Hamlet and the French Connection: The Relationship of Q1 and Q2 Hamlet and the Evidence of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques

By Jolly, Margrethe | Parergon, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Hamlet and the French Connection: The Relationship of Q1 and Q2 Hamlet and the Evidence of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques


Jolly, Margrethe, Parergon


I. Introduction and Background

Any study of the first and second quartos of Hamlet (Q1 and Q2) reveals rapidly that the former is noticeably shorter, at about 55 per cent of the length of Q2, and that only about 20 per cent of Q1's lines match Q2's. Despite that, they are clearly closely related. Both quartos derive ultimately from the French source, the third story in Volume v of Francois de Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques, first privileged (licensed for publication) in 1570, with editions in 1576, 1581, 1582, 1583, and 1601. (1) The following comparison between the French source and the two quartos will demonstrate the borrowings shared by the first two quartos, a small number of borrowings exclusive to each, and, most significantly, evidence suggesting a progression from the source through Q1, published in 1603, to Q2, published in 1604-05. (2)

The interest in the comparison lies in what it may contribute to our understanding of the relationship between the quartos, and consequently it is useful to review briefly the theories about that relationship. After the rediscovery of Q1 in 1823, the early view was that Q1 is Shakespeare's first draft or first thoughts, and that Q2 represents his revised version. This view was proposed by, for example, Charles Knight in the mid-nineteenth century and Steven Urkowitz in the late twentieth century. (3) Tycho Mommsen and W. H. Widgery, in 1857 and 1880, were the nineteenth-century initiators of a second theory: memorial reconstruction. (4) This theory contends that Q2 represents Shakespeare's first version of the play, which was later recreated from memory by actors ('Marcellus' or 'Voltemand', and perhaps 'Lucianus') who had acted in the play and remembered enough of it to compile Q1. The theory was developed fully by George Duthie in his 'Bad' Quarto of Hamlet, published in 1941. (5) A third theory is that Q1 represents an abridgement of Q2, necessary because of the unplayable length of Q2. Albert Weiner, for example, argued this in his 1962 edition of Q1 Hamlet. (6)

Memorial reconstruction is the view most widely believed and disseminated, through introductions to texts of Hamlet, and repeated by, for example, Edmund Chambers, Geoffrey Bullough, and Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. (7) Indeed, Paul Werstine notes that 'by the 1950s the idea that all imperfect texts were transmitted into print by reporters had ... a grip on textual criticism'. (8) Werstine challenges this idea, arguing that memorial reconstruction is a 'hypothetical construct' that has not yet been 'empirically validated with reference to any extant Shakespearean quarto'. (9) Instead he seeks to widen discussion beyond the 'binarism' (10) of 'good' and 'bad' quartos, to a situation where the possibility of multiple variants of the plays may co-exist. (11) Another complication with memorial reconstruction arises, for instance, with Paul Menzer's study of the cues, the two or three words of the preceding speech which 'cue' in the actor's own speech, in the two Hamlets. Menzer has found that the cues for Corambis/Polonius remain noticeably stable between the two texts, (12) and reasonably comments that 'some plausible mechanism is needed ... to account for the cue fidelity of Corambis/Polonius across the three texts of Hamlet'. (13)

Even a brief resume shows that there are significant variations in the theories as well as continuing debate about them. They result in two slightly different chronologies. While Les Histoires Tragiques remains the source and the first text of the three under examination, Q2 would be the first of the two Hamlet quartos if Q1 is a memorial reconstruction or abridgement, but Q1 would be the anterior text if it is Shakespeare's first draft and Q2 a revised version.

This account is of course a simplification of a complicated subject. Memorial reconstruction in particular might be represented in a more complex way, by introducing the putative Ur-Hamlet of c. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Hamlet and the French Connection: The Relationship of Q1 and Q2 Hamlet and the Evidence of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.