A Romance of Electronic Scholarship;
with the True and Lamentable Tragedies of
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
Part 1
: The Words
Donald Foster
Vassar College

Foster, Donald. "A Romance of Electronic Scholarship; with the True and Lamentable Tragedies of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Part 1: The Words." Early Modern Literary Studies 3.3 / Special Issue 2 (January, 1998): 5.1-42 <URL:

  1. The past decade has seen a remarkable upheaval in the small world of Shakespearean textual scholarship. A theoretical reformation -- foreseen by E.A.J. Honigman in 1965, heralded by Steven Urkowitz and Michael Warren in the 1980s -- though slow to catch on, has finally proved unsettling to old orthodoxies. Naive models of the stability and authority of Shakespearean texts have crumbled, notions of the "good" and "bad" text have been discarded. The canonical plays were not just written, performed, and printed: they developed. The Shakespearean page was a text perpetually under construction, and therefore subject to unfortunate renovation, entailing cuts and revisions that a minute could reverse until fossilized in print. The quarto or Folio text of this or that play is at best a passing manifestation, a blurred snapshot of the theatrical script as it stood at one historical moment in the ongoing life of Shakespeare's theatrical company. Under such circumstances, a relatively "pure" text is beyond hoping for. In place of the authoritative text, Shakespeare's editors are now expected to preserve some sense of the theatrical text's radical instability, so that the editorial enterprise has come to feel like an exercise in sculpting Jell-O. Meanwhile, unsavory "Shakespeare" texts that were rejected long ago as corrupt fare are back on the table, demanding attention. The Shakespeare quartos, if not "better" than they once were, are at least more interesting, even the "bad" ones. No longer may the first quarto versions of Richard III or 2-3 Henry VI or Romeo and Juliet or King Lear be tidily swept aside as the product of a theatrical pirate's bad memory, or dismissed as rubbish.[1]

  2. But while most of the Shakespeare quartos have gained in esteem in recent years -- even, to a certain degree, such texts as The Troublesome Raigne of King John, The Taming of a Shrew, and King Leir -- Q1 Hamlet is still a Shakespearean wall-flower, a text rarely consulted except in comparison with Q2 or F1 Hamlet, and then, often, only for laughs ("To be, or not to be, I there's the point, / To Die, to sleep, is that all?"). Not until Thomas Clayton's volume, The Hamlet First Published (1992), was Q1 Hamlet accorded much respect as an object of literary or theatrical study. But those few scholars who have been able to set aside their aesthetic contempt have found Q1 Hamlet to be a fascinating text, and one that may shed light on the two "good" Hamlets -- if only we could figure out who wrote the "bad" Hamlet, and when, and why.

  3. Many of the questions raised by the three Hamlets may never be answered, but new resources are at hand that render obsolete certain of the methods by which problems of dating, authorship, and textual authority or transmission have always been addressed. Digitized old-spelling editions of Shakespeare, comprehensive text-archives, and linguistic databases offer new strategies whereby to unravel knotty problems -- from the isolated crux or odd usage to the tangled web of such multiple-text plays as The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, Merry Wives of Windsor, and King Lear. My intent in this essay, and in a companion article that will follow in a subsequent issue of EMLS, is to illustrate the effective use of these new electronic resources in a two-part study of the three printed Hamlets: Q1 (1603), Q2 (1604), and F1 (1623). My focus here will be on "The Words" (lexicography, orthography, editorial emendation); and in part two, on "The Texts" (origins, authority, and textual transmission). My ambitious object in both essays -- not fully attainable -- is to distinguish linguistic events of the text (such as authorial word-selection and spellings), traceable to the act of writing, from those events that happened to the text (by way of subsequent revision, recopying, printing, or theatrical improvisation).

  4. In drafting this two-part discussion I have drawn entirely on digitized text, most extensively on the transcripts of Q1, Q2, and F1 Hamlet in the Internet Shakespeare Editions (ISE).[2] For First Folio texts that are not yet available from the ISE, and for the 2,000+ STC I texts in my restricted cross-sample, I have consulted Literature Online ("LION"), an archive providing access to "hundreds of thousands of fully-searchable texts" from A.D. 1100 through 1900.[3] Shakespeareans have been a little slow to take full advantage of these Internet libraries. When confronted with a problematic word or phrase in the Shakespearean or other early modern text, most readers and editors instinctively turn for illumination either to the OED or to our rich tradition of editorial commentary. Insofar as one may judge from the most recent criticism and scholarly editions, electronic archives are rarely explored by Shakespeare's editors and critics except perhaps as a hunting ground for apt quotations or verbal parallels. This is rather like holding title to a new Corvette but using the vehicle only as a source from which to gather a few bolts and nuts to tighten up the old Conestoga. Text-archives such as LION, if not reinventing the wheel, at least make possible lightning-fast surveys of the English language as it was written, spoken, and understood by Shakespeare's contemporaries -- expanding exponentially the OED's coverage (and that of all other English dictionaries put together). The Quarto and First Folio transcripts available through the ISE facilitate comparative analysis of Shakespeare's own language. In this essay I will be using both ISE and LION (and the online OED) to illuminate aspects of the three Hamlets not previously brought to light by the use of traditional research tools. I shall quote from these electronic editions, rather than from photofacsimiles or diplomatic reprints, without blushing.[4]

  5. All three Hamlets have their bad spots -- impossible misspellings, substitution of words and phrases from manuscript to printed text, and evident revision, poorly executed. Lines and whole speeches are omitted from Q1 or Q2 or F1 that appear in one or both of the other versions. Speech prefixes are changed, or one minor part collapsed into another. Material is included in each that may have been authorized (for performance or for publication) by Shakespeare's company, though not as written by Shakespeare; or written by Shakespeare but never performed by his company as printed. The "rugged Pyrrhus" speech, appearing in all three Hamlets but with many variants, is a case in point ([2.2.450-518] / 1492-1559). The brief Q1 version seems to have been abridged. As if in response to the complaint of Polonius (Q1 "Corambis") -- "This is too long!" -- someone has been to the barber with its textual beard, dumping altogether the description of Priam's murder, cut-jumping from Priam's pause to Hecuba's tears. Tedious and brief, merry and tragical, the Q1 speech is crammed with evident misprints -- "Back't and imparched" for bak'd and impasted, "guise" for gules, "Rifted" for roasted -- errors that may arise simply from illegible manuscript copy, but that do nothing for the "bad" quarto's reputation. (Sensible emendations are supplied in each instance by Q2.) Other Q1 variants in the same speech -- such as "vnable to resist" for repugnant to command -- represent defensible word-choices that still sound wrong to an ear trained on Q2.

  6. Again in the same speech, but less defensible, Q1 has "arganian" for Hyrcanian, and "calagulate" for coagulate -- errors that have damned Q1 not only as a quarto badly printed, but as a transcript wickedly acquired. These obvious corruptions may represent words that were mis-heard by the author or recorder of the Q1 version: a thieving player or surreptitious stenographer is thought to have sounded out those unfamiliar words that he remembers hearing in the theater but could not spell. Q1's "tongue inuenom'd speech" for Q2's "tongue in venom steep'd" may be another instance of botched oral transmission, together with several others -- to say nothing of omitted phrases and whole lines, the absence of which in Q1 confuses the sense as transmitted in Q2. Such errors are routinely cited as mistakes that could only have been made by an auditor or memorial reconstructor: the recorder of Q1, having no direct access to the authorized Shakespearean script, took a stab at the right words, and missed.

  7. But a simple good/bad dichotomy between Q1 and Q2 is counterproductive to an understanding of Hamlet's textual and theatrical development. Though badly written, Q1 has fewer obvious misprints than either Q2 or F1, and the printed text sometimes gets right a word that the other Hamlets get wrong (e.g., Q1 "fellies" [2.2.495] / 1535; cf. Q2 "follies," F1 "fallies").[5] When placed side by side on the printed page, or when viewed together through electronic windows, none of the three Hamlets seems especially reliable.

    Play. But who, O who had seene the mobled Queene?
    Cor. Mobled Queene is good, faith very good.
    Play. All in the alarum and feare of death rose vp,
    And o're her weake and all ore-teeming loynes, a blancket
    And a kercher on that head, where late the diademe stoode. . .
                    (Q1 [2.2.502-9] / 1542-50]

    Play But who, a woe, had seene the mobled Queene,
    Ham. The mobled Queene.
    Pol. That's good.
    Play. Runne barefoote vp and downe, threatning the flames
    With Bison rehume, a clout vppon that head
    Where late the Diadem stood, and for a robe,
    About her lanck and all ore-teamed loynes,
    A blancket in the alarme of feare caught vp, . . .       
                    (Q2 [2.2.502-9] / 1542-50]

    1.Play. But who, O who, had seen the inobled Queen.
    Ham. The inobled Queene?
    Pol. That's good: Inobled Queene is good.
    1. Play. Run bare-foote vp and downe,
    Threatning the flame
    With Bisson Rheume: A clout about that head,
    Where late the Diadem stood, and for a Robe
    About her lanke and all ore-teamed Loines,
    A blanket in th' Alarum of feare caught vp. . . .       
                    (F1 [2.2.502-9] / 1542-50]

    In Q1, Corambis thinks "the mobled Queene" is good. The same aesthetic judgment is expressed more tersely by Q2 Polonius. And in F1, Polonius thinks the "Inobled Queene is good."

  8. With a welter of misprints throughout the three Hamlets, and with Q1 often agreeing with Q2 or F1 but not both, editors may be left in a quandary when and how to emend their chosen copytext. At Hamlet [1.4.82] / 669 the editor may choose one of seven readings from one of seven Hamlets: Q1 (1603) prints "Artiue," an apparent misprint (artiue/artive appears in LION [A.D. 1100-1900] only once, as a misprint for "arrive" in Peter Colse, Penelopes Complaint [1595]). Q2 (1604) has "arture," which appears in four LION texts, but only as a spelling for Arthur. Q3 (1611) has "artyre," which makes a subsequent appearance in Arthur Gorges's Lucan (1614), a text that evidently borrows much of its rare diction directly from Hamlet, probably from Q3.[6] Q4 (n.d.) prints "attire," an obvious error (though "attire" occurs more than two thousand times elsewhere in LION). Q5 (1637) prints "artery," correcting Q4. F1 (1623) prints "artire." And the Riverside Shakespeare, though generally conservative, prints "artere" -- a spelling that finds no second instance in LION and none in the OED except in Copland's translation of Guido's Questyonary of Cyryrgyens, "artere" being carried over from the French.[7] Most other editions print the modern form, "artery," following Q5. Editors routinely emend F1 and Q2 because "artire" receives no mention in the OED except under "artery" (as an archaic spelling), and "arture," none at all.

  9. To illustrate the power and convenience of electronic research in addressing such problems, one may begin at the simplest level, with the meaning and provenance of particular one-word variants in Hamlet. A nearly instantaneous electronic survey indicates that artier, artyre, and artire were frequent in the Elizabethan period as equivalent spellings for a word that would have rhymed with partier, not with Tartary. The old form of the word appears in several texts that Shakespeare surely knew, such as Marlowe's Tamburlaine, parts 1 and 2. (A few writers, including Chapman, Sylvester, and John Davies of Hereford, use both artire and artery, depending on metrical demands.) In light of contemporaneous usage elsewhere, it becomes apparent that Q1 "Artiue" is a simple misprint for "artire" and not an error arising from memorial reconstruction by a rogue actor. The Q2 variant represents the same word, with an odd spelling to which I shall return in a moment. But F1 "artire" is surely correct and should be immune to emendation. Shakespeare appears never to have used the modern artery (n.) except once, in Love's Labor's Lost ([4.3.302] / 1656), and artere, not at all.

  10. Electronic texts can help editors to unpack even the most knotty Shakespearean cruxes. Hamlet's princely speech on Danish drinking habits -- much beloved during the American Temperance movement but reduced to just four lines in the Q1 and F1 versions of Hamlet -- is a headache for editors on account of two problematic phrases, "the dram of eale" and "of a doubt":

            the dram of eale
    Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
    To his owne scandle.       
                    (Ham. [1.4.36-8] / 621+20-22, Q2)

    Scholars have puzzled over these lines for more than two centuries without evident success. Suggested emendations for Hamlet's "dram of eale" include a "dram of ease" (Q3 [1611]), or of "bale," "base," "eel, "esil" (for eisel)," "evil," "e'il," "helebore," "ill," "lead," "leaven," and "bran of meal."[8] The most recent suggestion is Evert Sprinchorn's dram of "eagle" (as the alchemical symbol for ammoniac).[9] Speculative emendations have found their way into both annotation and commentary, as in the Riverside Shakespeare, which emends Q2 "eale" to "ev'l" (following Keightly, ed. 1864), with the added gloss: "evil, with a pun on eale, 'yeast' (cf. o'erleavens in line [1.4.]29)." This inaccurate annotation derives from a suggestion by Robert Cartwright in 1866. Noting that Hamlet has already mentioned leaven, Cartwright takes "eale" as an otherwise unknown word for "yeast," and "doubt" as a misprint for "dough."[10] The Riverside editors wisely decline Cartwright's "dough" for "doubt" but reify his undocumented etymology for "eale."

  11. It takes only a few minutes, working intensively, to dispense with two centuries of leisurely and ultimately fruitless speculation. Shakespeare's editors, depending on the OED and other printed reference works in which "eale" does not appear, have neglected to observe that eale was once a familiar north-country word for heather ale. A LION search indicates that the potency of Scottish eale was proverbial among Shakespeare's contemporaries, as in George Wither's gibe at the "eal'd Orcades" (ale-drunk Orkneyans). John Taylor writes of eale as a matter of life and death in the north country (my emphasis):[11]

    The PICTS and the SCOTS, for ALE, were at lots,
    So high was the skill, and so kept under seal:
    The PICTS were undone, slain each mothers son,
    For not teaching the SCOTS to make Hether Eale.
    But hither or thither, it skils not much whether:
    For drink must be had, men live not by Keal, . . .

  12. It is not altogether surprising that traditional scholarship should have missed these and other such analogues as a gloss on one of Hamlet's most troublesome cruxes. Editors of Hamlet, unable to read everything, generally consult prior editions, Shakespeare bibliographies, Notes and Queries, and citations in the OED, not John Taylor the Water Poet. Meantime, readers of Taylor and Wither are unlikely to be looking for the meaning of a crux in Q2 Hamlet. (For that matter, "eale" is unknown to many readers and actors of Hamlet; for the past two centuries, the word has been edited out of the text.) But computer-assisted research can often locate pertinent testimony sitting beneath our scholarly noses. Stout eale was familiar enough in Elizabethan London to facilitate word-play on the English stage, as in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair. Norden enters drunk, remarking, "I'le ne mare, the eale's too meeghty . . ." (4.4.2).[12] His drunken refusal to drink mair eale prompts punning mockery from Knockhum, who takes "mare" for "female horse," "eale" for "heel," and Norden for a "galloway Nag" with the "staggers" (to wit, No mare for this staggering nag, lest he be mightily kicked). Knockhum proposes to make incision in Norden's forehead (a veterinary cure for the staggers) and to dress the "meeghty" (mighty, meaty) ale-drunk ass "with a little butter and garlike, . . ." (4.4.3-6). Jonson's thoughts about eale are not far removed from Hamlet's. Even as one ingredient, yeast, may overswell the loaf, or one fault corrupt great virtues, so may a tiny dram of eale overwhelm a man's nobler substance, making him a beastly sot.[13]

  13. This is not to say that "eale" means only "ale" and nothing besides. In Q2 Hamlet -- but not in Q1 or F1 -- Hamlet goes on to conflate "deale" with "devil." After urging Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "come, come, deale iustly with me" (Q2 [2.2.275] / 1322), Hamlet in the same scene continues his inexhaustible riff on imprecise elocution, this time making a deal of the devil:

    The spirit that I haue seene
    May be a deale, and the deale hath power
    T'assume a pleasing shape, . . .
                    (Q2 [2.2.598-600] / 1638-40)

    Q1 and F1 at this point have "Diuell" for Q2 "deale," nor can there be any doubt that "devil" is indeed signified by the Q2 variant -- but rather than induce editorial caution, this analogue between Q2 "eale" (eale, evil, et. al) and "deale" (deal, devil) has licensed editors to emend both "eale" and "deale." To efface what is probably an authorial spelling in Q2 not only obliterates cues to the actor with respect to pronunciation (deh-yall to signify deal, devil), it depletes the text of its own thematized interest in the slipperiness of words.

  14. Shakespeare's orthographical punning often resists the closure of print, as in the familiar example of Hamlet's "too too sallied"(Q1-2) or "too too solid" (F1) or (as often emended) "too too sullied" flesh (Ham. [1.2.129] / 312). All three readings are apt. In Macbeth's meditation on a final push that will chair him or cheer him, dis-seat or dis-eat or deceit him, the actor may split the difference, preserving the ambiguity (Mac. [5.3.21] / 2238). Editors are forced to make choices (including the First Folio compositor, who prints "dis-eate," i.e., disgorge (as if "from the maws of kites," as at Mac. [3.4.72]). In the theater, the phrase "dram of eale" may yet resonate as a dram of e'il or ill or hell.[14] It may be that some playgoers would hear additional puns on ei'el (eisel) or eagle or eel or veal.[15] But the line makes rich and perfect sense as printed in Q2 and requires no emendation.

  15. The ensuing line provides a stiffer challenge. Hamlet's dram of eale "Doth all the noble substance of a doubt." This is Hamlet's fourth exemplum of ways in which the seemingly inconsequential vice of drinking may overthrow great goodness: 1. if unchecked, even a small "mole of nature" (birth defect, digging rodent) can break down "the pales and forts of reason"; 2. the "forme" (baking-pan, good order) of a man's manners may be unable to contain one bad habit that "ore-leauens" the whole lump; 3. in the eye of public opinion, one defect may cause all virtues else to "take corruption / From that particuler fault." Fourth is that infamous dram -- but just as the text reaches its point of doubtful clarity, the Ghost appears and Hamlet breaks off, leaving his auditors and editors with an unsolved puzzle ([1.4.1738] / 621+1-22, Q2).

  16. Hamlet's "of a doubt" has spawned emendations that include "ever dout," " o'er a doubt," "out o' doubt," "overclout," "over-daub," "throw in doubt," "off and out." Also "of 't corrupt," "of a dough," "of a draught," "of good out," "of 'em sour," "of worth out." Additional readings follow "oft" with "abate," "adopt," "anneal," "debase," "endow," "outdo," "subdue," "traduce," "weigh down," or "work out," -- even "oft eat out." Further alterations deploy "often" followed by "daub," "doubt," "dout," or "draw." F. J. Furnivall suggests "oft adote" because "adote meant both to grow silly and to drive silly" -- which does have a certain aptness.[16]

  17. In evaluating these and other alternate readings, the editor should take as his primary resource, not earlier editions of Hamlet, nor even the OED, but other Shakespearean texts. All writers tend to repeat themselves, especially in similar contexts. "Words, words, words / [Polo.] What is the matter . . ." (Ham. [2.2.192] / 1230-1, Q2) becomes, in Troilus and Cressida, "Words, words, mere words, no matter . . ." (Tro. [5.3.108] / 3322, F1). The erosion of matter from words can sometimes be solved by recourse to other texts, as may be the case here. Hamlet's "noble substance" is not the only object in Shakespeare subjected to a dubious "doubt." In Hamlet 4.7, unwelcome tears for Ophelia momentarily interfere with Laertes' powers of declamation, an overwhelming folly that either "drownes" or "doubts" the youth's generally overheated oratory:

    The woman will be out. Adiew, my Lord,
    I haue a speech a fire that faine would blase,
    But that this folly drownes it.
                    (Ham. [4.7.189-91] / 3182-4, Q2)

    The woman will be out: Adue my Lord,
    I haue a speech of fire that faine would blaze,
    But that this folly doubts it.
                    (Ham. [4.7.189-91] / 3182-4, F1)

    The dissimilarity between Q2 and F1 is both greater and lesser than may at first appear: with its speech of fire, the F1 text disambiguates Q2's "a speech a fire"; and F1 "Adue" partly obscures an appositional pun that metonymically reduces Ophelia, woman, and (heaven forfend!) Laertes himself, to a dew of tears (cf. "resolue it selfe into a dewe," Ham [1.2.130] / 313, Q2). But the obvious variant -- F1 "doubts" for Q2 "drownes" -- may represent a fully authorized word-choice expressing fundamentally the same thought in both.

  18. In Henry V, the Dauphin urges his countrymen to make incision in their soon-to-be staggering horses, so that the superflowing blood ("courage") may fly in the face of the English foe:

    Dolph. Mount them, and make incision in their Hides,
    That their hot blood may spin in English eyes,
    And doubt them with superfluous courage: ha.

    Ram. What, wil you haue them weep our Horses blood?
    How shall we then behold their naturall teares?
                    (H5 [4.2.374-6] / 2178-82, F1)[17]

    The word printed as "doubt" in Q2 Hamlet 1.4, F1 Hamlet 4.7, and F1 Henry V 4.2, is clearly (for Shakespeare) the same word. All three passages entail a word evidently resembling "doubt" in pronunciation or spelling or handwriting, but whose meaning is associated with surplus liquid (heather ale, Laertes' unmasculine tears, horses' blood, English weeping). Drown is arguably correct: surely, it is more apt for "eale," "teares," or "blood," to "drown" than to "adopt," "doubt," "endow," "outdo," or (as in The New Complete Oxford Edition) "over-daub," one's "noble substance" or "eyes" or "speech of fire." Analogous collocations are plentiful, such as the "Poor Men" of John Heywood who "drownd theyr soules in ale boules," or George Chapman's rich men, who "had rather drowne their substance / In superfluities."[18] But there is at least one good reason not to accept drown in the three disputed Shakespearean passages where doubt appears: the two words are easily distinguishable in Elizabethan secretary hand, even in Shakespeare's own cramped writing.[19] Insofar as one may judge from the original printed texts, no compositor ever visually misread "doubt" as "drown," or vice versa, when typesetting Shakespeare's poems or plays.[20] Not just a simple mis-taking, the drownes/doubts variant in Hamlet 4.7 registers a choice between synonyms -- possibly recording a deliberate one-word revision (from MS copy to Q2, or from Q2 to F1) by actor, redactor, printer or (as I believe) by the poet himself, and possibly spelled just so -- "folly doubts it" -- in the underlying copytext for F1.

  19. Today the most commonly accepted reading of "doubt" in the three disputed passages is "dout" or "d'out" (OED dout/d'out, v., "to put out or extinguish," by fusion of "do out" [1526 ff.]). Doubt is spelled "dout" so frequently in early modern texts (nearly 3000 instances of dout* for doub* in LION-texts alone) that a compositor could easily typeset "doubt" for MS "dout" without spotting a discrepancy. But if "doubt" seems impossible as a synonym for drown, "dout" is not the obvious alternative. In dialect dictionaries from Gloucestershire to Yorkshire, and in literary texts from the early sixteenth century onward, "dout" and "d'out" are synonymous with "snuff," not "drown": Josuah Sylvester, for example, writes of tobacco-smoke as a vice that "d'outs the Light, / Darkens the House, th' vnderstandings Sight." Samuel Pordage writes that the grim fires of hell are "like a dark-glowing Coal, or like / A d'outed Candle, with a glowing week."[21] A "douting" typically entails loss of light and a hot smoky wick, not bedrenchment in superfluous liquid.

  20. Though d'out meaning "to snuff" is certainly a pertinent resonance, Laertes of F1 Hamlet, Prince Hamlet of Q2, and the Frenchmen of F1 Henry V take "doubt" to mean, principally, douse. For to douse in this sense the OED offers no instance earlier than 1600 (v.2 1-3, "souse," "drench," "plunge"); but the OED examples are anticipated by George Whetstone's Rocke of Regarde ([1576] "doust with dewes of rotting raine"), and by other texts that Shakespeare must have known, such as the Studley-Nuce translations of Seneca (1581).[22] The evidence of three closely analogous instances in Q2, F1 Hamlet and F1 Henry V suggests that Shakespeare wrote "doubt" (or, possibly, dout) while primarily intending the sense usually conveyed by "douse." Though unexampled outside Shakespeare, this conflation of dout with douse is just one of many such instances in which a Shakespeare coinage embraces the connotation of two closely related verbs. For the nonce, dou'ts spares Laertes a tongue-twisting "this folly dousts it," which can hardly be spoken without producing either "douts" or a sibilant stutter. Unremarkable in itself, this Shakespearean inversion (douts for dous't) is chiastically reversed in the 18th century, when "dous'd the candle" becomes current (OED douse, v.1 4, "extinguish, dout [a light]").

  21. Weighed against the evidence of "hundreds of thousands of fully searchable texts," these cruxes mutually reveal the same authorial hand at work. Though Shakespeare's editors have long supposed that the final lines of Hamlet's temperance speech are intractably corrupt, the text as printed in Q2 is probably close -- quite close -- to Shakespeare's original intention, even in its quirky spelling. (If there ever appears a fourth Elizabethan text containing the lexical peculiarity, "doubt" for doust, or "doubts" for dousts, it will be a text worth exploring further as a passage that was read, written, or directly influenced by, William Shakespeare.)

  22. In Love's Labor's Lost, the pedant Holofernes, who pronounces every philologically derived letter of every word, abhors Armado and all "such rackers of ortagriphie, as to speake dout . . . when he should say doubt; det, when he shold pronounce debt -- d, e, b, t, . . ." (LLL [5.1.17-22] / 1759-61, Q1, my italics and punctuation). Shakespeare's "abhominable ortagriphie" will not be tolerated in the work of our students and should, perhaps, be corrected in the Shakespearean text as well -- as most editors have done in the past. But it may be observed, by any Holofernesian pedant with online access to the ISE and LION archives, that we have no lexicological grounds on which to "correct" the three problematic doubts in Hamlet and Henry V. The most conservative (and I think preferable) response for a scholarly editor is to follow the respective copytext, printing "doubt" / "doubts" (but "drowns" at Q2 [4.7.191]). The most diplomatic choice -- splitting the difference between the eccentric spelling and the multiple connotations -- is to print dou't for "doubt." Either way, the reader may be assisted with an explanatory gloss: "dou't: extinguish (d'out), drown (douse), discredit (doubt)."

  23. A problem yet remains with the prepositional phrase, "of a doubt," for which no clear meaning can be extracted without emendation (Ham. [1.4.37] / 621+21, Q2). Many recent editors preserve the Q2 reading at this point -- but that says less about the line's plausibility as printed than about editorial despair. Neither Shakespearean texts, nor the OED, nor any currently available text archive offers an analogue for Q2's impossible syntax. Of four plausible emendations -- "ouer-doubt," "of 't doubt," "oft a-doubt," and "often doubt" (or "-dou't" in each instance) -- only two are fully defensible. "Overdoubt" lacks a precedent and works against all three senses (douse, extinguish, discredit);[23] "of 't doubt" lacks a direct antecedent for the interpolated pronoun, and "of 't" is a contraction rarely found in Shakespeare, occurring only twice (though common in plays by Davenport, Drue, Massinger, and Webster).

  24. The third reading, "of[t] a[-]doubt," is the most economical solution, requiring only the addition of a single letter and a hyphen (or a closed space and no hyphen). "Of a" and "oft a" were near-homophones in Elizabethan English. Errors in of, off, oft, of't, often, are common in manuscripts and printed texts of the early modern period, and synonymous verbs formed with or without an initial a- are common as well. Shakespeare employs interchangably such verbs as bate/abate, bide/abide, brook/abrook, butt/abutt. Q1, Q2, and F1 Hamlet contain instances of the verbs, board and aboard and join/adjoin, fright and affright.[24] It could be that Shakespeare encountered and was influenced by Middle English adout (v., to fear)[25] -- and if "oft a-dou't" represents the poet's intention, then Burbage or any skilled actor might have spoken the line to its prevailing sense without any emendation at all. But I find no instance of adout ("adoubt") employed to signify either dout or douse, and "oft a-doubt." Lacking a precedent or close analogue either in Shakespeare or in his identifiable reading, "oft a-doubt" seems a little tenuous, perhaps overly clever in conserving original orthography -- in which case, editors are left with "often doubt" (or "often dou't") as their only fully defensible reading.

  25. It scarcely matters to the contextual sense of these lines, however, whether the manuscript copy underlying Q2 originally read "oft a" or "often." The meaning to be conveyed by the actor playing Hamlet is clear: "The dram of eale" doth often d'out, douse, and discredit one's virtue. ("To" has the force of "resulting in," as with the common idiom "to his great embarrassment" or "to my own shame.")[26] Thus, as conservatively normalized:

            . . . the dram of eale
    Doth all the noble substance often dou't,
    To his owne scandle--        Enter Ghost
    Hora. --Look, my lord, it comes!
                   (Ham. [1.4.36-8] / 621+20-22)

    Without further emendation these lines may yet distill or foment more original wit than douts the eye in a fully normalized text. The first words out of Hamlet's mouth are an orthographical pun: "A little more then kin, and lesse then kind" (Q2, [1.2.64-5] / 245). He later situates memory in the seat of the distracted "globe" (head) and "Globe" (theater) [1.5.96-7] / 781-2). He puns on the Elizabethan homophones, as and ass, which for Shakespeare mutually denote the writer's "as" as the vehicle of metaphor ([5.2.43] / 3545); a text's as if, corporealized in the asinine player ([2.2.395, 416-18, 582] /1443, 1462-3, 1623); and the player's mode of transport -- the ass that carries all ([2.2.395] / 1443). Shakespeare elsewhere makes swords of words (frequently), "bookes" of the running "brookes" (AYL [2.1.16] / 622), a bench and riverbank, a school and shoal, out of "Banke and Schoole" (Mac. [1.7.6] / 480). "O" may be a circle or a cipher or a sigh, a wooden theater, the female pudendum, a crown, or nothing at all. By the substitution or loss of a letter, "good words" in Shakespeare may be made into "worts" (vegetables) and "orts" (table scraps) (Wiv. [1.1.120-1, 254]; or "eale" into "e'il." And even as the dram of eale, added to virtue, may generate scandal, so may just one letter, added to candle, create scandle.[27]

  26. In 1 Henry IV, Hotspur complains of a cranking river that "cuts me from the best of all my land / A huge halfe moone, a monstrous scantle out," a cut that would rob his "bottome" 1H4 ([3.1.97-9 ] / 1626-33, Q1). F1, and most modern editions, emend "scantle" (Q1-6, probably an authorial spelling) to "cantle," thereby effacing Q1's possibly wry orthography, a compressed commentary on the scandal of being scanted by a cantle. The theatrical audience is none the wiser for the theft of a letter, since "a monstrous scantle" (Q1) and "a monstrous Cantle" (F1) sound identical. To perceive another such pun in Hamlet's "scandle" may be frivolous -- but perhaps no more frivolous than to amend the spelling, disseminating "scandal" as in most modern editions. In 17th-century usage (as represented by LION texts), a "substance" may be "doust" or "drowned" or "doubted" -- but it is almost always a "candle" that gets "d'outed." Editors are justified in preserving the original orthography, if for no better reason than to make allowance for the free play of Shakespeare's words and characters on the printed page, as on the wooden stage.


  27. In his classic study, The Road to Xanadu, John Livingston Lowes investigates poetic composition as a cognitive process in which "hooked atoms" of images, acquired through engagement with other texts, combine to shape the poet's new writing. For Lowes, literary creation is associative and aggregative: "Kubla Khan" represents "the unchecked subliminal flow" of words, images, and observations acquired by Coleridge over a period years and released in flood during focused composition. The dreaming poet was the passive subject of his own cerebral musings, "merely the detached and unsolicitous spectator" of his own outpouring of language (Lowes 401). Lowes's model of writing, though distinctly un-Coleridgean in its diminishment of the poet's agency, is Romantic nonetheless, and logocentric through and through. As reconstructed by Lowes, the poetic utterance is a latent presence that speaks in and through the poet. But as a chartered journey through Coleridge's cerebral cortex, The Road to Xanadu is a tour de force. Lowes demonstrates the fragmentary and associative processes by which words themselves produce other words. Composition inevitably arises from a neurological network of figurational and verbal associations, some transient, some deeply rooted in the writer's symbolic system, each and all conditioned by some prior utterance. Literature is not so much created, as prompted -- word for word, this word for that -- from a range of possibilities within the writer's symbolic store.

  28. What Lowes accomplished in his study of Coleridge by scrupulous, old-fashioned scholarship can now be carried out more quickly and objectively for other poets, including Shakespeare, with electronic assistance. It has become possible to chart much of Shakespeare's reading (and of contemporaries who read Shakespeare's texts) by the transmission of new and rare words from one text to another. A voracious reader and unabashed borrower, Shakespeare was far less inventive in his vocabulary that is widely supposed. Most of the words for which he receives originary citations in the Shakespeare-heavy OED appear also in antecedent texts, many of which are now searchable in LION, and many of which Shakespeare certainly read. Relative to such poets as Edmund Spenser or Thomas Nashe or John Marston, Shakespeare acquired few words by outright coinage. More typically, he traded in established verbal currencies, lifting so much of his diction from now-identifiable texts that his reading throughout his career can be largely documented. The vocabulary of Arthur Broke's Romeus and Juliet explodes into Shakespeare's new writing in 1592 -- not, first, in Romeo and Juliet, but in the latter scenes of 3 Henry VI. Broke's text continues to register a pronounced and measurable impact on Shakespeare's writing for the next several years.

  29. Shortly after his exposure to Broke, Shakespeare encountered Ortho-epia Gallica, by John Eliot; Terrors of the Night, by Thomas Nashe; Parthenophil and Parthenophe, by Barnabe Barnes; Marlowe's Hero and Leander and his translation of Lucan; Christs Teares, by Nashe; Samuel Daniel's Cleopatra and Delia and Rosamond.[28] Shakespeare's lexical indebtedness to these and other texts is a phenomenon that could not be objectively charted without electronic assistance; but neither can its significance be understood if it is treated as a simple matter of documenting the poet's lexical sources. This an area of research that promises to shed new light on problems of dating, relations between poets, and early stage history -- while also providing a fuller understanding of the creative processes by which Shakespeare transmuted his reading and shared cultural assumptions into something uniquely his own.

  30. Shakespeare's lexical indebtedness, and what that means for Q1, Q2, and F1 Hamlet, will be the topic of my companion article on "The Texts." But before considering the hundreds of rare words in Hamlet that derive from non-Shakespearean sources, or those that pass in significant numbers through Shakespeare to Jonson, Heywood, Ford, and others, some understanding is necessary of the ways in which words generate other words intratextually and from one Shakespearean text to another. I am primarily concerned here, not with the poet's conscious and unconscious borrowing, but with what happens to Shakespeare's own words once they are set down on paper. Many words, of course, are repeated, allowing editors when faced with a problematic instance to infer the poet's meaning or intended word-choice by a repetition of the same word elsewhere (as in the instance of Hamlet's peculiar "doubt"). Some words, inevitably, get changed -- by actors, theatrical scribes, censors, or by Shakespeare himself -- before ever reaching the printed page. Still others are omitted or replaced or mistyped in the printhouse. But new words are often formed in Shakespeare by a complex network of cerebral association -- mnemonic, metonymic, synechdochic, phonological -- by which one word forges another in the heat of composition. This is a kind of intratextual transmission not ordinarily considered in editing or critical reading but pertinent to both.

  31. While hundreds of rare words are repeated from Shakespeare's reading to his writing, or within the Shakespearean text, or from one Shakespearean text to the next, many otherwise unique words are revised slightly and repeated with the acquired difference, producing in the same text (or in multiple texts at the same writerly moment) an associative chain that is never afterwards repeated. Unlike habitual image clusters -- such as Shakespeare's familiar collocation of dogs, flattery, and sweets -- associative chains between similar phonemes are typically triggered by the act of writing and then forgotten. This phenomenon of linked signifiers, a product of the poet's own largely unconscious mnemonics, is fully evident in at least two of the three Hamlets, and in the Shakespearean texts to which Hamlet is most closely related in point of date. Examples include beautied (ad.) and beautified (ad.), cognates that appear only once in canonical Shakespeare, both in Hamlet; or cast (n., forging) and cast (n., color) -- same signifier, different signifieds, each found only in Hamlet. One signifier slides into the next: gib (n., cat) and gibber (v.) appear only in Hamlet. The first is derived from a popular name for cats; the second is a Shakespearean coinage derived etymologically from gibberish (n., v.) -- but likely to have been prompted, in the writer's mind, by "gib" (n.). Windlass (n.) and woundless (ad.), which appear in Shakespeare only in Hamlet, were probably imported from Ovid's Metamorphosis[29] -- but even if Golding were unknown to Shakespeare, the mere occurrence in Hamlet of windlass tends to facilitate the poet's thinking of woundless and vice versa. In a similar vein, Shakespeare in Hamlet introduces sere (n.) and cerement (n.) and strewment (n.). After Hamlet, all of these words are "forgotten," never to reappear in the poet's written work. None appears in the Q1 version.

  32. The poet was probably unaware of this cognitive phenomenon, even during the act of composition, but it conditions his every text. A simple computer-search of Hamlet against the rest of Shakespeare yields dozens of unique words that were linked in cognition as the poet wrote or revised his text, and that were then promptly "forgotten." These include muddied (ad.), muddy-mettled (ad.), and co-meddle (v.); comutual (ad.) and comart (n.) (cf. comate [n.], only in AYL); crow-flower (n.) and over-crow (v.); dozy (v.) and drossy (ad.); dropping (n. [also in Q1]) and dropping (ad. [also in Pericles]) and drabbing (n.); incorporal (ad.) and incorpse (v.); kettle (n.) and kettle-drum (n.); over-do (v.), over-done (ad.), and over-doing (n.); pocky (ad. [also in Q1]), paddock (n.), and pajock (n.); weedy (ad.) and palmy (ad.) and primy (ad.); sallied (ad. [also in Q1]) and sally (n.); satirical (ad. [also in Q1]) and satyr (n.); sized (v.) and o'ersized (v.); brainish and skyish (ad.); unfellowed (ad.) and school-fellow (n.). The Player has grown by a "chopine" (also in Q1) while the clown has become "chop-fallen," and the courtier, "chopless" (F1 "chapless").[30] All of these cognates, some morphological, others only phonemic, appear in Q2. A few of these pairings are revised, the link broken, in F1. Most, in Q1, are lacking: mouth (v., rant), mouth (v., put in mouth), nose (v., smell), and unhand (v.), a chain of verbs produced from body parts, constitute the only notable instance in which the same cluster of unique words appears in Q1 as in Q2 and F1 (cf. belly [v.], only in Tro.). From the skewed distribution of such word-clusters in the three Hamlets, one might infer that F1 revises Q2, and that the distinctive language of Q2 was lost in transmission to Q1 unless Q1 precedes both Q2 and F1 in point of date.

  33. The poet's ephemeral clustering of unique words typically vibrates within the text, then ripples outward into others. One finds tatter (n., F1) and totter (n., Q1-2), only in Hamlet ; tether (n., F1) and teder (n., Q2 ["tider"]), only in Hamlet; tetter (n.) only in Hamlet (Q2-F1) and Troilus and Cressida; tetter (v.) only in Hamlet (Q1) and Coriolanus. Capon-crammed appears only in Q1 Hamlet, promised-crammed only in the "good" Hamlets (Q2-F1), news-crammed only in As You Like It, and crammed (ad.) only in Troilus and Cressida. Though textual editors rarely concern themselves with cognitive psychology, these manifest habits of word-association may illuminate problems of dating, borrowing, or supposed textual corruption. Q2 "arture," already noted, is routinely dismissed by editors as an obvious misprint on a par with "artiue" and "artire" ([1.4.82] / 669). An electronic survey indicates Q1 "artiue" is indeed a typographical error, and F1 "artire," correct. Though neither the OED nor LION offers a precedent for "arture," the Q2 reading may, in a sense, be "correct" as well. Elsewhere in Q2 one finds "ardure" (n.) a unique word that forms, with "arture," a quintessentially Shakespearean collocation (Ham. ([3.4.86] / 2461; cf. "artlesse" (ad.), also unique, at [4.5.19] / 2765] ). The orthographical proximity of "arture" (for artire, pronounced art-yer in either case) and "ardure" suggests that Q2's supposed misprint may have on it Shakespeare's own inadvertent stamp of approval. The apparent misspelling may even hold some critical interest: Hamlet's "fate" makes the "petty arture . . . hardy"; by contrast, Gertrude's "compulsive ardure" melts virtue "in her own fire" ([1.4.81-3] / 668-70, [3.4.84-6] / 2459-61). For Hamlet in Q2, feminine ardure is the melting opposite of a hardy masculine arture. Editors may therefore wish to preserve the likeness in orthography.

  34. This network of verbal associations, conveniently traceable in the ISE texts of Q2 and F1 Hamlet, invites some reconsideration of Q1, where bad spelling may perhaps signify something besides just bad printing or the mindless corruption of a memorial reconstructor. Q1's "arganian beast" and "calagulate gore" in the rugged Pyrrhus speech are often cited as instances of contamination. "Hyrcanian" was evidently intended, as in F1; or perhaps "ircanian," as in Q2 (Ham. [2.2.451] / 1493).[31] Q1's evident confusion of arg- for 'irc- may point to an underlying manuscript in which the word was printed in caps (as often obtains for proper adjectives and classical words in Elizabethan manuscripts), or to an aural slip of a stenographer or memorial reconstructor. But it is just possible that "arganian" had meaningful resonance for the Q1 author -- comprising, let's say, both the "arcane" and "Argantian."[32] Q1 "calagulate" may have been suggested by "caligate" (booted like a soldier), or it could be a second malapropos conflation of the biological with the biographical -- of "coagulate" with "Caligula," the quintessential tyrant, bloody and incestuous: "Caligula / All his awin Sisteris did defyle."[33] "Those who contemne the miseries of men, / . . . / like to sauage Lions in their den, / With proud Caligula, do tirannize . . ."[34] "[W]hen bloudy slayne [he] lay. / Here lyes (quoth they) thrust thirty times throughout / The monster vile, that beast Caligula."[35] Lydgate's Fall of Princes, a book that Shakespeare read before 1601, twice mentions Caligula in the same breath with the emporer Claudius.[36] As a phrase suggestive of excess and Dionysian butchery, an Elizabethan playwright (or audience or printhouse compositor) may have found Q1's "calagulate gore" no less resonant than Q2's "coagulate gore."

  35. I do not myself find this explanation wholly persuasive -- "arganian" and "calagulate" still look like mistakes -- but the odd spellings are suggestive, almost intriguing. One might infer from the associative chains in Q2 that Shakespeare not only knew Q1's rugged Pyrrhus speech, but was amused by it. The gravedigger's malapropos "argall" (for ergo) has no recorded precedent either in LION or the OED, nor any second instance after Q2/F1 Hamlet ([5.1.12, 19, 48] / 3200, 3208, 3237). As a developing linguistic thread, however, its route in Shakespeare is easily traced from the standard "ergo" (in A Comedy of Errors, The Taming of a Shrew, Love's Labor's Lost, and Merchant of Venice) to "argall" (in Hamlet), and "argo" (in Hand D of Sir Thomas More ).[37] The clown's three argalls then splinter off into etymologically unrelated replicants, freshly cued by the poet's new reading, as in Troilus and Cressida, which begins with princes "orgillous" (a word more directly prompted by Shakespeare's reading of Caxton's Recuyell) and purblind "Argus." In a similar vein, the malapropos "bilbow" (elbow) of Princess Katherine in Henry V yields the "bilbo/es" (swords) and "Bill-berry" (bilberry) of Q1, F1 Merry Wives, and the "bilboes" (fetters) of Q3, F1 Hamlet -- all of which words Shakespeare uses only once, c. 1599-1600, and then abandons.[38] In Hamlet, the gravedigger's first "argall" may be triggered by "argues," directly above it in the preceding line ([5.1.11] / 3199), but the delver's corruption invites a question from editors whether "argall" may have received added impetus from Q1 "arganian" -- with Shakespeare moving the malapropism to another scene while turning the Pyrrhus speech itself into an ear-catching meditation on the elocution of senseless words that sound about right ("That's good: mobled queen is good").[39] Such speculation can go either way: the Q1 poet, recalling Shakespeare's argall for ergo, may have tried something similar, if inept, with his "arganian." My point here is not to argue for the chronological precedence of the Q1 version, only to urge restraint in ascribing all of Q1's difference to unintentional corruption while obliterating original orthography with editorial emendation.

  36. It is worth considering as well whether Q1 "calagulate" may not have cued, or been cued by, Q2 "Coleagued" (Ham. [1.2.21] / 199; F1 "Colleagued"), a Shakespearean coinage otherwise unexampled in LION and the OED. One may, at least, be fairly sure from the context that Q2's "Coleagued" is a word that resonated -- for Shakespeare, as for his original audience -- with still another word, "collogued" (flattered, cajoled), a verb that was familiar to Elizabethans, occurring in many plays though not in canonical Shakespeare.[40] In fact, collogued may have been the word that Shakespeare principally had in mind. But in most modern editions of Hamlet the near-pun on collogued and coleagued is obscured by an editorial hyphen, reducing the ambiguity to a plausible "Co-leagued" and thereby depleting the sense.

  37. In the future, editors may wish to consider Shakespeare's proximate signifiers, in addition to the OED's list of approximate signifieds, when glossing or emending the text. Neither strategy is without its respective limitations. Some Shakespearean diction is simply unique and inexplicable. No textual or etymological source has ever been found for the player's "mobled" queen (Q1, Q2) -- emended in F1 to "inobled," and in many subsequent editions to "ennobled." A LION search indicates no closer analogue than Gavin Douglas, whose Scots translation of Virgil's Aeneid has "moblis quhen" (i.e., movables when), a phrase that supplies phonological and orthographical affinities but no etymological foundation for Shakespeare's Hecuba.[41] It may be tempting to speculate, on the pattern of such twisted Shakespearean coin elsewhere, that the poet encountered Douglas's archaic phrase, and paused over it just long enough for "moblis quhen" to reappear as the player's "mobled queen" in Q2 (and Q1). But I doubt it. I mention it here, in conclusion, only as a teaser: there is hardly a word or phrase in all of Shakespeare that is not in some way illuminated by some other archived text. Words are borrowed, copied, swapped, revised, redefined, turned inside out. As a guide to the transmission and authority of Shakespearean texts, the poet's ever-mutating vocabulary can be as illuminating as the study of compositorial practices -- and perhaps more so, in that peculiarities of diction, usage, and orthography can now be situated within the poet's own linguistic system, traced in his before and after writing, and distinguished from the work of other poets who wrote within the same historical moment and cultural milieu. Such study invites editors and critics alike to think of the text not only as a product, but as process -- and of Shakespeare's writing as an act conditioned by other writerly acts. In this respect, computer-assisted text analysis, though radically new, is radically old-fashioned. The study of transmitted diction -- from the read to the written text, or from theatrical rehearsal to the written text, or from one written word to the next -- returns us to issues of the poet's own cognition as a reading, writing, and performing subject.


  38. Traditional scholarship stands today at the threshold of a cultural shift that is at once exciting and worrisome. The electronic revolution has brought with it certain advantages for our teaching and scholarly research, but the humanities themselves seem to stand at risk as never before. The triumph of cyberculture is everywhere apparent. The World Wide Web has replaced the library, for many of our students, as the obvious site for conducting original research. The study of classical cultures and languages is being folded into anthropology to make room for burgeoning enrollments in computer science. As hundreds of thousands of printed books rot slowly in our libraries, consumed by the acid in the very paper that was intended to preserve the text, electronic publication endlessly proliferates. Anyone can publish anything, under anyone's name, responding to any audience, motive, or market whatsoever. As the developing path of Western culture, the electronic superhighway has begun to look like a strip mall on both sides of the street. One can find on the Web many of the "Great Books" in digital form, some engaging literary criticism, many scholarly resources; but these remnants of modernist culture are isolated outposts, infrequently visited and lost from view in a maze of commercial sites, XXX pornography, and Usenet chatboards. In this postmodern free-for-all it is hard to envision much of a sacerdotal role for the literary scholar. Matthew Arnold must be turning over in his grave.

  39. With our profession under attack and yet threatened with irrelevance, scholars rooted in the humanistic disciplines may feel today much as the Greek poets did when confronted with the Socratic revolution. In his Preface to Plato, Eric Havelock finds that Plato's assault on poetry was fundamentally technological in nature. Before Homer, oral memory served as the store of Greek culture. Between Homer and Plato, the Greeks became increasingly literate. Information became alphabetized, the eyes replacing the ears as the principal organ of cultural transmission. In Havelock's view, Plato lived in the midst of that revolution and became its prophet:

    had remained for practical purposes a poetic tradition The Greek cultural tradition down to the end of the fifth century . . . The stored experience necessary to maintain cultural stability was in the main preserved only in the living memories of the people. The arts and mechanisms of literacy had remained marginal to the day's work until about the time of the Peloponnesian War. The tradition had to be poetized in order to be memorized and so preserved. Hence, Plato correctly attacks the poets and in particular Homer as the sole encyclopedic source of Greek moral and technical information -- for, in fact, the a cultural encyclopedia for a nonliterate Iliad functions as people.[42]

  40. Thirty years after Havelock wrote these words, we appear to be living through a similar upheaval. Today, the Information Superhighway threatens to displace book-learning as the West's repository of cultural knowledge and shared value. Information has been digitized, the "machine" replacing our very eyes. (Those hard-working scholars in the nineteenth century who devoted whole careers to source study ought to have waited: a computer can now perform the same labor in minutes, reading millions of words per second.) No one in literary studies wishes to see the printed book go the way of scrolled parchment. Nor will it. (Plato's Republic did not, after all, banish oral poetry from Greece.) But whether we like it or not, the cyberprophet is correct when he assails traditional scholarship as the cultural encyclopedia for our increasingly computer-literate society. The important lesson to be inferred from Havelock's Preface to Plato is simply this: "All human civilisations rely on a sort of cultural 'book,' that is, on the capacity to put information in storage in order to reuse it" (my emphasis).[43] For traditional learning and humanistic scholarship to be preserved, it, too, must be digitized. Today, as the West's cultural encyclopedia is electronically generated, preserved, and disseminated, scholars are challenged to reformat our discipline, putting into electronic circulation those primary and secondary texts that we have come to value, together with tools that will ensure their continued utility and relevance to future generations.

  41. Michael Best with the Internet Shakespeare Editions, Ian Lancashire with Representative Poetry On-line, and Chadwyck Healey with LION, are among those who have risen to the challenge, processing and storing electronic texts for our own and future generations. But it is hardly enough simply to put that information into accessible storage. The future success of literary scholarship depends on our ability to integrate those electronic texts with our ongoing work as scholars and teachers, and to exploit fully the advantages offered by the new medium. Reading Hamlet on one's home computer screen is not like holding a copy of Q2 in the Bodleian Library, but electronic texts do have certain benefits over print. To begin with, hypertext solves the problem of having to choose between arture and artire, doubt and dou't, mobled and inobled; or between Q2 affection, apple, aright, askance, etc., and F1 affectation, ape, right, aslant. If F1 Much Ado prints ease for Q1's eat, readers of the electronic text can have their cake and ease it too ([1.1.51] / 48). Editors can supply variants and glosses unobtrusively, within the (hyper)text, instead of glutting the printed page with notes or banishing all to a distant appendix. The Internet Shakespeare Editions promise to beach the old Moby Shakespeare -- the only edition of the works now freely available on the Web -- replacing it with transcripts and diplomatic editions in which even trivial variants (Q2 "a speech a fire"; F1 "a speech of fire") are just a mouse-click away. Perpetually under construction, the ISE editions may be augmented with editorial glosses, literary criticism, stage history, graphics, video clips, theater reviews, archival records, and text-processing software. Transfigured so together, the original printed texts grow to something of greater constancy for our teaching and scholarship, providing a virtual reconstruction of Shakespearean English in all of its richness, complexity, and excess.

  42. My focus in this discussion has been limited to the individual variant or possible misprint only because such problems offer a simple and convenient place to begin when illustrating the utility of electronic texts, whether for research or for the begetting of new and more reliable electronic editions than are currently available. With these few examples, I have hardly scratched the surface of the tangled web of Hamlet, a linguistic patchwork that was written and copied out, memorized and performed, printed and reprinted, revised and revived, misread and overheard, generating more variants than will ever be traced. What is required -- and possible -- is a detailed exploration of the unique and shared linguistic material in Q1, Q2, and F1 Hamlets, with systematic cross-reference to other Shakespearean and non-Shakespearean texts of the period. That remains a daunting task, but these are exciting times, offering new tools, fresh opportunities, and innovative methodologies, for the undaunted. By tapping into these new reserves, one is made bold to attempt new feats of textual scholarship -- a challenge that, when answered, can make Hamlet's "dram of eale" look like small beer.


[1] See, for example, Honigmann, Warren, Warren and Taylor, and Urkowitz (Shakespeare's Revision of King Lear; "Reconsidering the Relationship of Quarto and Folio Texts of Richard III"; "'Well-sayd olde Mole': Burying Three Hamlets in Modern Editions"; "If I mistake in Those Foundations Which I Build Upon"; "Back to Basics: Thinking about the Hamlet first Quarto"), and Marcus. [Back]

[2] Michael Best, et. al., eds. Internet Shakespeare Editions, online, available at <http://web.uvic.ca/shakespeare/Annex>. Except as noted, all Q1, Q2, F1 and Hamlet citations are to the ISE (online, available at <http://web.uvic.ca/shakespeare/Annex>), with Through Line Numbers from F1. Q1 or Q2 lines not in F1 are recorded with the TLN number, a plus sign, and the additional number (e.g., 621+20) My bracketed line numbers conform with The Riverside Shakespeare and with Spevack's Complete and Systematic Concordance to the Works of Shakespeare. [Back]

[3] Publisher's introduction (Chadwyck Healey). LION is available by subscription at <http://lion.chadwyck.com>. Citations for this essay are to the LION databases of "English Drama (1250-1900)" and "English Poetry (1100-1900)." As I write in October 1997, the Drama database covers "over 2,700 plays by 580 authors from the late thirteenth century to the early twentieth century"; the Poetry database includes "165,000 poems by more than 1,250 poets drawn from nearly 4,500 printed sources." I have limited my cross-sample to the 2,100 texts and authorial corpora (1475-1640) that Shaxicon currently cross-indexes with Shakespeare (Foster, ed., "Shaxicon"). Also available but not consulted for this essay (because not yet indexed in Shaxicon) are the LION databases of "Early English Prose Fiction (1500-1700)" and "The Bible in English (990-1970)." The LION texts in their current form are not perfectly reliable. Though reportedly double-keyed throughout, errors are frequent, including habitual confusion of f with long-stem s -- so that say or miss in the original printed text may be reproduced in LION as "fay," "miffe." Minims signaled by a tilde over a vowel in the original texts are systematically omitted in the LION transcripts -- so that condemn ("cődemn") may appear as "codemn." But despite its shortcomings, LION is an extraordinary resource, one that for sheer quantity dwarfs all competing text archives. [Back]

[4] A caveat: LION supplies mostly diplomatic old spelling texts (including vv for w), but typographical errors are frequent, especially in long-stem s. Inexplicably, minims signified in the original printed texts by a tilde over the vowel are simply omitted, so that womă becomes woma, and cődemn, codemn, etc. Searches for particular words can therefore be cumbersome, requiring many alternative spellings to catch all instances of a word or phrase. [Back]

[5] Evident misprints in Q2 include "sort" for sate ([1.5.56] / 742), "possesse" for posset ([1.5.68] / 753), "vnmatcht" for unwatched ([3.1.188] / 1846), "considerat" for confederate (3.2.256 / 2126), "silly" for salary ([3.3.79] / 2355), "heaue, a kissing" for heauen-kissing ([3.4.59] / 2443), "soope" for stoupe ([5.1.60] / 3250), "sully" for sultry ([5.2.98] / 3603), "trennowed" for winnowed ([5.2.192] / 3256), and dozens more. Apparent misprints in F1 include "bestil'd" for distilled ([1.2.204] / 395), "treble" for tenable ([1.2.247] / ), "bak'd" for bark'd [1.5.71] / 756), "locke" for lack ([2.2.199] / 1237), "to take" for total ([2.2.457] / 1499), "warm'd" for wanned ([2.2.554] / 1594), "ore-stop" for o'erstep ([3.2.19] / 1867), "Politician" for pelican ([4.5.147] / 2896) -- and many more. [Back]

[6] Gorges's Pharsalia shares more rare diction with Hamlet than do most other nondramatic texts in LION, including many words not in Q1, such as blunted (ad.), to be garrisoned (v.), incestious (ad. [Q1, F1 incestuous]), loam (n.), school-fellow (n.), tether (n.), unforced (ad.), upshot (n.), et. al. A "rare" word is here defined as one that occurs 12 or fewer times in Shakespeare's canonical plays, and 50 or fewer times in Shaxicon's cross-sample of 2,100 STC texts and authorial corpora. [Back]

[7] Guido de Cauliaco, The Questyonary of Cyrurygens (Robert Copland). This example starkly illustrates the nearly universal practice of editors to invest even one OED citation with authorizing force for emendations and glosses. Citations for the Riverside Shakespeare, are to the electronic WordCruncher edition. [Back]

[8] H. H. Furness, ed., Hamlet (1.82-88). [Back]

[9] Sprinchorn ("Hamlet's 'Dram of Eale'"). [Back]

[10] Cartwright (87). [Back]

[11] George Wither (ll. 55-8); Taylor (ll. 275-8). [Back]

[12] Jonson (Bartholomew Fair). [Back]

[13] Cf. Shakespeare's Timon, said to have "a sinne / That often drownes him and takes his valour prisoner. / . . . his drinke dangerous" (Tim. [3.5.68-73] / 1327-33). Stephano's "man-Monster hath drown'd his tongue in sacke" (Tmp. [3.2.13] / 1362-3). According to Feste, a man is drowned by the third draught above heat (TN [1.5.131-6] / 424-9). F1 transcripts, LION (1996). [Back]

[14] Or ail (OED ail, sb., "trouble, affliction, . . . ailment"); or eile (v. and sb.1), a common Tudor spelling, available to Shakespeare through such texts as Gower's Confessio Amantis ("Allas, what mai ous eile?"). [Back]

[15] Hamlet mentions eisel (vinegar) as a sour potation at Ham. [5.1.276] / 3473 (Q2 "Esill," F1 "Esile," Q1 misprint, "uessels"). It may be supposed that Shakespeare would pun on eale (ale), e'il (evil), ei'el (eisel), on the pattern of I'll, isle, aisle, but insofar as one may judge from variant spellings, the s in eisel was always pronounced, precluding a pun. [Back]

[16] Quoted without citation by Furness (1.88). [Back]

[17] Shakespeare (Henry V). [Back]

[18] Heywood (167); Chapman (The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois 1.1.341-2). [Back]

[19] Compare, for example, The Boke of Sir Thomas More," second addition, Hand D, downe (lines 22, 40, 73, 119), growne (65), and doubt (147). [Back]

[20] Cf. R3 [1.4.270] / 1104, F1 "chop [=toss] thee," Q1-6 "drown you"; R3 [3.5.95] / 2150, F1 "Doubt," Q1-6 "Feare."' Such variants typically represent conscious or inadvertent lexical substitutions, not compositorial misreadings of illegible copy. [Back]

[21] Sylvester; Pordage (ll. 4296-7). [Back]

[22] Whetstone (l. 20); cf. Studley ("Hippolytus" 5.75; "Octauia" 1.4.49). [Back]

[23] But cf. Ford, "those eyes / Which lately were so ouerdrown'd in teares, . . ." (2.571-2). [Back]

[24] Cf. participial, mostly adverbial, constructions in "a-" such as "a cursing," Ham. [2.2.586] / 1626, "a making," [1.3.119] / 585, "a praying," [3.3.73] / 2350, "a swearing," [3.3.91] / 2366, and "a worke" (adv.) [2.2.488] / 1528 (Q2); hyphenated in most modern editions. [Back]

[25] See, for example, the Destruction of Troy (4.1096-9), "Ye noblist of nome țat neuer man adouted" (London, 1869, 1874; reprod. LION, 1992); adout (v.) or adouted (ad.) occur also in Alexander and Dindimus (2 instances), The Romance of Guy of Warwick (3), The Romance of William of Palerme (3). [Back]

[26] Cf. "put me to this shame and trouble, . . . some scandall to your selfe," (Err [5.1.14-15] / 1478-9, F1); but "doubt" or "dou't" or "adout" may resonate partly as a verb modifying the succeeding phrase, comprising an implicit parallel with the common idiom, "redound vnto your good" (2H6 [4.9.47] / 2901). [Back]

[27] In the southern standard tongue, as, is, his, were pronounced ass, iss, hiss, not azz, izz, hizz -- and own was a near-homophone of one. When hearing the final lines of Hamlet's speech as spoken by Burbage, Shakespeare's audience may easily have missed the primary sense, failing to apprehend that the man of virtue is at risk of being doubted, or dou'ted, to "his owne scandle," and not "his son's candle." (Cf. "his sowne & his wyf," "for his sownis sak," "his sowne with hyme can," "catone fobad his sowne in his lessone / To law hyme-self" ["Middle English Poetry," passim, LION, 1992]). [Back]

[28] See Foster ("Romeo and Juliet"; "The Webbing of Romeo and Juliet"). [Back]

[29] Of the 2,100 texts, 1475-1640, included in LION and indexed in Shaxicon, no non-Shakespearean text has a stronger relative correspondence with Q2 Hamlet than Golding's Metamorphosis (Foster, "Shaxicon" [1997]) Shakespeare may have been reading the Metamorphosis while writing Hamlet: the dozens of rare Hamlet-words possibly lifted directly from Golding include "fellies" (n., mentioned above), and many others that appear nowhere else in Shakespeare, from adjoin (v.) through whirling (ad.), whore (v.), windlass (n.), witching (ad.), woundless (ad.), and zone (n.). Golding's Metamorphosis, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and David Garrick's adaptation of Hamlet (the last not indexed in Shaxicon) are the only three LION texts in which both windlass and woundless appear. [Back]

[30] Cf. Q2-F1 Rom. misprint, "chapels" for chapless. [Back]

[31] Cf. ircaninan (Q2 Ham. ) with irk (v.) and irksome (ad.), appearing together only in AYL, and elsewhere only in Shr. and 1-3 Henry VI. [Back]

[32] Argantius is mentioned with Nero as a man whose "beastly bloudy minde" did "weaue the web of woe" (Blenerhasset). The multiple sword-fights of Tasso's Argante, translated into purple verse by Richard Carew [1594] and Edward Fairfax [1600], were likewise familiar to Elizabethan readers. [Back]

[33] Wedderburn. [Back]

[34] Brathwait (337-40). [Back]

[35] Higgins. [Back]

[36] Lydgate (Book 7, ll. 316, 323; cf. lines 325-8, 411-13, 486, 523, 566). [Back]

[37] In Elizabethan English, ergo and "argo" were virtual homophones. LION (as of Oct. 1997) supplies 400 instances of "ergo" or "ergoe"; excepting Shakespeare in Sir Thomas More, "argo-" appears only with reference to Jason. [Back]

[38] Tro. [Pro. 2] / 2), [1.2.29] / 187; H5 [3.4.29] / 1348; Wiv. [1.1.162] / 150, [3.5.111] / 1777, [5.5.45] / 2527 ; Ham. [5.2.6] / 5.2.6 (Q2 "bilbo"). Shakespeare often employs words first as malapropisms, only later with standard usage. Examples include aggravate (v.), agitation (n.), familiarity (n.), impertinent (ad.), odious (ad.), prodigious (ad.), tolerable (ad.), vulgar (ad.). [Back]

[39] The Q2 compositor, evidently confused by the initial appearance of an unfamiliar word, prints "or all" for "argall" at 3202, getting it right thereafter (cf. "argall" at [5.1.19] / 3208 and [5.1.48] / 3238). [Back]

[40] Also spelled "cologue," "cologuing," etc., as in Breton, and Swetnam, the Woman-Hater, an anonymous play that borrows material directly from Hamlet. [Back]

[41] Douglas; Coldwell. [Back]

[42] Havelock (book jacket). [Back]

[43] Havelock (vii). [Back]

Works Cited

Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at EMLS@UAlberta.ca.

© 1998-, R.G. Siemens (Editor, EMLS).

(DF, SL, RGS; rev. 23 February 1998)