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series of dramas in which the author seems burdened with a peculiarly intimate sense of the results of human weakness and crime.
The Quarto of 1604 was followed by a succession of other quartos, each printed from the one preced
ing, and of little or no independent Source of the
o value. The earliest collected edition
of Shakspere's works, issued in 1623 by the two actors Heminge and Condell and known as the First Folio (F), contained a Hamlet printed from a manuscript different from that which had been used in Q2. It omitted a number of passages and added a few; and the text, though more carefully printed than that of Q,, is in some respects inferior. The present edition is based on Q, supplemented and corrected by F, with occasional emendations drawn from modern editors.
The story of Hamlet is first found in the History of the Danes written in Latin by Saxo Gram
maticus in the twelfth century. It • was told in French by Belleforest in
his Histoires Tragiques (1570), and his version was translated into English. The only edition of this English Hystorie of Hamblet now extant was published in 1608, but there may have been earlier editions. By 1587, a play on the subject, probably by Thomas Kyd, the author of The Spanish Tragedy, was already on the English stage, and continued to be acted at intervals during the next decade. On this play it is supposed
Source of the
that Shakspere based his tragedy, and it may be that passages from it survive in Q, and even in the later versions. But no copy of the old play has come down to us, and though we may compare Shakspere's tragedy with the prose tale, it is impossible to know certainly how many of the differences may be due to his dramatic predecessor. It has been thought by some scholars that this earlier play is represented by a German prose drama on Hamlet which formed part of the repertory of one of the companies of English players traveling in Germany in the seventeenth century, and which was printed in 1781 from a manuscript dated 1710. This German play, however, whether based on the work of Kyd, or as some think, on Qu reproduces its original in so degraded a form that it is not possible to take it as a fair representation of its source.
We have, then, to be content with conjecture never quite verifiable as to the part in the received text of Hamlet which is to be credited to the author of the lost play. In the prose tale we have already the main situation, a king murdered by his brother, who had previously seduced and has now married his queen; and the son of the king aiming at revenge, finally achieving it, and using the device of pretended madness to protect himself in the meantime. But there is no ghost, the murder of Hamlet's father being acknowledged but explained away to the apparent satis
was less definite than it is to-day; e.g.: on=of, I. i. 55; to=of, I. ii. 37; with=by, I. ii. 205; of= by, I. iv. 18; bf=from, II. ii. 11; of=over, II. ii. 27; of=upon, II. ii. 306; in = with IV. iii. 5, IV. v. 90; in = into, V. ii. 70.
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
MARCELLUS, 3 officers.
and other Attendants. Ghost of Hamlet's Father.
SCENE: Elsinore, Denmark.