Hamlet's Father

Hamlet's Father

Hamlet's Father

Hamlet's Father

Excerpt

Is the modern theatre, before the curtain rises, we are wont to study the programme. From it we learn that Mr. So-and-so will be seen in the part of "Duncan, King of Scotland", that two rather unknown young actors will represent "his sons", and that Mr. X and Mr. Y will be "Generals of the King's Army". Thus when after some preliminaries Mr. X and Mr. Y appear we know that Macbeth and Banquo have entered--even had we never heard or read anything about the play and its contents.

At the Globe Theatre it was different. True, play-bills were not unknown; they were written or, in later years, even printed. In 1587 a Master John Charlwood registered at the Stationers' Office his exclusive fight of printing "all manners of Billes for players". Such "bills" were put up publicly and distributed by hand. Yet they gave merely a rough outline of the play, a very much abridged argument, such as we find on the title-pages of certain Quarto editions. The play-bill announcing a performance of The Merchant of Venice was probably much the same as its title in the Quarto of 1600:

The most excellent/Historie of the Merchant/of Venice . With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Iewe/ towards the sayd Merchant, in cutting a iust pound/ of his flesh: and the obtayning of Portia /by the choyse of three/chests.

Another bill, put up on a public "post", might have read as the title of the Quarto 1608 reads:

M. William Shak-speare:/His/True Chronicle Historie of the life and/death of King Lear and his three/

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