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belonging to the Duke of Devonshire. Exact reprints of the two “Devonshire Hamlets' were published, in one volume, in 1860.
It is very probable that the vilely-printed quarto of 1603 is a surreptitious version, by some ignorant copier or shorthand writer, of Shakspeare's first draft of his noble tragedy of “Hamlet.' And we can easily suppose that draft to have been one of the earliest of his dramatic compositions. The second quarto, as well as the first, was surreptitious; but both are of great value in enabling us to rectify many mistakes and to supply several omissions in the folio of 1623, the first edition of the collected plays of Shakspeare.
In the present edition of the “Hamlet,' we have endeavoured, by carefully collating the early quartos with the first folio, to give the text in the best warrantable form; but in order to render the book suitable for schools and family reading, we have omitted one or two of the more grossly indelicate sentences, the expurgation being of very slight extent.
It will be observed that we have departed from the usual practice of substituting an apostrophe for the silent vowel in the verbal affix -ed. On this subject we concur with Professor Craik, who, in the Prolegomena to his · English of Shakspeare' (p. 62), says, “It is true that the cases in which the -ed makes a separate syllable are more numerous in Shakspeare
than in the poetry of the present day; but the reader who cannot detect such a case on the instant is disqualified by some natural deficiency for the reading of verse. If any distinction were necessary, the better plan would be to represent the one form by loved, the other by lov-ed.'
With respect to the Notes, we hope they will not be thought more numerous than necessary. Sir Thomas Overbury says of one of his Characters,
Where the gate stands open, he is ever seeking a stile, and where his learning ought to climb, he creeps through.' This description, unfortunately, is to a great extent applicable to many of Shakspeare's commentators. They often overload and mystify, and sometimes even pervert with comment, sentences or expressions of which the meaning is sufficiently obvious, while in too many instances they fail to mark the footsteps of the poet's less direct and obvious transitions, and leave unexplained what in the mind of the general reader is likely to be mistaken or very inadequately followed. But it is to be regretted that the injury done to our great dramatist by injudicious comment should have excited in not a few of his worshippers a prejudice against all attempts to elucidate his meaning. It is true that referring to marginal comments during the perusal of a play must disturb the reader's enjoyment of it, even when the exposition is sound and the illustration pertinent. But it is also true that the kind of pleasure felt by
many readers of Shakspeare is one into which they are beguiled by a magic tone that breathes in the very syllables of the mighty genius, and that is accompanied with too vague conceptions of the import of his language. Surely it were better, with respect to works of such immortal eminence in the world's literature as those of Shakspeare, that we should take some pains to ascertain their true sense and spirit, and thus qualify ourselves for a more intelligent and refined enjoyment of the uninterrupted perusal of them. In this edition of the “Hamlet,' therefore, we have endeavoured to avoid all superfluous comment, and to do real service to those who desire to study the play in its language, forms of thought, allusions, &c., as well as in its delineations of character. Such notes and criticisms are introduced as may excite the popular mind to take an interest in understanding the scope and details of this noble drama, and at the same time enable senior candidates for the Oxford Middle-Class Examinations of 1865 to prepare themselves thoroughly in one of the subjects of their programme.
FROM THE OLD TRANSLATED
'HISTORIE OF HAMBLET.'
CHAPTER I.—You must understand that long time before the kingdom of Denmark received the faith of Jesus Christ, the common people were barbarous and uncivil, and their princes cruel. There was sometimes a good prince or king among them, who, being adorned with the most perfect gifts of nature, would addict himself to virtue, and use courtesy; but although the people had him in admiration, yet the envy of his neighbours was so great, that they never ceased until that virtuous man were despatched out of the world. King Roderick, as then reigning in Denmark, divided the kingdom into divers provinces, placing governors therein who bare the names of dukes, marquises, and earls, giving the government of Jutie (at this present called Ditmarse, lying upon the country of the Cimbrians, in the narrow part of land that showeth like a point or cape of ground upon the sea, which neathward bordereth
upon the country of Norway) to two valiant and warlike lords, Horvendile * and Fengon.t
Now, the greatest honour that men of noble birth could at that time win and obtain, was exercising the art of piracy upon the seas, assailing their neighbours, &c. ; wherein Horvendile obtained the highest place in his time, being the most renowned pirate that in those days scoured the seas and havens
+ Comp. with Claudius.
* Comp. with Hamlet's father.
of the north parts; whose great fame so moved the heart of Collere,* king of Norway, that he was much grieved to hear that Horvendile surmounted him in feats of arms, thereby obscuring the glory by him already obtained upon the seas. This valiant and hardy king having challenged Horvendile to fight with him body to body, the combat was by him accepted, with conditions that he which should be vanquished should lose all the riches he had in his ship, &c. And, to conclude, Collere, although a valiant prince, was in the end' vanquished and slain by Horvendile, who, having then overrun all the coast of Norway and the northern islands, returned home laden with much treasure, sending the most part thereof to his sovereign king Roderick, thereby to procure his good-liking. The king, allured by those presents, and esteeming himself happy to have so valiant a subject, sought by a great favour and courtesy to make him become bounden unto him perpetually, giving him Geruth † his daughter to his wife, of whom he knew Horvendile to be already much enamoured. Of this marriage proceeded Hamblet.
Fengon, fretting in his heart at the great honour won by his brother, and provoked by a foolish jealousy to see him honoured with royal alliance, and fearing thereby to be deposed from his part of the government, or rather desiring to be only covernor, I thereby to obscure the memory of the victories of his brother Horvendile, determined to kill him; which he effected in such sort, that no man once so much as suspected him. Fengon, having secretly assembled certain men, Horvendile his brother being at a banquet with his friends, suddenly set upon him, where he slew him as traitorously, as cunningly he purged himself of so detestable a murder to his subjects; for that, before he committed parricide upon his brother, he had incestuously abused his wife. His sin found excuse among the common people, and of the nobility was esteemed for justice; for that, Geruth being as courteous a princess as any, this
* Comp. with old Fortinbras—Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride.' Act i. sc. 1. † Comp. with Gertrude.
| Both Fengon and Horvendile are afterwards called kings, and Geruth is called queen.