"Pray God Restore Him": The Importance of the Origin of the First Quarto of Hamlet

Ofel: Alas, what a change is this?

Ham: But if thou wilt needes marry, marry a foole,

For wisemen know well enough,

What monsters you make of them, to a Nunnery goe.

Ofel: Pray God restore him.

Ham: Nay, I have heard of your painting too,

God hath giuen you one face,

And you make your selues another,

--HAMLET, Prince of Denmarke, The First Quarto

The title page of the second quarto of Hamlet claims that the text beneath it is "Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much / againe as it was, according to the true and perfect / Coppie." Taking this at face value, three facts necessary follow: That there is at least one earlier edition (or else this one could not be "newly imprinted...again"); that the earlier edition was shorter (or else this one could not be "enlarged"); and that this quarto does not include some lines from the "perfect Coppie" (since it is "almost as much"). Indeed, a First Quarto exists dated a year earlier (1603); Q1 is shorter some 1600 lines; and the Folio does restore certain seemingly authorial passages. It appears as if "I.R.," the printer, or "N.L.," the publisher, is correct on all possible counts. We cannot even condemn I.R. or N.L. for...

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