The play itself should need no further introduction or comment.
The Arden Shakespeare is well-known in academic circles for their auhtoritative and comprehensive annotated editions of Shakespeare's works, and for the academic reader, this edition of Hamlet offers a lot of useful information.
There is a long section covering the different printed source editions of the play, and arguments of what source is chosen to be represented in the text of the play itself and why, Shakespeare's topical allusions, and lots more.
A large portion of the preface is also dedicated to discussing Shakespeare's own source for his play, the Ur-Hamlet, and of possible other plays, before or after Hamlet, using the same story.
The text pages are covered more with notes than with the play text itself, which can be a bit impractical when trying to read only the play, but for closer readings, most of the information is practically gathered on the page, with additional references to longer notes after the play text.
Notes include source disparities, word interpretations and also all of the traditionally debated items in the play.
All in all, an excellent edition for close readings and academic work on what is one of the most fascinating, poetic and humorous plays of all time.
on 11 January 2014
I selected this kindle version because the product description claims it is 'annotated with
intelligence and care, a wealth of historical and cultural references and a
survey of different critical approaches to the play'.
This is probably true of paperback but the kindle edition comes with no notes at all. We need to be told this before we buy.
In some respects I think it'd be rather presumptuous of me to attempt to review Shakespeare. Someone so well known and influential wouldn't benefit from my opinions on their work, plus there are more scholarly and concise reviews out there. But I can comment on these Arden versions. Of all the Shakespeare I've read I've always found the Arden copies to be well laid out and to have excellent commentary and notes on the text. They really add to your understanding of Shakespeares outstanding plays and introduce you to the depth in his work. They have superb paper quality and are bound well, withstanding repeated readings and intensive study. For your collection of Shakespeare you can't do much better than Arden publications, some are quite hard to get hold of but it's worth the effort.
Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
Depending on your point of view, Arden3's Hamlet is either a neat solution or a cop-out. Either way, their two-volume edition of the play represents a departure from the single-volume norm that has characterised The Arden Shakespeare since 1899. As with King Lear, the existence of substantially different original sources for the play means that the Hamlet editor is faced with a choice: to conflate, or not to conflate. Unlike King Lear's editor, RA Foakes, Thompson and Taylor opt against pick and mixing in favour of a multi-volume edition. This one bases its text on the 'good' quarto of 1604-5, while the other volume (essentially a supplement) presents both the 'bad' quarto and the folio alternatives, of 1601 and 1623 respectively.
Choosing the text is not the only problem confronting an editor of Hamlet. As Thompson and Taylor observe, over 400 Hamlet-related works appear every year. Simply keeping track of new publications is a virtually impossible task and wisely the editors attempt no more than to give us a brief overview of them in an Introduction that is more up-to-date and informed than groundbreaking.
The editors sound a note of frustration in observing that much modern Hamlet criticism seems focused on previous critical comment rather than on the play! However, a selection of the more rewarding new thought is presented, including Steven Goldblatt's attempt to tackle the problem of a Wittenburg-educated, Protestant prince swallowing the Ghost's claim to have come from an obviously Catholic purgatory - the existence of which place was expressly denied by the Tudor Church of England. Greenblatt identifies a longing for the certainties of the old faith, lost fifty years previously.
One of the most important ideas to emerge in recent years is that advanced by Melchiori that Q1 represents an acting version of the play and Q2 a literary one. On the perennial problem of date, this Arden thinks that best evidence points to 1600 or spring 1601. On sources, as well as the usual suspects (ie Saxo, Belleforest and Montaigne) Arden3 suggests that Plautus (generally) and Nashe (verbally) were important influences, and cites recent work by Miola and Tobin, respectively. And the author of the hypothetical Ur-Hamlet? If not by Kyd, Arden considers this enigmatic c1590 prototype a possible early draft by Shakespeare himself - an idea expressed in Peter Ackroyd's biography of 2005.
In terms of literary status, Hamlet may now trail King Lear, but its iconic power and its hold on the popular imagination remain undiminished. It is Hamlet's soliloquies that have long been considered key to the play's monumentality and appeal. These soliloquies are supposed to show a new interiority and psychological complexity - Renaissance qualities, in other words. Arden questions such assumptions. Not only had such inner subjectivity appeared in the medieval poets Langland and Chaucer, the editors claim, but Hamlet's soliloquies are meditations upon commonplace themes, and consequently less personal than those of, say, Richard III, Iago or Lear. And in any case, the editors identify an increasing exteriority in modern productions, in which Hamlet projects his thoughts as much outwards as inwards - towards the kind of intimate (even interactive!) audiences found at more authentically Elizabethan venues like The Swan or The Globe.
There are just a couple of minor gripes. Some linking commentary seems lacking in the discussion of the acting styles of Irving and Barrymore. More perlexing is the passage by Holland quoted on p94. This explains how Brannagh's eclectic adding of Q2 dialogue to F helps viewers understand Hamlet's 'vicious pun'. But the point being made is that, according to Holland, 'more of Shakespeare is not ... necessarily better'. Here, surely, more (ie Q2 added to F) certainly does seem better, in advancing our understanding!
Many may feel that Harold Jenkins' supremely comprehensive Arden2 of 1982 still has currency. But it is difficult to argue with the current editors' view that, firstly, the needs of today's student readership are very different from those of a generation ago. This Arden3 succeeds in conveying the complexity of the play and the plurality of response to it, while simultaneously ensuring accessibility to newcomers. And that secondly, the huge quantity of post-1982 criticism and performance meant that Arden2 was, in some ways at least, badly in need of an update. Thompson and Taylor are worthy enough successors to Jenkins. But if the Hamlet industry continues to grow exponentially, they must themselves expect to be superseded by Arden4 in around 2020!
on 28 August 2009
I'd been waiting for this edition of Hamlet for years and at the time was quite bummed out that it didn't come out in time for the dissertation I was writing at university on Hamlet. I decided to settle for two other versions: The Arden second edition Hamlet and the Cambridge University Hamlet, which both had really insightful introductions and helped a lot with my research for my dissertation (It was titled "Why does Hamlet Delay?".)
When this version came out I was chuffed. I read the play right through, as I normally do scribbling notes in the margins, and was impressed with the commentary on the text. The choice of particular words from Folio and Quarto versions was really intriguing and well researched too.
The drawback for me came when I then went back to check out the introduction. I was expecting some kind of Bradley-like dissection of the characters when in fact it was more of a stage history of the play. How different actors and directors have tackled difficult aspects of character, staging and so on. The editors make a fair point about this though when they say that in fact this play has already had a fair amount of critical attention (more then any other in the world, I think) and they stick an apology on right at the end for this saying that if they did come up with another theory of Hamlet it would almost certainly be wrong. So in this respect this third edition is quite different to the other Arden third editions that have come out over the past few years. You miss out on some of that definitive Arden Character Analysis that is so well respected and instead you get a much broader view of the play (in my opinion not so helpful to students and anyone who wants to get some real meat and potatoes criticism).
However, on reflection I really came to enjoy this version, but more for leisurely rather than academic reading. The introduction talks a lot about the reception of the play and you get an angle on it that is not as ofter talked about, a historical one.
Most any is worth the price but to know every thing and more about Hamlet try "The Arden Shakespeare" copy.
This really is "The Tragical History of Hamlet Prince of Denmark" and not only the Prince but also his family. Not only his family but his friends. The tragedy started in the previous generation. Will it end with Hamlet?
Many people are interested in dissecting underlying themes and read more into the characters actions than was probably intended. Many of phrases from Hamlet now challenge Bible for those popular quotes that no one remembers where they came from. The real fun is in just reading the story and as you find that it is not as foreign as you may have thought; you see many characters like these around you today.
A synopsis, Old Hamlet conquered Old Fortinbras seizing Fortinbras' land. Now that Old Hamlet is dead, Young Fortinbras wants his land back and is willing to take it by force. Meanwhile back in Dänemark Prince Hamlet who is excessively grieving the loss of his father, the king, gets an interesting insight from his father's ghost. Looks like Old Hamlet was a victim of a "murder most foul"; it appears his mother and uncle were in cahoots on the murder. On top of that they even get married before the funeral meats are cold.
The story is about Hamlet's vacillating as to what to do about his father's murder. However he does surprise many with his persistence and insight.
You will find many great movie presentations and imitations of the story; this is an intriguing read but was really meant to be watched.
William Shakespeare's Hamlet (Two-Disc Special Edition)
on 5 February 2012
This excellent book provides an astutely edited, fully annotated version of the "good Quarto" of Hamlet, the Mona Lisa of literature; this version is the closest extant text of Hamlet to the "foul papers", a phrase applied to the original hand written text by Shakespeare. A companion text carries edited and annotated versions of the other two Hamlet texts, the "bad Quarto" and the text that appeared in the First Folio.
The scholarship of Thompson and Taylor in this Arden edition is first class, the introduction that runs for 137 pages, and the appendices that follow clarify the history behind the texts of Hamlet, as well as sampling some of the rich insights into this, the most written about text in the world - with more than one book or article on Hamlet appearing for each day of any given year. Thompson and Taylor help elucidate the way the text of Hamlet must draw upon, one of these three sources, but that when an editor chooses to draw from one or the other texts, to compile the version he or she sees fit to produce, they must be guided by nothing better or worse than their own literary or scholarly instincts.
This book teaches us the method of Shakespearean text production, and gives us a look at the text that is most likely the text nearest to the version Shakespeare himself would have wanted, a delicious offering indeed. To the lover of literature and admirer of Shakespeare this text is well worth securing.
on 19 February 2014
There are at least three versions of 'Hamlet'. The best is Q2 and this is the one Arden have chosen in the first volume of their two-volume 'Hamlet' edition.
This is the best Arden edition I have come across in recent years - clear, incisive and beautifully set out. If you are studying this play or just want to read the text in full, then this is the edition for you.
The Arden Shakespeare is an ideal script, guide and notes for students, young and old, although I would not recommend it to any studying lower than Advanced Level; the Oxford and Cambridge guides and notes are sufficient for GCSE and they have photographs of characters and performances to illustrate.
The Ardens have lengthy sections on backgrounds to the plays and copious annotations and notes on the script itself; on some pages, contingent on the complexity of the text concerned, the notes take up more of the page than the script itself (one reason for not recommending it below Advanced Level). It has a vast source of detail, history and information on the play. They are also very well produced, sewn sections glued in, making them strong and long lasting.
Highly recommended for Advanced Level students or above.
on 28 December 2013
One of the best plays I wish I had read when I was younger.
Hamlets father returns as a ghost warning him about staking revenge on the king who married his mother. He uses players to present his father's death to the king who takes and wants Hamlet punished as a madman. Hamlet quarrels with Laretes and kills him but never tells the king where the body is. His mother sends him away to England, the king wants Hamlets blood. Whilst Hamlet is away Horatio tells him about his love Ophellia, who drank her self to death by drowning in the river. The king plans a trap for Hamlet as he returns home, faced fighting his mother drinks the poison by mistake and he kills the king. Hamlet takes his own life leaving Horatio to step into the kingdom and become their ruler.