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The Three-Text Hamlet: Parallel Texts of the First and Second Quartos and First Folio.

Appropriately, Hamlet is the only one of Shakespeare's plays to incorporate the topic of dramatic adaptation and multiple authorship, when Hamlet asks the First Player to memorize either 'Some dozen or sixteene lines' (Q1), 'some dosen lines, or sixteene lines' (Q2), or 'some dosen or sixteene lines' (F1), written by himself, for the problem of the relationship and status of its three texts has never been conclusively resolved. In a recent article on 'The Textual Mystery of Hamlet' (Shakespeare Quarterly, 39 (1988), 1-26) Paul Werstine has challenged the whole assumption that it is worth while for editors to search for textual authority, or to attempt to establish historical priority between the three texts. He suggests convincingly that 'the critical enigmas of Hamlet and Hamlet' may be at least in part the product of the hitherto universal practice of conflating 'the alien forms of Q2 and F1' which, kept separate, have some internal integrity. Conflation produces, for instance, a Hamlet who in V. ii accepts as a new impulse his mother's command to him to treat Laertes gently (from Q2), despite the fact that he has already told Horatio of his regret for the 'tow'ring passion' which provoked the attack on Laertes in the graveyard (F1). Some, at least, of Hamlet's notoriously jerky and inconsistent motivation derives from the process of conflation. The present three-text Hamlet accords well with the findings of Werstine. It offers scholars and readers adept in wide-angle reading the opportunity, for the first time, to scrutinize Q1, Q2, and F1 in parallel within a single volume. Two columns of text on the verso and one on the recto enable us to

Looke heere upon this Picture and on this, The counterfet presentment of |three Hamlets~.

Apart from regularization of the letter 's' the texts are unmodernized and uncorrected. We are not told which copies were used as exemplars--an allusion to the Scolar Press version of the BL copy of Q2 suggests that these may have been facsimiles rather than originals. Charlton Hinman's Folio-based through-line numbering is incorporated to the left of F1. Q1's recurrent transposition of passages is dealt with by repeating and relocating these sections alongside their counterparts in a fourth column on the recto, though the extent of Q1's textual differences and re-orderings means that parallels will often not match up line for line. The possibility of studying all three versions of 'To be, or not to be' in a single book-opening is an exciting one made possible by this procedure. Likewise, the long, and complexly varying, 'Get thee to a Nunnerie' scene, studied in the threefold version, presents the textually minded reader with many an eclaircissement not so easily won from a conflated text with textual apparatus. It is interesting to see, for instance, how Q1, while omitting Ophelia's image of Hamlet as 'The glasse of fashion', still retains a sense of his glassy fragmentation:

Great God of heaven, what a quicke change is this? The Courtier, Scholler, Souldiour, all in him, All dasht and splinterd thence . . .

Bertram and Kliman's parallel text is timely and useful in its faithful triptych of the 'dasht and splinterd' Hamlet/Hamlet.

Somerville College, Oxford KATHERINE DUNCAN-JONES

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Author:Duncan-Jones, Katherine
Publication:The Review of English Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 1994
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