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Hamlet: The First Quarto, 1603: 07/17/15

Hamlet: The First Quarto, 1603 by William Shakespeare: I got sucked into the discussion of piracy and story tropes.

Hamlet: The First Quarto, 1603 by William Shakespeare is a reproduction of an earlier version of Hamlet. Included with the play is a lengthy discussion of its history as well as it was known in the 1960s as well as some thoughts on why this version is so very different from the one performed now, written by Albert B. Weiner.

Now I'm not a Shakespearean scholar — just a casual consumer. Hamlet happens to be one of my favorite plays. The reason I read this version was I wanted to look up Claudius's name just to verify that I'd remembered the king's name correctly. Turns out in this version, the king didn't have a name and most of the other characters didn't have the names they have now.

So while the First Quarto didn't help me answer my initial question, I got sucked into the discussion of piracy and story tropes. If you think the internet has made piracy worse, I would argue this book shows it hasn't.

While Albert B. Weiner argues in his introductory essay that Hamlet wasn't outright pirated, piracy did exist back then. Copyright, though, wasn't owned by the author. It was owned by whomever commissioned the play just as modern day patents are often owned by the company who hires the inventor.

But plays were remembered by audience goers and there were probably guys there who were great at whatever the Elizabethan version of shorthand was. So just as cellphones are now used to record films in theaters, plays were watched, transcribed, changed up a bit and shipped out to other places to be put on.

So if you're interested in reading something that is clearly Hamlet but isn't quite, I recommend reading the First Quarto version. It's really no different than the numerous relaunches of various comic book stories that Marvel and DC have done. But it's Hamlet!

Three stars

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