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1601.* The former of these provided (1) 'that theire shall be aboute the cittie two houses and no more allowed to serve for the use of the common stage-playes,' viz., the Bankside and the Globe; (2) 'that the two severall compaines of players assigned unto the two houses allowed may play each of them in their severel house twice a weeke and no oftener,' and shall not play on Sabbeth or in Lent time; and (3) that the Lord Mayor and justices shall commit 'to prison any owners of playhouses and players as shall disobey and resists these orders ;' and the latter repeated these orders with greater emphasis and stricter penalties.
In view of these quotations in theatrical history we think it is very evident that Shakespeare had quite a sufficient groundwork of fact on which to base his imaginary 'travel of the players. He required to introduce a play into his tragedy; to accomplish this he must bring the players to the court, and he had to account for their arrival. He could not well have court theatricals performed by court players, for then the king would have been hardened by play-seeing, and the actors would have been the servants of the king, not of Hamlet. How such a suitable accident came about it was advisable to explain. Shakespeare explained it by taking a reason, the likelihood and possibility of which his audience was prepared to admit from what they knew of the condition of actors in their own land and day. The passage does not perhaps involve a reference to any special fact in the theatrical history of Shakespeare's own times ; but is employed to give greater verisimilitude to his plot, and naturalness to the processes by means of which he effected his ends as a dramatic author.
AN EARLY NOTICE OF HAMLET'S SOLILOQUY
•TO BE OR NOT TO BE.'
In 1591 there appeared 'Syr P[hilip) S[idney) His Astrophel and Stella. At London. Printed for Thomas Newman.'
To this work Thomas Nash prefixed an introductory epistle containing some caustic 'satire nice and critical,' headed *Somewhat to read for them who list.' In the same year a second edition of the same work was produced by the same printer ; but in this Nash's censorious criticism was suppressed. Taking into consideration Nash's early enmity to Shakespeare, and his allusion to his Hamlet in the prefatory letter to Greene's Menaphon, we can scarcely doubt that there is in this introduction a continuation of the same spleni. tive attack, for therein we read : “My style is somewhat heavygated, and cannot dance, and trip, and goe so lively with “Oh my love, ah my love, all my love's gone," as other shepherds that have been fools in the Morris, time out of mind ; nor hath my prose any A paper
* See the text of these orders in !. O. Halliwell-Phillipp's Illustrations of the Life of Shakespeare, part i, appendix, pp. 106-108, and 117, 118.
skill to imitate the almond-leaf verse, or sit taboring five years together nothing but “To be, to be” on a paper drum.'* drum' was a slang word for dramatic poetry. The song-burden noticed is exactly that of Ophelia's grief-maddened strains, and the reference to the most celebrated soliloquy in this play is nearly as close as may be. If we were to count back five years' from the writing of this letter, Hamlet would bear the date, in its earlier form, of 1585 or 1586. In reference to this inferential date we may here note that in his recently published Papers on Shakespeare, p. 3, Robert Cartwright, M.D., expresses the opinion that the tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was 'most probably written immediately after the death of Sir Philip Sidney,' after the battle of Zut. phen in October 1586, and brought out on the stage at Christmas, or at latest by March 1586-7. 'The duration of the play,' he thinks, 'from the death of old Hamlet to the final scene occupies a period of full five months' (on this subject see also the same author's Footsteps of Shakespeare, pp. 42, 43); ‘and it is a singular coincidence that Sir Henry Sidney died on 5th May, and Sir Philip Sidney on 17th October 1586, just five months and twelve days intervening' between them.
TWO IMPROVED ACTING HAMLETS.'
In 1771, an amendment of Shakespeare's Hamlet, by David Garrick, was put upon the stage at Drury Lane, but it has never been printed. For the following account of this acting edition we are indebted to the Dramatic Miscellanies of Thomas Davies : The first act, which, in my opinion, the author's genius carries on with wonderful rapidity, he (Garrick) had observed was immoderately long; for this reason he divided it into two, the first ending with Hamlet's determined resolution to watch with Horatio and Marcellus in expectation of seeing the ghost of his father. In consequence of this arrangement, the old third act was extended to the fourth. Little or no change in language or scenery was attempted, till the fifth act, in which Laertes arrives, and Ophelia is distracted, as in the old play. The plotting scenes between the king and Laertes to destroy Hamlet were entirely changed, and the character of Laertes rendered more estimable. Hamlet, having escaped from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, returns with a firm resolution to avenge the death of his father.
The gravediggers were thrown absolutely out of the play. The audience were not informed of the fate of Ophelia, and the queen, instead of being poisoned on the stage, was led from her seat and said to be in a state of insanity owing to her sense of guilt. When Hamlet attacks the king, the latter draws his sword and defends himself, and is killed
* Quoted in the Shakespeare Society's reprint (1842) of Nash's Pierce Penniless, introduction, p. XXV.
in the rencounter. Laertes and Hamlet die of their mutual wounds. * To such material changes in this favourite tragedy the audience submitted during the life of the alterer, but they did not approve what they barely endured. The scenes and characters of Shakespeare, with all their blemishes, will not bear radical or violent alteration. The author had drawn Claudius a coward, as well as a villain and usurper; and this strong check upon guilt, and stigma upon wickedness, ought by no means to be removed. Garrick, if I remember right, used to say, that before his alteration of Hamlet the king used to be stuck like a pig on the stage; but by giving the murderer courage this great actor did not see that he lessened the meanness of his character, which the author takes care to inculcate throughout the play. The brave villain, like Richard III, we justly hate, but we cannot despise him. Why the fate of Ophelia should be left uncertain, as well as that of the queen, I cannot conceive. But the spectators of Hamlet would not part with their old friends the gravediggers. The people called for Hamlet as it had been acted from time immemorial-vol. iii, pp. 151-153
Among the many adventurous doings in literature undertaken by Alexandre Dumas was the production of an improved Hamlet. On 15th December 1847 this Parisianised Hamlet was put on the stage of the Théâtre Historique. The original has been pretty freely manipulated. Osric, the waterfly,' is entirely omitted ; several scenes are excised, some new ones are introduced, and the sequence of others is altered. Laertes does not go to France, Hamlet is not sent to England, the Norwegian framework is taken away. Shakespeare had inartistically, it seems, terminated his noble tra
* In the Life of Philip James Kemble, by James Boaden, 1825, it is stated that this play, which was not, like a large number of Garrick's alterations, printed in Garrick's Dramatic Works, was in the possession of Garrick's great succes.
That work contains the following fuller and somewhat different account of these alterations: Garrick 'cut out the voyage to England and the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who had made love to the employment and marshalled their way by knavery. He omitted the funeral of Ophelia and all the wisdom of the prince and the rude jocularity of the gravediggers. Hamlet bursts in upon the king and his court, and Laertes reproaches him with his father's and his sister's deaths. The exasperation of both is at its height when the king interposes; he had commanded Hamlet to depart for England, and declares that he will no longer bear this rebellious conduct, but that his wrath'shall at length fall heavy on the prince. “First," exclaims Hamlet, "feel you mine," and he instantly stabs him. The queen rushes out, imploring the attendants to save her from her son. Laertes, seeing treason and murder before him, attacks Hamlet to revenge his father, his sister, and his king. He wounds Hamlet mortally, and Horatio is on the point of making Laertes accompany him to the shades, when the prince commands him to desist, assuring him that it was the hand of Heaven which administered by Laertes " that precious balm for all his wounds." We then learn that the miserable mother had dropped in a trance before she could reach her chamber door, and Hamlet implores for her "an hour of penitence ere madness ends her.” He then joins the hands of Laertes and Horatio, and reconimends them to unite their virtues (like a coalition of ministers)" to calm the troubled
The old couplet as to the bodies concludes the play'--vol. i, p. 110
gedy with the death of the Prince of Denmark. This the author of Monte Cristo saw was a mistake. He therefore makes him live. As a curiosity in Shakespearian emendation, it is perhaps worth making known and preserving Dumas' continuation of Hamlet, transcribed into an English version. After the fencing match, in which Hamlet is not once 'hit,' when Laertes is mortally wounded, and the queen has drunk from the poisoned chalice, in the midst of the general consternation which prevails among the courtiers, 'the majesty of buried Denmark' appears upon the scene.
HAMLET, the KING, GERTRUDE, LAERTES, and Courtiers.
Enter the Ghost.
(He stabs the KING. King.
My husband !!
I shall, Laertes: thy youth
(GERTRUDE dies. King:
[The curtain falls
QUESTIONS FOR EXAMINATION.
Who was Hamlet ? Give a sketch of his early life.
Describe the family of Polonius, and tell the relation in which its members stood to Hamlet, the king, and the queen.
What cause of grief had been felt by Hamlet before he received the Ghost's revelation, and what enhanced that grief?
Describe Horatio ; how did he stand related to Hamlet ?
. 'carriage,' sharked,' 'romage,''moist star,' 'takes,' 'dole,' bedrid,' 'obse. quies,' "beaver,' grizzled,' 'cautel,' 'virtue,' 'chariest,'.' buttons, blastments,' 'tender,' 'upspring,' cerements,' 'blazon,' 'secure,' posset,' “pioneer,' 'antic,' *friending.'
What is meant by rivals,' 'fantasy,'. 'parle,' jump'. or 'just, 'impress,' 'stomach,' 'climatures,' kin' and 'kind," "between, dearest,' primy,'. suppliance,' 'temple,' 'credent,' 'wassail,' 'hebenon,' 'matin?'
What explanations have been suggested of sledded Polacks,' "change that name,' 'mind's eye,' springes to catch woodcocks, swinish,' discourse of reason,' 'sovereignty of reason,' 'eager,' 'truepenny?'