bad quarto

He continues: 


The First (bad) Quarto of 1603 is long presumed to be a pirated version, presumably reassembled by minor actors within the company. But there are, however, even earlier versions which throw an intriguing light on Shakespeare’s writing processes as he moved from first draft to finished masterpiece.

The ‘Frightfully Bad’ Quarto, for instance, featured Hamlet with the now notorious 'Scooby Doo’ ending, where King Hamlet turns out to be Fortinbrass simply pretending to be a ghost in order to divert attention away from his pending invasion. It finishes with the line, now much paraphrased: “And were it not for these children of meddlesome countenance, this crown would be mine.’

Of lesser interest still is the fragmented 'Die Hard Quarto’ which features Hamlet visiting Elsinore castle to reconcile with Ophelia, only to find the castle overrun with 'A foul and pestilent congregation of evilness’ led by Polonius’ estranged brother, Hans Gruber. Thankfully the play is now lost except for fragments of the 'Now I have a rapier Ho Ho Ho’ scene. As a minor aside, the play features the first known usage of the exclamation: 'Yippee Ki Yay, Bull’s pizzle’

But of all the various Hamlet drafts theorised to exist, perhaps the most contentious is: 'The Comedy of Hamlet, Prince of Zombies’. Extrapolated from scribbled margin notes in Kit Marlowe’s early draft of 'The Massacre of Paris’, the play is unique in that it was originally thought to have been performed backwards.

Denmark has been overrun by a Zombie Apocalypse. All are undead. The action begins when Prince Hamlet is brought back to life during a fencing tournament. In revenge for this 'foul and discourteous act’ Hamlet proceeds to 'undead’ the rest of the cast. He does this by various means - an 'elixir of life’ to his mother, a refreshing sea journey for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, a swim in the fountain of life for his undead girlfriend Necrophelia, and the 'unstabbing’ of Polonius. It was, according to a contemporary observer: 'A play of infinite mirth’.

Details of the action are mostly obscure, but the soliloquy survives where Hamlet muses on whether it is better to be dead or undead: 'To not to be, or to not to not to be’. The play ends, it is supposed, with Hamlet swearing to make his father undead and reseat him on the throne of the now living Denmark. It is thought the surviving line: 'Something Rotten in the State of Denmark’ also refers to the play’s Zombie roots.

The mechanism by which this early draft morphed into the modern Hamlet has long been mired in controversy, but tellingly, Shakespeare was known to have promised to deliver a 'most excellent tragedy’ to the King’s Men in 1602, and was told to: 'deliver the work on Monday or your head will be off’. It is tantalising to suggest that he simply reversed the action over the course of a boozy weekend.

Alas, we will never know.

An Introduction to Hamlet

In-turquoise asked me for an introduction to Hamlet, so I thought I’d post my favorite, by Stephen Greenblatt, from The Norton Shakespeare (W. W. Norton, 1997).

***

“Who’s there?” Shakespeare’s most famous play begins. The question, turned back on the tragedy itself, has haunted audiences and readers for centuries. Hamlet is an enigma. Mountains of feverish speculation have only deepened the interlocking mysteries: Why does Hamlet delay avenging the murder of his father by Claudius, his father’s brother? How much guilt does Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, who has since married Claudius, bear in this crime? How trustworthy is the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who has returned from the grave to demand that Hamlet avenge his murder? Is vengeance morally justifiable in this play, or is it to be condemned? What exactly is the ghost, and where has it come from? Why is the ghost, visible to everyone in the first act, visible only to Hamlet in Act 3? Is Hamlet’s madness feigned or true, a strategy masquerading as a reality or a reality masquer­ading as a strategy? Does Hamlet, who once loved Ophelia, continue to love her in spite of his apparent cruelty? Does Ophelia, crushed by that cruelty and driven mad by Hamlet’s murder of her father, Polonius, actually intend to drown herself, or does she die accidentally? What enables Hamlet to pass from thoughts of suicide to faith in God’s providence, from “To be, or not to be” to “Let be”? What was Hamlet trying to say before death stopped his speech at the close? Hamlet, as one critic has wittily remarked, is “the tragedy of an audience that cannot make up its mind.”

Keep reading

Fragile, Thy Name is Cheedo

Every time I see the words “Cheedo the Fragile”, I always think of Hamlet’s “Frailty, thy name is woman.”

And maybe it’s reaching, but there are some interesting parallels there. While Cheedo and Gertrude don’t appear to have very much in common at first glance, there’s more than meets the eye here.

First of all, let’s talk about how men have named them “frail” and “fragile”. Hamlet calls Gertrude frail because she’s married his uncle so quickly after his father and her husband’s death that he says the funeral dishes were served at the wedding. He believes she has no spine to stand up to Claudius–or at least, seems unwilling to entertain the notion that she could have possibly wanted this marriage.

While we’re never shown explicit reasoning for Joe naming Cheedo “the Fragile” (because I seriously doubt she gave herself that title), the film gives us glimpses of a “fragile” character. Cheedo is, after all, the only character who tries to return to the Immortan, referencing being “his treasure” and living “the high life”.

What both of these men do not seem to realize is that there is nothing frail or fragile about survival.

Though we only ever get glimpses of a loving and harmonious Claudius and Gertrude (unless you’re looking at the Bad Quarto, which I’m not), it’s entirely possible Gertrude is not at all happy. Let’s consider the facts. We know that Claudius killed his brother. We know that, if the laws of succession of England at Shakespeare’s time applied to his fictional Denmark (and there’s some debate about this), Hamlet should be king. But he’s not. Claudius is. While Hamlet was away at school, Claudius moved in. With a dead king, the heir away at school, and an enemy marching through their lands, the people needed a king. They needed Claudius.

Gertrude isn’t stupid. She’s a queen. She knows exactly what’s going on here, even if she pretends she doesn’t. Claudius arranges to have Hamlet killed at the end of the play, and Gertrude, while not privy to this plan, must know Claudius’s nature. She knows that Claudius could easily have her removed. Furthermore, she knows what a threat her son is to him. Claudius has already killed his brother, why not his brother’s child, the rightful heir? So she does the only thing women in Medieval politics could do: she marries. She marries Claudius and becomes the doting wife. The court follows her example and bows to Claudius, just as he had hoped. This has the added bonus of making her son Claudius’s new stepson, and, since Gertrude is past childbearing age, this makes Hamlet Claudius’s heir.

Even when Hamlet is screaming at his mother to see the truth, puts on a play acting out his father’s murder and shouts at a ghost in her closet, she plays the part she’s meant to.

And yes, they die at the end,  because it’s Shakespeare. But there may very well never have been a “Hamlet” in the first place if Gertrude hadn’t stepped in when she did. There’s nothing “frail” about her.

Similarly, for all her sweetness and innocence and youth, Cheedo is not fragile. She may seem that way in the beginning–fourteen, still a virgin, constantly holding onto Dag, running towards the War Boys while parroting back what Joe has taught her. But she’s not fragile. Cheedo is no more than a child, but she follows the wives into the rig and into the Wasteland. She survives a sandstorm and battles and a blind Bullet Farmer firing at will. She helps push the war rig out of the bog. The Vuvalini touches her and says “so soft”, and maybe that’s true. But when the battle is raging its hardest, when Furiosa is failing and Max is nowhere to be found, Cheedo knows what to do. She always has.

She begs Rictus in her most helpless voice to take her. To get right down to it, she uses her femininity to appeal to this man reeking of testosterone, and she uses it to help Furiosa. She knows what’s going on, knows that Furiosa’s goal is to kill Joe. And she pulls her up onto the Gigahorse–and stares Rictus straight in the eye while she does it.

Hamlet names Gertrude “frail” because he cannot see beyond the act she puts up. In the end, its his and Claudius’s determination to “protect” and “shield” her that kills her–and Hamlet, and Claudius. Immortan Joe names Cheedo “fragile” because he sees what he wants to see–a helpless girl who will come when called. This is reflected in Rictus, who doesn’t see Cheedo as a runaway who will be punished–he sees her as the frightened little girl who needs her master, the way Joe intended her to be. Even the audience is fooled into believing this is who she is after everything. But she takes that and then dumps it on its head, and Joe and Rictus die because they refused to look beyond the title they slapped on her.

Gertrude isn’t a Tamora and Cheedo isn’t a Furiosa. They don’t savagely kill Claudius and Hamlet and Immortan Joe with their bare hands, because men like Hamlet and Claudius and Immortan Joe never gave them those weapons. They gave them demeaning names–frailty and fragile–and they took those names and honed them into weapons. “I am frail,” Gertrude says while she keeps herself and her son alive. “I am fragile,” Cheedo says while she helps Furiosa and lets her kill Immortan Joe.

Oh, what a piece of work is woman.

anonymous asked:

Same anon, I am going to sound like an ignorant but what is the point of iambs in Shakespeare writing regarding the understanding of his plays? I know what iambs are but it seems that there is more to this than what I get.

So this is a really big conversation topic but basically the verse and meter of Shakespeare’s language is not purely structural. Reading blank verse is like a treasure hunt if you know what you’re looking for—it’s a very deliberate form. Consonance, assonance, alliteration, deviations from iambic pentameter, deviations from verse, all of this stuff provides clues for good actors and good readers as to what’s going on in a character’s head. If you’re seeing a lot of feminine endings and anapests, it’s likely that character is either extremely distressed or mentally unstable. A lot of harsh and glottal sounds are more likely going to indicate anger than softer fricatives, which are more commonly used to express very tender feelings. Similarly, how two characters choose to speak to each other can be hugely informative—for instance, thou versus you, or the fact that Romeo and Juliet’s first lines to each other form a perfect sonnet. This tells us that they are immediately, deeply in love (and this one of the reasons I don’t buy the ‘they’re just horny teenagers’ argument. I don’t think Shakespeare would have wasted a sonnet on them if they were). In the Henry VI cycle, Talbot and his son speak in rhyming couplets to each other, which creates a very strong impression of love and devotion between them. 

There’s a lot more to it than this, and this is very deep reading. You don’t have to know all this shit to enjoy Shakespeare, but it will help you to realize how brilliant the man really was. I love this kind of stuff—it’s why I’m leaning towards pursuing an MA in Shakespeare studies next year. Shakespeare’s work is so complex that scholars have been picking it apart for five hundred years and they still don’t know everything there is to know about it. I had a wonderful conversation with someone from KCL on Monday, and she was telling me that last year they spent an entire semester on the ‘bad quarto’ of Hamlet, and by the time they’d finished dissecting it, one of her students glanced up at her with a very distressed look on his face, shook his head and said, “I don’t know anything anymore.”

Of course, to a lot of people that probably sounds fucking miserable. But to me it’s kind of like being a literary detective and like holy shit, could you have a cooler job than that?