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THE original story on which the play of Hamlet is built, may
be found in Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish historian. From thence Belleforest adopted it in his collection of novels, in seven volunies, which he began in 1964, and continued to publish through succeeding years. From this work, The Historye 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 fort 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 fort, 1598."
In the books of the Stationers' Company, this play was entered by Janies 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 fervantes."
lu Eaftavard 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, fufficiently show its popularity. Thus, in Decker's Bel-man's Nightwalkes, 4to. 1611, we have" But if any mad Hamlei, hearing this, smell villainie, and rush in by violence, to fee what the tawny diuels (gypsies) are dooing, then they excuse the fact” &c. Agairi, in an old collection of Satirical Poems, called The Night Raven, is this couplet:
is I will not cry Hamlet Revenge my greeves,
Surely 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 Elay on the Learning of Sbakspeare, 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.-- ( leave all these to the mercy of their mother, tongue, that feed on nought but the crums that fall from the translator's trencher. That could scarcely latinize their neck verse if they thould have neede, yet English Seneca read by candlelight peelds many good sentences-hee will afford you whole Hamlets, í should fay, bandfuls of tragicall speeches.'-I cannot determine exadly when this Epiftle 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, is said to be 'enlarged to almost as much againe as it was.' Gubriel 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 Nafb'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. Nas replied in “Strange News of the intercepting certaine Lete ters, 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 Affe. And Nash again, in · Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up;' containing a full answer to the eldest fonne of the halter-maker, 1596."'-Naß died before 16c6, as appears from an old comedy, called The Relurn from Parnais. STEEVENS.
A play on the subject of Hamlet had been exhibited on the stage before the year 1989, of which Thomas Kyd was, I believe, the author. On that play, and on the bl, letter Historie of Hamblet, our poet, I conjecture, constructed the tragedy before us. The earliest edition of the profe-narrative which I have seen, was printed in 1608, but it undoubtedly was a republication.
Shakspeare's Hamlet was written, if my conjecture be well founded, in 1596. Sce An Attempt to afiertain the order of bis Plays.
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and mother of HAMLET. OPHELIA, daughter of POLONIUS.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Gravediggers,
Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
H A M L E T.
ACT 1. SCENE I.
ELSINORE. A Platform before the Cafle.
FRANCISCO on his post.
Fran. Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself.
Fran. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart,
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Ber. Well, good night.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Mar. O, farewell, honest soldier : Who hath reliev'd you?
Fran. Bernardo hath my place. Give you good night.
[Exit FRANCISCO. Mar. Holla! Bernardo!
Hor. A piece of him.
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;
Chat, if again this apparition come,
Hor. Tush! tush! 'twill not appear.
Ber. Sit down awhile;
Hor. Well, fit we down,
Ber. Last night of all,