18th Century editions of Hamlet

The 18th Century- Hamlet

The Ghosts of Hamlet Past: a random shot with the Droid.  May 15, 2016.  CJHM. (See Wikipedia for complete citation of Shakespeare’s editors.  Also see David Farley-Hills’ Critical Responses to Hamlet)

Science fiction skull ghosts

1700-1745- Augustan/Georgian literature includes the period during the reign of Queen Ann and King George I and II as well as George III and IV, although augustan refers to the neoclassical revival that dominated the 18th Century. 

1702-1707.  Queen Ann period, also known as the  Baroque era begins the 18th Century.



Above is the ghost of my grandmother, Eglantine Commeville East, sitting in her Queen Anne Wing chair.


1708-1709.  Nicolas Rowe, editor.  Octavo.  The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; Revis’d and Corrected. Rowe, a poet and playwright, is credited with adding act and scene divisions, the list of dramatis personae at the beginning of the text, and expanded stage directions. However, I have encountered research on the early playbooks of The King’s Men that indicate the first quartos included a list of dramatis personae with the actors, such as Richard Burbage, listed in the playbooks rather than the character.  Also, the facsimile of the 1623 Folio photoghraphed and reproduced by Charlton Hinman in 1968, shows that brief stage directions were written in the Folio, and the Three-Text Hamlet by Kliman and Betram shows that the quartos included brief stage directions to indicate characters entering and exiting.  (http://www.folger.edu/publishing-shakespeare) See also (Wikipedia).

In Claude C.H. Williamson’s 1950 Readings on the Character of Hamlet 1661-1947 by Routledge (1950, 2005, Digital 2008) Rowe is noted in the preface to have compared Hamlet to Sophocles’ Electra.  Also, Rowe provides significant critical ideology on the nature of Shakespearean tragedy:  “this is to distinguish rightly between horror and terror.  The latter is a proper passion of tragedy, but the former ought always to be carefully avoided.  No Dramatick Writer ever succeeded better in raising terror in the Minds of an audience than Shakespeare has done ”(Nicholas Rowe qtd. In Williamson’s The Character of Hamlet ( 3).    (http://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/collections/treasures/the-works-of-mr-william-shakespeare-edited-by-nicholas-rowe-1709.html).

  1. Pretz, editor.  Tragoedia:  Der bestrafte Brudermord oder:  Prinz Hamlet aus Dännemark. https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm.

1711-12.   Thomas Johnson, editor.  “A collection of the best English plays published in the Netherlands in small volumes.” http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~adm6/en3025/listcoll.html).   The edition was compiled in a collection of “greatest hits of the English stage in Holland where the copyright rules did not apply to the Dutch and other European readers.   See Dugas and Hume on “The Dissemination of Shakespeare’s Plays” (http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/studies_in_bibliography/v056/56.1dugas.html).

Georgian Britain.  King George succeeds Queen Anne 1714.

1723-25.   Second edition, 1728.  Alexander Pope, editor.  Quarto 6 volumes.   Reissued the Rowe edition.  Pope wrote in preface, “For whatever had been added since those quartos by the actors, or had stolen from their mouths into the written parts, were from thence conveyed into the printed text and all stand charged upon the author. He himself complained of this usage in Hamlet where he wishes that those who play clowns would speak no more than is set down for them (Hamlet III.iv).” [Williamson’s  or Richadson’s (?)] Character of Hamlet 22).   (Also see notes on Pope’s preface online as posted by David Lynch https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/pope-shakespeare.html).

That Pope notes  his reverence for Shakespeare lies more in his respect for his role as a “player” that excuses the faults of transmission in his role as poet.  See[24] of the aforementioned link for the following direct quote from Pope in the preface, “This edition is said to be printed from the Original Copies ; I believe they meant those which had lain ever since the Author’s days in the playhouse, and had from time to time been cut, or added to, arbitrarily. It appears that this edition, as well as the Quartos, was printed (at least partly) from no better copies than the Prompters Book or Piece-meal Parts written out for the use of the actors” (See full citation from Pope’s edition at http://shakespearebrasileiro.org/en/preface-to-shakespeare-1725-alexander-pope.)

So the perhaps the editor (s) also wish that those who play clowns would speak no more than is set down for them (Hamlet III.iv).” [Williamson’s  or Richadson’s (?) Character of Hamlet 22).]   (Also see notes on Pope’s preface online as posted by Mr. Jack Lynch https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/pope-shakespeare.html).


1726-33. Lewis Theobald, editor.  Octavo. THE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE IN SEVEN VOLUMES. First Scholarly edition.  Collated quartos, studied sources, and chronology of Shakespeare’s writing career (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16346/16346-h/16346-h.htm).  The front page title reads as follows: THE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE IN SEVEN VOLUMES. Collated with the oldest copies, and Corrected; With NOTES, Explanatory, and Critical: By Mr. THEOBALD. I, Decus, i, nostrum: melioribus utere Fatis.  Virg. LONDON: Printed for A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, J. Tonson, F. Clay, W. Feales,and R. Wellington. MDCCXXXIII. “

“Pope’s edition of Shakespeare was completed by 1725, and in the following year Theobald made the poet his implacable enemy when he issued his Shakespeare Restored, which demolished Pope’s pretensions as an editor by offering some two hundred corrections…”  As Mr. Dick notes in his introduction to the reprint, “the edition, though dated 1733, did not appear until early in 1734…When it did appear, it was plain to all that Theobald’s vindication of himself and his method was complete.”  Theobald begins with a biography of Shakespeare and we learn that Shakespeare was from a family of ten children and that his father was a merchant in the wool business.  He praises the works as if they offered a window into another world, or a “dome” with an elegant variety of characters and stories. He notes that many of Shakespeare’s songs are poached, such as the gravedigger song.

Theobald takes his stabs at Rowe and Pope. See http://shakespearebrasileiro.org/en/preface-to-shakespeare-1725-alexander- Theobold derides previous editors of the text. “The mangled Condition of Shakespeare has been acknowledg’d by Mr. Rowe, who publish’d him indeed, but neither corrected his Text, nor collated the old Copies.” A great part of his preface is dedicated to showing off his knowledge of altertumswissenschaft, particularly Greek.  (See reference on Wieland’s translation to investigate Theobald’s editions of 1740,752, 1757, 1762 and 1767). (Gutenberg, Wieland, Shakespeare’s Editors (wikipedia) and Prefaces to Shakespeare at http://shakespearebrasileiro.org/en/preface-to-shakespeare-1725-alexander-pope.)

1743-44. (Sir) Thomas Hanmer’s Oxford edition.  His edition of eighteen volumes, was printed at the Clarendon Press in 1743-44 of Oxford.  As it appeared anonymously it was commonly called the ‘Oxford edition.’  But his identity was soon revealed, and alas! He became the subject of more criticism by Pope and Warburton in subsequent editions.The volumes contain nearly 40 illustrations by Hubert Gravelot and Francis Hayman.   His edition, although highly criticized by many, was so well crafted in appearance that the price went up to nine guineas as opposed to Warburton’s edition that went for eighteen shillings. He held public office as speaker of the House of Commons and retired comfortably as a man of letter and office and is known to have been active in maintaining a Protestant successor to Queen Anne.  He relied mainly on the work of Pope and Theobald for his editorial decisions.  He is mocked by Pope who calls him “An eminent person, who was about to publish a very pompous Edition of a great Author, at his own expense”   See also the preface to Warburton’s edition wherein Warburton further degrades Hanmer’s edition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Thomas_Hanmer,_4th_Baronet https://shine.unibas.ch/linksearlyeditors.htm

  1. Piere Antoine de La Place.  Hamlet.   In his collected works of Shakespeare in four volumes, translated into French, Piere de La Place writes a discourse on English theatre, an introduction on the life of Shakespeare and includes ten plays, of which Hamlet is included.  He also includes translations of prefaces by Ben Johnson, Thomas Otway, Edward Young, John Dryden, William Congreve, Nicholas Rowe, Thomas Southerne, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and John Hughes. He later resumed his work to publish a volume of 26 other works by Shakespeare. (These editors will be added to this bibliography as it evolves,)  He is the descendent of Piere de La Place, a French martyr, who whose corpse was covered with dung and dumped in a river in France just before the birth of William Shakespeare. ( https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Antoine_de_La_Place). https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm
  2. William Warbarton. Editor.  Octavo.  8 volumes.  The first critical edition and evidence of textual criticism.  From his preface we learn of Warburton’s foray into the mercurial nature of translating speech to print: Shakespeare’s Works, when they escaped the Players, did not fall into much better Hands when they came amongst Printers and Booksellers: who, to say the Truth, had, at first, but small Encouragement for putting him into a better Condition. The stubborn Nonsense, with which he was incrusted, occasioned his lying long neglected amongst the common Lumber of the stage.”   He was critical of Rowe’s work as an editor and pays homage to Pope:  “A Wit indeed he was ( Rowe); but so utterly unacquainted with the whole Business of Criticism, that he did not even collate or consult the first Editions of the Work he undertook to publish.  Of Pope he wrote this: “Who, by the mere force of an uncommon Genius, without any particular Study or Profession of this Art, discharged the great Parts of it so well as to make his Edition the best Foundation for all further Improvements. He separated the genuine from the spurious Plays: And, with equal Judgment, tho’ not always with the same Success, attempted to clear the genuine Plays from the interpolated Scenes: He then consulted the old Editions; and, by a careful Collation of them, rectified the faulty, and supplied the imperfect Reading, in a great number of places.”


He adds that a preface should include a biographical sketch of the author.  All of the citatations in this particular annotation are referenced at the (http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/46653/ )

  1. Alexander Sumarokov. (First Russian translation adaptation). https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm
  2. Thomas, Edwards, editor.  Published as supplement to Warburton’s edition of Shakespeare. Edwards criticized Warburton and called his edition a collection of the “canons of criticism.”

England’s Seven Years War with France.  1756-1763

1765 -1766.  Samuel Johnson, edited the plays of Shakespeare.  Octavo.  8 volumes.  Famous for its preface on the topic of “variety” in Hamlet. “If the dramas of Shakespeare were to be characterized, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety.”  This is poached from the epistle in the First Folio. Other important ideas stemming from his preface titled, “Observations on Hamlet” include emendations with comments by Warburton on the language in “To be, or not to be.”

Much thought is given to words that may have been transposed such as assail (for sea of troubles), and “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time” is speculated to have been put down as whips and scorns of tyrants (or title) in Johnson’s comments.   ”Hamlet is, through the whole play, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the King, he makes no attempt to punish him, and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet has no part in producing.”  Johnson’s general note regarding the character of Hamlet is unsympathetic to the heroes plight; for he gives far greater latitude to virtues of Ophelia than the wronged Prince of Denmark: “the gratification which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.” http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/hamlet.html and https://shine.unibas.ch/linksearlyeditors.htm .

1765-68.  Edward Capell.  Octavo.  Mr. Shakespeare, His Comedies, Histories, Tragedies 10 Volumes.  Spent 30 years collating quartos.  First editor to make use of stationer’s register and Frances Mere’s Palladis Tamia and to explore sources such as Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles and Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare) Added new material.Scientific criticism of the text begins with Edward Capell. He was the first to base his text actually on the quartos and folio”  His collation of the quartos and folios are often called “the best piece of textual criticism in the eighteenth century”  his method did not show the tremendous amount of work he had put into his edition. http://www.bartleby.com/215/1116.html and  Also Alden T. Vaughn and Virginia Mason Vaughn note in Shakespeare in America (Oxford University Press 2012, Folger Shakespeare Library) that Thomas Jefferson begged a copy of the new Capell edition published in 1768.  So the discrepancy in dates may refer to editions printed abroad and those reprinted in the American colonies.

1766. Christoph Martin Wieland (and Eschenburg?), translator: prose translation of 22 plays (1762-1777) See Wieland’s Gesammelte Schriften, 2. Abt. Ubersetzungen, hersg. von Stadler, 3 Bde. Berlin, 1909-11.   In a Modern Language Review (Vol IX, No, 1. Jantjabt 1914) article titled “Wieland’s Translation of Shakespeare” by F.W. Meisnest for Cambridge University Press we learn of Wieland’s passion for Shakespeare and his quest to translate all Shakespeare’s work.   He disputed Voltaire’s disdain for Shakespeare and praised the genius of Shakespeare as

incomparable.”  Meisnest writes to report this praise and further records the following for the benefit of textual criticism scholars: “ According to Meisnest, Wieland relied on Warburton’s text for his translation; however. Meisnest gives textual evidence that he may have used both Theobald and Johnson in his translation of Hamlet.  It is a convincing argument since Johnson preceded his by almost a year, and Meisnest has found evidence in Hamlet that his translation used the Johnson edition.

Nonetheless, Meisnest points that the German’s were not to be outdone by the French, despite Voltaire’s disdain, in translating the Bard.  “The French had their translation of Shakespeare by La Place, He (Weiland) translated twenty-two dramas, published by Orell, Gessner and Co., Zurich, between 1762 and 1766, in eight volumes.  http://archive.org/stream/wielandstranslat00meis/wielandstranslat00meis_djvu.txt   Original citation for translation at https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm

  1. Jean-Francois Ducis: Hamlet.  French translation. https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm
  2. Heufeld, Franz.  Translator.  Hamlet. German.  https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm
  3. George Steevens; octavo, 10 volumes. Steevens employed Johnson’s text, but continued Capell’s trend of adding new material. Steevens revised and re-issued his edition in 1778; in 1780 Edmond Malone added another 2 volumes that contained Shakespeare’s non-dramatic poems and other material. Isaac Reed revised the Steevens edition again in 1785, and Steevens himself produced one final, 15-volume revision in 1793.
  4. Charles Jennens.  Hamlet.

1773-74. John Bell.  Based on London prompt books.  For extensive textual transmission and cataloguing histories of the actor’s editions see the Folger Library online post by Carrie Smith noting the difficulties of compiling Bell edition bibliographical data.  Smith mentions that the edition contains a prolegomena, or preface, prologue, introduction to a work. Bell, the prolific editor of Shakespeare’s work as theatrical scripts, playbooks, and promptbooks is housed at both the Folger Shakespeare Library and The Library of Congress.

Carrie Smith’s essay on “The Bibliographic Nightmare of John Bell” appears on the Folger website.  She notes: “For example, in the year 1788 Bell produced two editions of the Plays in 20 volumes, one fine paper copy in octavo, or 8vo, format (1788a) and one regular paper copy in duodecimo, or 12mo, format (1788b)” ( http://collation.folger.edu/2012/06/bells-nightmare-continued).       Purportedly, produced as first acting editions for distribution and theatrical productions in America,  the Bell editions were reproduced stage productions of the same period as recorded in London.  Alden T. Vaughn and Virginia Mason Vaughn note in Shakepeare in America (Oxford University Press, 2012) that most American readers read the 20 volume Samuel Johnson, Steveens, and Isaac Reed editions in the eighteenth century “(51).   However, given the heft of the edition it is hard to imagine how actors carried the editions around during rehearsals for their productions.

For example, the following advertisement for a $7,500 edition (2016) tells us something about Bell’s Shakespeare. “Prefaces by Pope, Theobald, Hanmer, Warburton, and Johnson, and with both Rowe’s and Malone’s Life of Shakespeare, and with many other important essays, notes and emendations. Engraved frontispiece portraits of Shakespeare and of the Prince of Wales, of Pope, Warburton, Hanmer and Johnson as well as others, of Shakespeare’s house and with a profusion of finely engraved plates throughout the volumes 12mo, beautifully bound in full red Regency straight-grain morocco with handsome gilt ruling to the borders of the upper and lower covers, the spine with compartments separated by gilt bands, gilt tooled Regency decorative motifs and lettering in gilt within the compartments, gilt tooled edges and gilt rolled turnovers, marbled end-leaves, all edges gilt.”

So, it is not necessary used as a playbook, but rather a reference for scholarly thespians and producers of theatrical productions.  For more bibliographic detail see William J Camron’s bibliography of editions at the Scott library, York University, the University of Western Ontario and the D.B. Weldon library, the university of Wester Ontario (ISBN o-7714-0457-3) referenced in T.H. Howard-Hills Shakespearean Bibliiography and Textual Criticism, Signal Mountain, Summertown, Tennessee 2000) See more on book details at: http://www.buddenbrooks.com/pages/books/20837/william-shakespeare/dramatick-writings-of-will-shakspere-bells-edition-of-shakespeare-printed-complete-from-the-text#sthash.DlolC5uN.dpuf .

The American Revolution Begins.

  1. Friedrich Ludwig Schröder: Hamlet. https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm  He was a lead actor of his own theatre company in Hamburg for 10 years.  He produced many of Shakespeare’s plays and played the ghost of Hamlet’s father.  He also presented plays of Goethe and other Shakespeare adaptations such as those of the Stumm and Drang group with Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger and Heinrich Leopold Wagner. http://www.britannica.com/biography/Friedrich-Ludwig-Schroder.
  2. Johann Joachim Eshenburg German translator. (1775-77; 1782)  First complete edition in German prose (Wieland’s 1766 edition completed). https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm

1776-83.   Lewis Hallam, Jr. (producer, editorial role unknown?)  Owner of John Street Theatre in colonial New York.  He staged productions under the pretense of “lectures” and “concerts” and possibly in Quaker country of Philadelphia productions were staged that even changed the title of the play Hamlet, due to the anti-British hostility of the Revolutionary War.  (This is disclosed in Vaughn & Vaughn’s Shakespeare in America.  Oxford University Press, 2012.  Sold at the Folger Shakespeare Library.)

1786-1800 The Gothic Period and the Romantic Period

1788. Stanislaw Trembecki. Translated into Polish. This author is referenced in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia of 1979 but the website for that source contains a warning regarding the possible bias of information. However, more information can be found to verify his authority as a Polish poet, writer, and translator of Shakespeare; however, the actual text of Hamlet translated by Trembecki, at http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Texts/Ham/per the unibas website, is not one that I have had the pleasure of meeting online. See ( https://shine.unibas.ch/translators.htm). This does not mean it is a ghost text; however. The internet Shakespeare sitenoted at the bottom of this citation will give more information about links to Shakespeare’s knowledge of Poland and fact that Polonias means Polish in Latin. Also a reference to Goslicki’s purportedly related work, known as Laurentius Grimalius Goslicius, published as De Optimo Senator in Latin in 1568 was published in Venice the same year, republished in Basel in 1598, and finally published in English as The Counsellor and in 1607. In Stalinist Russia, Witold Chwalewik wrote about a 16th Century Polish legend about a King Popiel eaten by mice. The monograph was titled, “Polska w “Hamlecie.”   This is a worthy topic for research due to the citation in Kliman and Betrand’s The Three Texts of Hamlet that notes a quarto was traveled to a Warsaw Convent during the late 17th or 18th Century. Could it be related to the translation by Trembecki? http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Criticism/shakespearein/poland2.html (http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/Tets/Ham.

1790.  Edmond Malone, editor.  Credited with being helped by Steevens to create the finest first scholarly edition and for arranging the plays in accurate chronological order to represent their order as Shakespeare wrote them.  Malone was an Irish Shakespearean scholar and editor of the works of William Shakespeare.   Malone traveled to London to write about another Irish Playwright, Oliver Goldsmith, and met George Steevens who was working on Jacob Tonson’s edition of Shakespeare’s works.  Steevens gave Malone papers of notes from Steevens reading of Gerard Langbaine’s An Account of the English Dramatic Poets (1691) that he had transcribed by Steevens from another scholar named William Oldys.   So, off went Malone with his stack of scribble to interpret and transcribe.   This information has been paraphrased and properly poached from Wikipedia.[20]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmond_Malone

The following excerpt from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature (1907-21) on Malone is featured in Bartleby’s online source referencing the editorial transmission history and Malone’s contribution:  “A second edition of Johnson and Steevens’s text appeared in 1778, Edmond Malone contributing an “Essay on the Chronology of Shakespeare’s Plays.” In 1780, he published a supplement to this edition, containing the Poems and an intimation of his intention to bring out a new edition of the whole of the poet’s works… Malone’s edition appeared in 1790. There can be no doubt that he went back to the old copies for his text, which shows a scrupulous fidelity to the quartos and folios, and a preference for the first folio in the case of the variant quarto plays.”   http://www.bartleby.com/215/1118.html

Criticism, Stage History, related Texts written During the 18th Century

Criticism, Stage History, related Texts written about the 18th Century.