In the introduction for Hamlet in William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion, Gary Taylor writes that \"of all the two-text plays, Hamlet comes closest to Lear in the scale and complexity of the textual variation apparently resulting from authorial revision\" (401). Indeed, Hamlet\'s three earliest texts each offer distinct glimpses into history; although they have been more or less combined over the course of the twentieth century (and earlier), separately, they each have a different story to tell.
My main interest in the field of textual editing is this: I intend to explore the history of textual differences in Hamlet and how those differences inform various understandings of the play via both reading and performance. As New Cambridge editor Philip Edwards notes in The Shakespeare Wars, \"Everyone who wants to understand Hamlet as reader, actor or director, needs to understand the nature of the play\'s textual questions and to have his or her own view of the questions in order to approach the ambiguities in the meaning\" (qtd. Rosenbaum 30). This will naturally result in some conclusions about how the play can be best illuminated through its text; as an actor myself, I am fully aware that many of these conclusions are somewhat subjective.
My intention is not necessarily to crown one edition or textual theory over another. Gary Taylor, Stanley Wells, John Dover Wilson and numerous other scholars have spent countless pages discussing how the texts could have possibly changed from edition to edition; I am only interested in \"how\" if it helps to illuminate the effect of these changes.
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