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Denmarke ;' Chap. VII. 'How Hamlet, after his coronation, went into England, and how the King of England secretly would have put him to death ; and how he slewe the King of England; and returned again into Denmarke, with two wives;' Chap. VIII. `How Hamblet in Denmarke was assailed by Wiglerus his uncle, and after betrayed by his last wife, called Hermetrude, and was slaine; after whose death she maryed his enemie, Wiglerus.'
Such was the ende of Hamlet, sonne to Horvendile, prince of Jutie ; to whom, if his fortune had been equal with his mind and natural giftes, I know not which of the ancient Grecians and Romans had been able to have compared with him for vertue and excellencie; but hard fortune following him in all his actions, and yet he vanquishing the malice of his time with the vigour of constancie, hath left a notable example of haughtie courage, worthy of a great prince, arming himselfe with hope in things that were wholly without any colour or shewe thereof, and in all his honourable actions made him worthie of perpetuall memorie, if only one spot had not blemished and darkened a good parte of his prayse.'
* This story gave Shakespeare the incidents of the murder of the father; the subsequent marriage of the mother and uncle; the shamming madness of the son, with the method of it—"a grete and rare subtylte;” the attempt to find out the secret by a faire and beautifull woman in a secret place;" Hamlet's interview with his mother, with some one listening behind the arras; the “A rat, a rat;" the reproach of the mother by the son; the sending Hamlet to England with two of the murderer's ministers, to be killed; and Hamlet's revenge on them.'* But while ‘keeping to the basis, and in a great measure to the outline, of the Hystorie, Shakespeare yet creates it anew after a far higher type, and subtly informs it with a higher spirit, by which it becomes glorified.'+ There is no apparition in the original story; the foundation on which Ophelia has been constructed is singularly slight; there is no prototype of Laertes or Reynaldo; and the characters of Horatio, Polonius, Osric, etc., are all but entirely due to the teeming activity of the sympathetic and shaping spirit of Shakespeare's imagination. They are in fact mere hints made vital.
The story is also found in the Historia Danica of Johannes Meursius, Professor of History at Sora, in Denmark, 15791639.
The Leopold Shakespeare, F. J. Furnivall's Introduction, p. lxx. + J. A. Heraud's Shakespeare, His Inner Life, p. 53.
ON THE DATE OF THE COMPOSITION OF "HAMLET.'
In the registers of the Stationers' Company, under date 26th July 1602, the following entry occurs in favour of “James Roberts :''A Booke, The Revenge of Hamlett, Prince of Denmarke, as yt latelie was acted by the Lord Chamberlayn his Servants. The Lord Chamberlain's Servants, after the accession of James I, were by licence dated 17th May 1603, accepted as his ‘Highnesse Servants.' This explains, in part, the title this 'booke' received on its publication, which ran as follows:
By William Shake-speare,
in the Cittie of London; as also in the two U. niversities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere. At London printed for N. L. and John Trundell.
1603.' It is quite evident that for some reason or other this edition was not considered a satisfactory one, however the publishers came into possession of it; for we find the James Roberts of the Stationers' Register, and the N. L. of the titlepage uniting together to issue a new and better one entitled :
By William Shakespeare.
This edition was reissued in 1605; another issue was noted in the Stationers' Register, 19th November 1607, of which no known copy is extant. Editions of 1609, 1611, and 1637
are also in existence. In 1623 the play appeared as the seventh of the tragedies contained in the collected edition of Mr William Shakespeare's comedies, histories, and trage, dies.' So far the bibliography of the known published editions of this masterpiece of imagination and intellect takes us; but this does not satisfy the curiosity of the inquirer into the history of Shakespeare's writings, and therefore our researches must be turned in other directions.
For the entertainment of Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich, 28th February 1587, a play which Langbaine had heard of, but had not seen, entitled the Misfortunes of Arthur, published in Hazlitt's Dodsley's Old Plays, vol. iv, 249-343, was performed. It was the conjoint work of eight persons : Thomas Hughes, who wrote the body of the play ; William Fulbecke, who composed two speeches introduced at the representation; Nicholas Trotte, who furnished the introduction ; Francis Flower, who supplied the choruses ; Christopher Yelverton, Francis (afterwards Lord) Bacon, and John Lancaster, who devised the dumb show; and a person named Penruddock, who directed the proceedings at court as amateur manager. It has been strangely overlooked by the commentators, that 'in the first scene of this play, the spirit of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, the man first and most wronged in this history, being despoiled both of wife, dukedom, and life,* craveth revenge for these injuries. This ghost comes from the ‘Stygian pool,''to former light,'
• Where proud Pendragon, broiled with shameful lust,
Thy murdered corse,
Leave this to Gorlois' ghost,
-I, i, 6-10, etc. And after the play is closed, this same spirit rehearses the success which had attended his desire for vengeance :
Now, Gorlois, suage thyself; pride hath his pay,
-V, ii, 1-4. * Compare 'Of life, of crown, of queen, at once despatched'Hamlet, I, v, 75.
This play, which does not appear to have been acted more than this once, is not likely to have attracted much notice or induced criticism among outsiders. It seems, therefore, that it cannot be the play referred to, in which the Ghost cries out, 'Revenge.' If it is not, then is it not likely that the striking part of the ghost had been suggested by a previously acted play in which a spirit appeared for similar purposes?—for amateurs almost always affect attractive effects, and often, as imitators, fail in reproducing the original impression. There seem to us to be echoes from Hamlet in the preceding phrases, and hence we infer that the early form of Shakespeare's drama had probably been on the stage early in, if not prior to, 1587.
'In the Opus Theatricum of Jacob Ayrer, notary and playwright in the imperial German city of Nuremberg, which was published posthumously in 1618, there occurs among its thirty extraordinarily beautiful comedies,' so arranged that "just according to the English manner everything could be acted,' one entitled the Fratricide's Tragedy, in which there is so much likeness with difference and difference with likeness, when compared with the English drama of Hamlet, that some notice of it becomes requisite. The play is accessible in Cohn's Shakespeare in Germany, 1865, in a monograph by Dr R. G. Latham, On the Hamlet of Saxo Grammaticus and of Shakespeare, 1872, and in H.H. Furness's New Variorum Shakespeare, “Hamlet,' vol. ii, pp. 114-142. On perusing it, the reader readily perceives that though in the external form of the dramas the difference is considerable, yet in the groundwork of the plot, in the sequence of the scenes, and in the material elements of the dialogue, the agreement is exceedingly close—so close, especially in the more peculiar portions, as to prove that they have not proceeded from a common original, and yet so destitute, in the German play, of the poetical beauty of the English one, as to forbid us from regarding the one as a translation of the other. We know that in Shakespeare's time the English drama exercised a notable influence on the development of the German theatre, which was then largely indebted to the players and playwrights of England for models, stimulation, and impulse. It is well known that bands of English players frequently performed in Germany, and that German playwrights often took their plots from English dramatists, and laid the scenes of their plays in England. It is certain that Jacob Ayrer's drama, Der Bestrafte Brudermord: oder Prins Hamlet aus Dännemark (The Fratricide's Tragedy,
or Hamlet, Prince of Denmark), was composed before 1605; for its author died on 26th May of that year. It, however, contains a curious allusion to Portugal, which had interest for England, but not for Germany-an allusion which links itself to George Peele's Battle of Alcazar in subject and date, and bears reference to an incident referred to in As You Like It, where Rosalind confesses to Celia, "My love hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal,' either in regard to the terrible slaughter of 1578 at Alcazar, or of the disastrous expedition undertaken by the Earl of Essex to Portugal in 1589, in which 11,000 persons perished. With a somewhat similar reference, when the King proposes to send Hamlet to England, Ayrer makes the Prince of Denmark reply, ' Ay, ay, king, send me off to Portugal, that I may never come back again. Besides this, there is a phrase used in the German drama, which, though it does not now appear in the English one, seems, when interpreted, to fix pretty conclusively the question of the original authorship, and inclines us to think that the German play is the play of Shakespeare corrupted, attenuated, shorn of its nobility, distorted, degraded, vulgarised,' and adapted. The phrase is this, when the first sentinel tells the second one about the ghostly visitant he has just seen, the latter ridicules him, saying, 'Perhaps you were born on a Sunday, and can see ghosts of all sorts. It is, at any rate, a curious fact that the generally-accepted birthday of William Shakespeare-23d April 1564—was a Sunday,' and that the English belief was that Sunday-born children were more imaginative and precocious than those who were born on the other days of the week. In the German play, as in the first quarto (1603) Hamlet, Polonius is called "Corambus. These several items help to 'demonstrate thinly' the probability of Shakespeare having been Ayrer's model. When to this we add the fact that there are traces of an early Hamlet in English literature—as early, at any rate, as 1589 —and that no other author of a Hamlet than Shakespeare is known, we have shown the likelihood of this being one of Shakespeare's earliest, as it seems to have been one of his favourite, dramas.
In an epistle to the gentlemen students of the two universities,' by Thomas Nash-Shakespeare's senior by two months—prefixed to Robert Greene's novel, Menaphon, published at latest in 1589, the following passage occurs:
It is a common practise now-a-days, among a sort of shifting companions to leave the trade of Noverint, . . . and