comments can be made on the repertoire echoed by the reporters. I emphasise the plural, since previous discussions have focussed too much on Greg’s theory of a single reporter, such as the Host in The Merry Wives of Windsor. My reading of the evidence suggests that all the actors who had played major roles – Hamlet, the King, Gertred, Corambis, Leartes, Ofelia, the Player and the Gravedigger – were involved in the recreation of the text, a task that would have been impossible for one person, let alone a shorthand taker. I accept the traditional theory, confirmed by Irace in her computer-assisted study, that the most accurate reporter (probably because he had access to his own “part”) was the actor who played Marcellus, doubling that role with Voltemand and two personages in the Mousetrap, Lucianus and the Prologue.
As for the texts they echoed, these included 40 non-Shakespeare plays, amounting to 70 borrowings. The most often cited was The Spanish Tragedy, probably revived in 1599, which they recalled 14 times, referring less often to other plays attributed to Kyd (Soliman and Perseda, King Leir, and Fair Em). They drew on five plays by Marlowe (1 and 2 Tamburlaine, Dido, Faustus, and Edward II), two by Lyly (Campaspe, Endymion), two by Peele (Edward 1, The Troublesome Reign), two by Greene (Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Orlando Furioso), three by Heywood (1 and 2 Edward IV, The Four Prentices of London), four by Marston (Antonio and Mellida, Antonio’s Revenge, Histriomastix, Jack Drum’s Entertainment), two by Jonson (EMIH, Poetaster), and one each by Yarrington, Dekker, Chapman, and Chettle, together with three anonymous plays.
The reporters of Q1 Hamlet drew proportionally more often on Shakespeare, amassing 98 borrowings from 25 plays, confirming earlier scholars’ theories that they must have belonged to his company. Tabulating their echoes, I was surprised how many came from the 8 history plays, 39 in all: 8 from 2 Henry VI (counting 2 from The Contention), 8 from 3 Henry VI, 7 from Richard III, 3 from King John, 4 from 1 Henry IV, 3 from 2 Henry IV, 5 from Henry V, 1 from Richard II. Either Shakespeare’s Histories were a staple part of their repertory, or the actors remembered them well. The 12 comedies they drew on produced 32 borrowings, more from the later 90s: 5 from The Merchant of Venice and from Twelfth Night, 3 each from The Merry Wives of Windsor, As You Like It, and Measure for Measure. From the tragedies they recalled Titus Andronicus and Julius Caesar three times each, Romeo and Juliet seven times, and Othello thirteen times, a frequency that raises again the problem of dating. Q1 was entered in the Stationers’ Register on 26 July 1602, while Othello is conventionally dated to 1603. Having noted five of these echoes, Alfred Hart suggested that Othello must have been produced “not later than the early months of the year 1602” (p. 401). Hart found it improbable “that the Shakespeare of Hamlet and Othello borrowed lines from the pirated editions of his own plays”, and his verdict has been supported in modern times by E. A. J. Honigmann, in arguments most conveniently available in his Arden edition of Othello (1997).
I conclude that the unauthorised first quarto of Hamlet was not an early draft by Shakespeare, but a collective reconstruction made, for whatever purpose, by members of the King’s Men in the spring and summer of 1602.