20th Century and 21st Century editions of Hamlet

20th Century and 21st Century- SHAKESPEARE’S Hamlet

How time flies, and so does the Bard!

1901 .  Death of Queen Victoria marks the end of The Victorian reign.  Edwardian era of King Edward II follows Queen Victoria and continues into World War I (1914-1918).

(Students, scholars, actors, and film and theatre workers and fans:  If you are experiencing a crisis involving suicidal thoughts during the coronavirus pandemic, please call 1-800-suicide in the U.S.A or The Samaritans in the U.K.)

1904.  Clarke, Helen and Charlotte Porter.  The tragedie of Hamlet Prince of Denmark Edited with glossary and selected variorum notes and criticism.  An American First Folio edition.   New York.  I include this because it appears to be the first text edited exclusively by women.
  1. W.J. Craig.  Complete edition of works.  Oxford University Press.  Reprinted 1919.                                                                                                                       
  2. W.J. Graig. Granville Barker notes in his Prefaces to Shakespeare that his preface and preferred text is that of W.J. Graig’s 1919 edition as well as the Furness Variorum edition (reprinted?) by Harley Granville Barker.  (See Prefaces to Shakespeare Vol. 6:  page 131 published by B.T. Batsford, London 1974.)
  3. Anon.  Hamlet in Baghdad.  Living Age CCCII.  July 12, 1919.  “Amusing description of the performance of the Urdu version of Hamlet, acted by Indians” (cited in Anton Adolph Raven’s Hamlet Bibliography p. 251)
World War II.  1939-1945.  Axis powers surrender to U.S, Great Britain, and allies. 
Romance by cjhm

“Memorial Day”photo by carol joan haney mcvey   2016

(I posted the picture above in honor of those fallen heroes of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.   This is also posted to honor Joseph Papp who brought the Bard outdoors with  SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK in New York City.)

1935-46.   Joseph Quincy Adams.  Hamlet.  New York. (See Hibbard’s Oxford 133)  Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, he became the first editor in America of the New Variorum Series.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Quincy_Adams,_Jr.

  1. J. Dover Wilson. Editor.  The New Shakespeare Hamlet. Cambridge University Press. This British Shakespeare scholar is most famous for his books What Happens in Hamlet (1935) and The Manuscript of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Second edition printed in 1936 with reprints in the following years:  1941, 1948, 1954 (with additions, variants, and emendations), 1957, 1961, 1964, and the first paperback edition was printed in 1968.  This is an actor’s edition in paperback form (1968, 1969, 1971) and it is lightweight with notes in the back, leaving room in the borders for an actor to write specific stage directions and rehearsal notes.  (The Macbeth and Merchant of Venice and As You Like It editions in the same series are scripts that I remember using for productions at The Catholic University of America and in theatre productions during the 1970s and 1980s).

1936-1939. George Lyman Kittredge.  Complete Works of Shakespeare.  Scholarly volumes. “Kittredge joined the faculty at Harvard as an instructor in autumn of 1888, was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1890, and in 1896 succeeded Professor Child as Professor of the Division of Modern Languages (i.e., languages other than Latin or Greek).  He also gave the course to the women students at Radcliffe, as well as lecturing on Shakespeare at the Lowell Institute and on tours Kittredge’s edition of Shakespeare was the standard well beyond his death and continues to be cited occasionally.”  This Wikipedia excerpt also notes that Kittredge did not study for his Ph.D. because he thought no one was qualified to examine him.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lyman_Kittredge

 1952.  Queen Elizabeth II of the House of Windsor succeeds King George VI to the throne and continues to reign to the present.
(Russian Revolution of October 1917 concludes with  Stalin permanently crushing the  reign of the Tzar and installing totalitarian communism before Stalin’s death in 1953.)

American Cold War with Soviet Union CONTINUES.

  1. Hardin Craig.  Complete works of Shakespeare.  Scott Foreman and Company. 1951.  Hardin CraigComplete works of Shakespeare.  Scott Foreman and Company. Shakespeare: A Historical and Critical Study with Annotated Texts of Twenty-one Plays.  Annotated critical and scholarly edition published by G. Routledge & Company:  The Popular Railway Library.  London.
  2. Peter Alexander.  The Complete Works of Shakespeare for (Harper) Collins in Glasgow. 
  3. Maynard Mack and Robert Boynton.  The Tragedy of Hamlet. Boynton/Cook Publishers.  Heinemann.  Portsmouth, N.H.  Reprinted in 1968.  This text is an ideal actor’s copy or for students in undergraduate programs or advanced high school English/drama classes.  It is the lightest paperback I have encountered other than the Signet Classics and early Folger editions. I includes a clear introduction and an accurate annotated picture of an Elizabethan Stage.  It includes classroom questions and composition prompts.
  4. Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. Lamar.  The Folger Library General Reader’s Shakespeare. Paperback Hamlet.  Illustrated with material in the Folger Library Collections.  First pocketbooks printing.  A Washington Square Publication of Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc: New York, New York.  1958.    Very few notes are listed on the back page.  An introduction on the Shakespeare Theatre and the author.  This is an actor’s text.  Lightweight.

The American War in Vietnam. @1960-1975.

  1. Cyrus Hoy.  The Norton Critical Edition of Hamlet. (rpt 1992) This is an eclectic critical edition with sparse textual notes.  The editor asserts that the text of Hamlet from Q2 draws largely on Der Bestrafte Brudermond.  He also asserts that a Q3 and Q4 were likely published before the Folio edition in 1623..  The edition compiles a dream team collection of literary criticism such as:  “Hamlet and His Problems” by T.S. Eliot; “A Soul Unfit by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe;”The Prince or the Poem” by C.S. Lewis; “The Praise of Variety” by Samuel Johnson; “The Embassy of Death” by Wilson Knight; “What Actually Happens in the Play” by A.C. Bradley; and “The Five Acts of the Editors,”  “The Character of Hamlet” by William Richardson; “Letters and Spirits” by Margaret Ferguson; “An Aversion from Hamlet” by D.H. Lawrence; “The Nature of Will” by Rebecca West; “Sexuality in the Reading of ShakespeareHamlet and Measure for Measure” by Jacqueline Rose; by Harley Granville-Barker.

A second section on intellectual backgrounds includes more introductory essays by Montaigne and Hieronymous Cardanus on death, demonology, and melancholy.  The Norton editions have endured as some of the best editions for over 50 years and remain a brilliant choice for college students and actors alike.  The book is lightweight with very few notes printed at the bottom of each page.  The play runs about 100 pages of the nearly 200 page book.  I highly recommend this edition along with the latest Folger edition for college classroom use because these texts represent the best in canonical and modern criticism, respectively.

  1. Edward Hubler.  Hamlet.  Signet Classic Pocketbook.  New American Library.  Edward Hubler lived in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  He also supervised the San Marino, California Shakespeare Library that housed one of the two extant Folios in the world.
  2. Charlton Hinman. The Norton Facsimile The First Folio of Shakespeare. “…the justly famous First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, a full-size photographic facsimile that has won the admiration of actors and scholars throughout the world. When it was published in 1968, The Norton Facsimile set a new standard for scholarly accuracy. It was the first facsimile in which every page had been selected from a large number of copies.  Finally, it introduced a standard system of reference, ‘through line numbering,’ based on the lines printed in the 1623 edition [ to provide continuity] for  the acts, scenes, and lines of a modern edition.” This groundbreaking work by Charlton Hinman  “made possible by the extensive Folger Library Collection,” [and changed the course of Shakespeare scholarship, I would add].  Introduction by Peter Blayney.  http://books.wwnorton.com/books/978-0-393-03985-6/
  3. Harbage, Alfred.  Willam Shakespeare The Complete Works.  Pelican Text Revised; Viking.  New York includes the first few pages of the Folio with the classic ornament of The Folio depicting two dogs in the lower corners and two archers in the upper corners.  An introduction about the intellectual and political background of Shakespeare includes an extensive bibliography.  Another section on Shakespeare’s Theatre, Shakespeare’s technique, and a statistical analysis of prose, blank, and rhymed lines in all of his works (31) show the trend toward enumerative textual analysis in the later part of the 20th Century.  An introduction to each play is offered and an appendix showing departures from the second quarto of 1604-05.  The introduction by Harbage treats the play as a mystery and recalls many of the suspected sources for his masterpiece usurping Hamlet’s own words on the matter as given to him by his mortal creator, ‘you would pluck out the heart of my mystery.’
    1. John Dover Wilson.  The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of DenmarkThe New Shakespeare Hamlet.  Paperback.  Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, England. 1971.  This is a reprint of an edition that became published in 1934 as a first edition.  It was followed by a second edition in 1936.  Reprints were issued in the following years:  1954 (included changes and variants) 1957, 1961, 1964.  The first paperback edition was distributed in 1968 and was reprinted in 1969.  The introduction includes early textual transmission history with facsimile from the Capell copy held at Trinity College, Cambridge.  There is a rationale for the sallied/sullied/solid on page 151 in the notes following the text of the play.  (All the notes are placed following the text of the play). The argument is convincing.  Wilson notes that “’sullied flesh’ is the key to the soliloquy and tells us that Hamlet is thinking of the ‘kindless’ (v.note 1.65) incestuous marriage [of his mother to his uncle] as a personal defilement.  Further, ‘sullied’ fits the immediate context as “solid” does not.  “There is something absurd in associating ‘solid flesh’ with ‘melt’ and ‘thaw’; whereas Shakespeare always uses ‘sully’ or ‘sullied’ elsewhere (Henry IV 2.4.84 ; I Henry V 4.4.6; Merry Wives of Windsor. 2.1. 102  Loves Labour Lost 5.2.352; sonnet 15.12) with the image, implicit or explicit, of dirt upon a surface of pure white; and the surface Hamlet obviously has in mind here is snow, symbolical of the nature he shares with his mother, once pure but now befouled” (Wilson 151-152).

{My note, as author and editor of this website is as follows: The incongruity of melting flesh and the conflation of images in this tragedy does not seem odd because Hamlet’s caustic wit can accommodate such a flashy, fleshy reading since he is fixated on other aspects of the corruption of flesh just as the ghost of his father speaks of Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, as “preying on garbage” with Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, in the marriage bed.

This revelation comes later than the first speech of suicidal and homicidal ideation; and Hamlet  has not yet confirmed that the ghost has told the truth, or the need for the ‘Murder of Gonzago” (mousetrap) scene with the players would be unnecessary. “The play’s the thing wherein we’ll catch the conscience of the King,” says Hamlet as he schemes to press his case in his own Royal court through the revelation by the players during his dramatic rendering of a unique process of courtroom discovery: the theatrical heuristic.

Further, the climate is established in Act I. scene I with two characters commenting on the freezing climate in Denmark.  Shakespeare, who named his theatre “The Globe,” would have known the climate to have been bitterly cold in Denmark. “Tis bitter cold” (as if to say, “I’m frozen solid”) says Francisco in the Folio edition.  Surely, the actors deserve credit for knowing how to fake a shiver.

Further, a review of the 20th Century film productions starring Laurence Oliver, John Gielgud, Mel Gibson, and Kenneth Branagh all show the critically acclaimed famous actors choosing to favor the “solid” reading in this first important soliloquy.  (See U-tube links to “oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt” by the aforementioned actors)

So the question, for textual literary scholars and theatre critics is this:  Why do most of the modern editions still insist on using the line reading, “Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,” when all of the great 20th Century film performances use the line reading that favors the Folio version:  “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt”? What does this say about the possible widening gap between academic scholarship and professional performance of Shakespearean text? (Carol J. Haney McVey)}

  1. G. Blakemore Evans.   The Riverside Shakespeare.   Reprinted 1997 as edited by J. J. M. Tobin.  Houghton Mifflin.  In the Textual Editor’s Acknowledgements (vi), Evans notes that his Guggenheim Foundation inspired work to Professor Marvin Spevack to write his “Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare (6 volumes, 1968-1970).  This complete Shakespeare is a treasure. This is the volume that many students carried around to college classrooms in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s.

This huge, heavy, beautifully eclectic, scholarly edition in Elizabethan-styled case binding includes illustrations that are numerous and historically situated.  Notes are featured at the bottom of the page in bold print and do not interfere with the reading of the play.  The preface to Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark shows a 1563 Bertelli print of an engraving showing a lady wearing chopines (a shoe with cork platform heels) fashionable in Venice in used by Shakespearean actors. A note in the Riverside shows how this artwork explains a line when Hamlet greets an actor in the players’ boy troupe with, “your ladyship is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last.” (It is an actor’s inside joke about the young boy actor wearing the platform shoes that the Venetians called “chopines” and the Greek thespians called, “kothurni”). Each play and section includes a preface and an exemplary introduction to Hamlet is offered by Frank Kermode who details a great deal of textual history on the sources of Hamlet and the fraudulent nature of Q1 before addressing the recent history of theoretical criticism of Hamlet.  (Kermode 1135).

Kermode notes that Granville-Barker clearly identifies the play as Shakespeare’s biographical play, unlike any other play produced; he maintains that it is the most significant literary work to be produced  in 2000 years.  He alludes to Coleridge’s essay, “I Have a Smack of Hamlet” as proclaiming Hamlet the Everyman of the new age.  Kermode describes it as a mystery with a discursive, oblique, with a twinning effect of the themes: seeming vs. being; theatricality vs. realism, scourging vs. healing.   The political allusions, the allusions to Christmas, harken a spiritual breakdown as well as a military defeat for in the Elizabethan view, as Kermode states, “to be revenger was to be oneself condemned; the scourge of God will be scourged; woe to him by whom the offense cometh” (Kermode 1138).  Strangely, the editor casts Hamlet as a pious avenger who accepts his fate as a Providential means to end a wicked regime.  For one brief moment before an entire corrupt regime dies, Hamlet is King and names his successor (Kermode, Riverside Shakespeare p.1140).

  1. T.J.B. Spencer.  Hamlet.  The New Penguin Shakespeare Paperback. (Harmondworth). UK: Penguin.
  2. David Bevington and David Scott Kastan.   HamletPaperback. The New Bantam Shakespeare.  Published with Pearson Education.  Bantam Dell/A Division of Random House.   This Paperback edition offers introduction with textual history and a wonderful filmography that includes rreference to the Italian adaptation Amleto 1917 and a 1964 Russian adaptation/translation titled Lenfilm translated by Boris Pasternak (author of Dr. Zhivago.) that competed in the same year with Hamlet at Elsinore with Christopher Plummer.  Other citations for comparative literature scholars to research include the 1960 The Bad Sleep Well by Kurusawa; To Be or Not to Be with Mel Brooks; and a Finish adaptation called Hamlet Goes Business that premiered in 1987.  The filmography ends with Tom Stoppard’s 15-minute Hamlet  hit the screens in 1995.
  3. Harold Jenkins.  Hamlet. The Arden edition. His long collaboration with the Arden Shakespeare started in the 1950s, with the commission to edit Hamlet, and then in 1958 he was named joint general editor of the series (along with Harold Brooks). In this capacity he worked with some of the most distinguished Shakespearean scholars of his time. Harold Jenkins
  4. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.  Hamlet. The Oxford Shakespeare. Favored Folio based texts as they were deemed closer to playbooks with enhanced stage directions.  This edition later became The Norton edition.  Fused heavily annotated notes such as the Arden and Cambridge editions with plain-text presentation. Wells is co-editor (with Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery) of the Oxford Complete Works and (with Michael Dobson) the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, and was general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare for several decades.
  5. Philip Edwards. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The New Cambridge Paperback edition.  A scholarly paperback with textual criticism included in the introduction and many notes and available at the bottom of each page, this edition also offers a good bibliography of textual transmission history and considerable stage history.
  6. G.R. HibbardHamlet, Prince of Denmark.  Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1987.  406 pages   maintains that Q2 is printed from author’s “foul papers.”  G.R. Hibbard, editor. Stanley Wells general editor. Oxford World Classics. Oxford University Press. Reprinted from World Classics Paperback 1994.  This is a scholarly edition with a great deal of the introduction devoted to textual transmission and early printing history.  The volume also includes several important illustrations, including pictures of The Royal Shakespeare Company in performance and other significant theatrical performances.  The appendix at the back of the book includes “passages peculiar to the Q2 quarto.” http://www.jstor.org/stable/516781?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
  7. Bernice W. Kliman and Paul Betram. Introduction by Eric Rasmussen. The Three-Text Hamlet.  Parallel Texts of the First and Second Quartos and First FolioAMS Studies in the Renaissance.  Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Brooklyn, New York.  (Reprinted in 2003).  This is a treasure for Shakespeare scholars, academics, and students.  The original texts of 1603, 1605, and 1623 are printed in parallel form as they appeared in the original quartos and foliosVery easy to read and compare the Q1, Q2, and Folio texts.  There are no notes whatsoever on any page.  The introduction provides an entertaining history of the piracy of the first quarto and the textual transmission through the printing of the First Folio and the other attempts to collate and assemble an edition such as this edition that was made possible by the work of Charles Hinman.  The Q1, Q2, and Folio texts are reprinted side-by-side in this rectangular layout suited to comparative textual studies.  Every state university should have a copy of this text.

A full page reprint of an engraving by Jan van der Straet titled Nova Reperta in 1580, printed by permission of The Folger Shakespeare Library shows in elaborate detail the workings of a print shop such as the one that printed The First Folio in 1623.  The compositors using a composing stick about the size of a smart phone with selfie stick, the foreman or journeyman printer dressed as a courtier attending the galley tray where the compositors forwarded their work, and the heavy machinery for the press, as well as drying instruments are visible.  A high window in the background appears to let in enough light to work but not enough to damage the print shop materials of ink, glue, paper, string, paper, wood and metal tooling pieces,  and an open door in the distance leads to a street.  A child and possibly women helping in the shop are depicted as well

  1. Graham Holderness and Bryan LoughreyThe Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  Barnes & Noble.  4720 Boston Way.  Lanham, Maryland.  (How far they have come!)  This ultra-slim hardback edition includes a facsimile of the 1603 title page (Q1) and it is (cough, cough) the “bad quarto” made worse.  For example, on page 60 we read Hamlet’s iconic lines as such, “To be, or not to be, I there’s the point, to die to sleep, is that all? I all: N, to sleepe, to dream, I mary there it goes…”

1992, 2012.  Barbara Mowatt and Paul Werstine.  Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.  Shakespeare, William.   Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine.  Updated Edition Folger Shakespeare Library.  Simon and Schuster Paperbacks: New York, London. 2006.  This classic edition offers a concise and interesting introduction on the history of Queen Elizabeth, the Shakespeare theatre, etc., as well as interesting articles by Michael Neil.  The essay titled, “Hamlet:  A Modern Perspective” quotes renowned Russian director Vsevold Meyerhold: “‘If all plays ever written suddenly disappeared and only Hamlet miraculously survived, all the theatres in the world would be saved.’”   And we also learn of how important the text became as a resistance tool in totalitarian regimes, as Michael Neill notes that Stalin feared the text of Hamlet in production. (319)]

Mowatt and Werstine include more classic and contemporary essays in the 2012 edition:“’The Cheer and Comfort of Our Eye’: Hamlet and Surveillance”; “The Undiscovered CountryThe Secrets of Death,” and “Speaking the Unspeakable,” Hamlet and Memory” by Michael Neil offer venues into the metaphysical aspects of the plays.   Also, Michael Neill can be credited with disclosing the importance of Hamlet to Russian theatre and Stalin’s banning of the play.  (See Hamlet:  a Modern Perspective p. 319.) Abstracts of several articles are also included.  For example, Catherine Belsey’s, “Shakespeare’s Sad Tale for Winter; Jane Calderwood’s ,”To Be, or Not to Be, Negation and Metadrama”; and “The Hamlet Formerly Known as Prince,” by Linda Charnes.  Other abstracts include Anthony Dawson’s, “Shakespeare in Performance1600-1900”;[Good for critical reception history]. Greenblatt’s “Hamlet in Purgatory and Maynard Mack’s “The World of Hamlet.”  For those interested in gender studies and trans-disciplinarity, “Documents in Madness:  Reading Gender in Shakespeare’s Tragedies” by Carol Thomas Neely is offered.  An additional bibliography of books and articles concludes the edition for further reading.  This is a critical text, ideal for the classroom or stage.

  1. David Bevington editor. The Complete Works of Shakespeare.  David Bevington served as as the current president of the Shakespeare Association of America.  He introduces each play and provides historical background for the Elizabethan and Jacobean period.
  2. G.R. Hibbard, editor.  Stanley Wells general editor.  Hamlet. Oxford World Classics. Oxford University Press. Reprinted from World Classics Paperback 1994.  This is a scholarly edition with a great deal of the introduction devoted to textual transmission and early printing history.  The volume also includes several important illustrations, including pictures of The Royal Shakespeare Company in performance and other significant theatrical performances.  The appendix at the back of the book includes “passages peculiar to the Q2 quarto.”
  3. Jeff Dolven, editor with David Kastan.  Hamlet. Barnes & Noble Shakespeare. Based on Q2. Kastan doubts that this is the first quarto is the “first version to reach print” and states it is more likely an assemblage of actor’s parts that were used to compile the first folio (398). Assemblage of book includes an introduction by Dolven, essays on lexicon, Elizabethan and early Jacobean history; theatrical production and textual transmission history by Kastan.  Simple pen and ink drawings showing the architecture of The Globe theatre or possibly the Rose with the trapdoor or “grave door” used for the ghost of Hamlet’s father.

An annotated Bibliography of theatrical productions and adaptations inspired by Hamlet following the historically acclaimed theatrical performances commencing with Richard Burbage lists a variety from adaptations and Hamlet inspired productions that includes films such as The Lion King and Strange Brew. The Text is hefty but readable, too heavy for an actor’s copy, but fine for academic use, this edition is printed in large and boldface type with notes on left pages.  The history is interesting. The plague, Kastan records, had killed one third of the British population 1564, the year before Shakespeare was born (13).  The intro includes a brief historical note of Queen Elizabeth as superpower who defeated the Netherlands and Spain before she died in 1603 leaving no heir but a royal Scottish relative, James VI, King of Scotland, to ascend the throne as dual King of Scotland and England becoming known as King James I of the British crown.  It is two decades after the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church,  that that first complete works of Shakespeare  in 1623 followed by a printing of the First King James Bible.

  1. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor.  Arden Shakespeare, third edition. Bloomsbury Publishing.  384 pages.  London, United.  This scholarly edition most closely resembles the variorum editions.  This edition offers a textual history and textual criticism analysis of the early editions, a glossary, notes and emendations at the bottom of each page and in the back.  This is a fine text for graduate students and students in advanced undergraduate programs.