Three Versions of Hamlet

Shakespeare’s Hamlet exists in three early editions published in 1603, 1604-05, and 1623. Nearly all modern editions conflate the three into a single text that includes famous or “important” speeches into a fourth version that would have been unrecognizable to Shakespeare’s audience. For instance, the “to be or not to be” speech is utterly different across the three versions.

This course asks what we learn about Shakespeare’s play and the culture in which it was written and performed by treating the three versions as distinct texts with their own histories, purposes, and perhaps even world-views. The procedure of the course will be to read the three versions closely and, more often as we move through them, to note their variants and speculate about how these differences might inform a wide-ranging interpretation of Shakespeare’s world. A few ancillary readings in textual studies, theater history, and Renaissance culture will cast light on the central questions.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Roland Greene

Roland Greene's work is concerned with the early modern literatures of England, Latin Europe, and the transatlantic world, and with poetry and poetics from the Renaissance to the present. His most recent book is Five Words: Critical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes (2013). He is editor in chief of the fourth edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (2012). He is the Mark Pigott KBE Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences.