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T'HE original story on which this play is built, may be found in Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish historian. From thence Belleforest adopted it in his collection of novels, in seven volumes, which he began in 1564, and continued to publish through succeeding years. From this work, The Hystorie of Hamblett, quarto, bl. I. was translated. I have hitherto met with no earlier edition of the play than one in the year 1604, though it must have been performed before that time, as I have seen a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey, (the antagonist of Nash) who, in his own hand-writing, has set down Hamlet, as a performance with which he was well acquainted, in the year 1598. His words are these: “ The younger sort take much delight in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis ; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wiser sort, 1598.”
İn the books of the Stationers' Company, this play was entered by James Roberts, July 26, 1602, under the title of “A booke called The Revenge of Hamlett, Prince of Denmarke, as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberlain his servantes.”
In Eastward Hoe, by George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston, 1605, is a fling at the Hero of this tragedy. A footman named Hamlet enters, and a tankard-bearer asks him—“'Sfoote, Hamlet, are you mad? "
The frequent allusions of contemporary authors to this play sufficiently show its popularity. Thus, in Decker's Bel-man's Nightwalkes, 4to. 1612, we have" But if any mad Hamlet, hearing this, smell villainie, and rush in by violence to see what the tawny diueils (gypsies) are dcoing, then they excuse the fact,” &c. Again, in an old collection of Satirical Poems, called The Night-Raven, is this couplet :
“ I will not cry Hamlet, Revenge my greeves,
Steevens. Surely no satire was intended in Eastward Hoe, which was acted at Shakspeare's own playhouse, (Blackfriers,) by the children of the revels, in 1605. Malone.
The following particulars relative to the date of this piece, are borrowed from Dr. Farmer's Essay on the Learning of Shakspeare, p. 85, 86, second edition :
“Greene, in the Epistle prefixed to his Arcadia, hath a lash at some .vaine glorious tragedians,' and very plainly at Shakspeare in particular. — I leave all these to the mercy of their mothertongue, that feed on nought but the crums that fall from the translators trencher.—That could scarcely latinize their neck verse if they should have neede, yet English Seneca, read by candlelight yeelds many good sentences-hee will afford you whole Hamlets, Í should say, handfuls of tragicall speeches.'--I cannot determine exactly when this Epistle was first published; but, I fancy, it will carry the original Hamlet somewhat further back than we have hitherto done : and it may be observed, that the oldest copy now extant, [the quarto 1604] is said to be · enlarged to almost as much againe as it was.' Gabriel Harvey printed at the end of the year 1592, 'Foure Letters and certaine Sonnetts, especially touching Robert Greene :' in one of which his Arcadia is mentioned. Now Nash's Epistle must have been previous to these, as Gabriel is quoted in it with applause ; and the Foure Letters were the beginning of a quarrel." Nash replied in “Strange News of the intercepting certaine Letters, and a Convoy of Verses, as they were going privilie to victual the Low Countries, 1593.' Harvey rejoined the same year in Pierce's Supererogation, or a new Praise of the old Asse.' And Nash again, in “ Have With You to Saffron Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up;' containing a full answer to the eldest sonne of the halter-maker, 1596."-Nash died before 1606, as appears from an old comedy called The Return from Parnassus. Steevens.
A play on the subject of Hamlet had been exhibited on the stage before the year 1589, of which Thomas Kyd was, I believe, the author. On that play, and on the bl. 1. Historie of Hamblet, our poet, I conjecture, constructed the tragedy before us. The earliest edition of the prose-narrative which I have seen, was printed in 1608, but it undoubtedly was a republication.
Shakspeare's Hamlet, notwithstanding some circumstances mentioned in the preceding notes which seem to assign an earlier date to it, was written, if my conjecture be well founded, in 1600. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of his Plays. Malone.
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and Mother of
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, GraveDiggers, Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
Hamlet,] i, e. Amleth. The h transferred from the end to the beginning of the name. STEEVENS.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.
FRANCISCO on his Post: Enter to him BERNARDO. BER. Who's there?
FRAN. Nay, answer me?: stand, and unfold Yourself.
BER. Long live the kingo!
He. Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour. Ber. "Tis now struck twelve * ; get thee to bed,
Francisco. FRAN. For this relief, much thanks : 'tis bitter
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Not a mouse stirring. Ber. Well, good night.
- me:) i. e. me who am already on the watch, and have a right to demand the watch-word [as Mr. Jennens has remarked].
Steevens. 3 Long live the king !) This sentence appears to have been the watch-word. MaLONE.
4 'Tis now struck twelve;] I strongly suspect that the true reading is--new struck, &c. So, in Romeo and Juliet, Act I. Sc I.:
• But new struck nine." Steevens.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, · The rivals of my watch', bid them make haste.
5 The Rivals of my watch.) Rivals for partners. WARBURTON. So, in Heywood's Rape of Lucrece, 1636:
“ Tullia. Aruns, associate him.
“ Aruns. A rival with my brother," &c. Again, in The Tragedy of Hoffman, 1637 :
“ And make thee rival in those governments.” Again, in Antony and Cleopatra, Act III. Sc. V.:
having made use of him in the wars against Pompey, presently deny'd him rivality.”
By rivals the speaker certainly means partners (according to Dr. Warburton's explanation,) or those whom he expected to watch with him. Marcellus had watched with him before ; whether as a centinel, a volunteer, or from mere curiosity, we do not learn : but, which ever it was, it seems evident that his station was on the same spot with Bernardo, and that there is no other centinel by them relieved. Possibly Marcellus was an officer, whose business it was to visit each watch, and perhaps to continue with it some time. Horatio, as it appears, watches out of curiosity. But in Act I. Sc. II. to Hamlet's question,“Hold you the watch to-night?" Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo, all answer,—“We do, my honour'd lord." The folio indeed, reads—both, which one may with great propriety refer to Marcellus and Bernardo. If we did not find the latter gentleman in such good company, we might have taken him to have been like Francisco whom he relieves, an honest but common soldier. The strange indiscriminate use of Italian and Roman names in this and other plays, makes it obvious that the author was very little conversant in even the rudiments of either language.
Ritson. Rival is constantly used by Shakspeare for a partner or associate. In Bullokar's English Expositor, 8vo. 1616, it is defined “ One that sueth for the same thing with another ;” and hence Shakspeare, with his usual licence, always uses it in the same sense of one engaged in the same employment or office with another. Competitor, which is explained by Bullokar by the very same words which he has employed in the definition of rival, is in like manner (as Mr. M. Mason has observed,) always used by Shakspeare for associate. See vol. iv. p. 61, n. 1. Mr. Warner would read and point thus :
If you do meet Horatio, and Marcellus
“ The rival of my watch, because Horatio is a gentleman of no profession, and because, as he conceived, there was but one person on each watch. But there is no need of change. Horatio is certainly not an officer,