Saturday, November 01, 2014

Hamlet, Put Down the Skull.

So I saw somebody carrying a skull as part of her Halloween costume, and of course I had to come up with some jokes about Yorick, being quite chap-fallen, could not enjoy the Reese's Pieces he did love so very much.  So of course I had to pull up Hamlet's speech to get my quotes right.  I go to the MIT (Moby) version, because it's the easiest to search:

And I thought, "Wait... there's a stage direction that tells him to put down the skull? That seems oddly specific for a play that rarely states stage directions beyond who enters, exits and dies."

So I go look it up in the First Folio, as you folks have taught me to do:

Nope! Not there. I'm not surprised, I get that various editions get conflated over the years.  But the thing is, I checked two quartos as well as Second and Third Folio, and I can't find it in any of those, either.

Anybody know when this got added?  And possibly the more interesting question, why? Was there an edition where somebody went in and really got specific about such things, for some reason? Maybe David Garrick kept forgetting to put down Yorick and would end up carrying him through the rest of the scene until a director got the idea to write it into the script :)


JM said...

Fun stuff. I've checked the Fourth and Rowe's, first "edited" edition, 1709. Rowe based his edition on the seriously error-compromised Fourth folio. Nothing there. Nor is it in Pope's edition 1745.

BUT, get this. In Rowe's edition there is a stage direction, "Smelling to the skull" when Hamlet says, "And smelt so? Puh". Pope copies this "essential" stage direction.

The common sense intuitive interpretation would be that when he says "Puh", he'd rid himself, naturally, of the skull, dropping it back into the grave. So really, no *brilliant* stage direction is required. Ah, editors. You know how much I love them.

I don't have time right now to check further, but I'll bet you're right about it being picked up from *some* actor's Quarto/performance copy.

JM said...

..."but I'll bet you're right about it being picked up from *some* actor's Quarto/performance copy."

On second thought, how ridiculous is "Smelling to the skull'?

It could just as easily have been some anal-retentive "emendator". :-)