Scene 1 Folio Differences

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This page shows the notable differences that appear in the First Folio publication of Hamlet as compared to the Second Quarto publication, in Scene 1, with analysis of those differences. These remarks reveal why I decided to use one wording, or the other, in the playscript on this site. These Folio Difference Notes are coordinated with the regular Notes on the Scene page.
Q2 = Second Quarto, F or F1 = First Folio, Q1 = First Quarto.

For an introduction to this material, see the page About the Folio Differences.

Second Quarto speech prefix Horatio
Folio speech prefix Marcellus

{Hora.} [Mar.] What, ha's this thing appeard againe to night?
Hora. (speech prefix)
Mar. (speech prefix)

The Q2 speech prefix, for Horatio, is authorial. This is supported, in that Horatio is the one who has the good reason to ask right away. If the Ghost has already appeared, Horatio can leave now and go to bed. Character motivation is firm for Horatio to have the line. Then, the tone of the line fits Horatio's skepticism.

Marcellus knows from experience that the Ghost has been appearing later, which makes it highly unlikely he'd ask that question immediately.

{The Folio editor apparently used Q1, or the Q1 source materials, when he shouldn't have.}

Return: Scene 1#01-025

Second Quarto "have two nights"

What we {haue two nights} [two Nights haue] seene.

First Folio "two nights have"

have two nights
two nights have

The word "night" puns with "knight." The Folio difference allows Barnardo's phrase, via the pun, to have self reference to him and Marcellus, who are two military men. Barnardo can be heard inadvertently calling himself and Marcellus "two knights." Accidental self reference is a continual feature of the play, sometimes through punning, sometimes not. The F1 change is credible as an authorial refinement, since it well suits the style of the play. Further, the Ghost will appear in knight's armor, so the implication of "knights" is anticipatory of the Ghost.

{The Folio editor probably found an authorial touch-up.}

(In performance, Barnardo can show the first two fingers of his hand for the count of "two," and then make a vague gesture to leave it unclear whether he's referring to the nighttime, or to Marcellus and himself.)

Return: Scene 1#01-038


Lookes {a} [it] not like the King?
a (he)

Both may be authorial, in the respective printings. Except for this one word he in Q2, the Ghost is otherwise called "it" in the passage. It's plausible Shakespeare changed the word, after the Q2 printing, for consistency.

However, it's also possible that he, in this instance, as Q2 shows, was the author's preferred form, as a mark of Barnardo's psychology - while seeing what looks like the King, Barnardo says he. I tend to this interpretation.

I'll add that in Shakespeare's time the word he was still often used as the neuter pronoun, so the Folio change could be a mere conventionalization, and by that, only editorial (not authorial.)

I use he in the playscript on this site, for the psychological element, to give a change in speech between when they're only talking about the Ghost, and when they're seeing it.

{The Folio editor may have found an authorial refinement and correctly used it, but I tend to suspect mere editorial conventionalization by the F1 editor.}

(In performance, Barnardo is pointing as he speaks the line, for either word.)

Return: Scene 1#01-049


Most like, it {horrowes} [harrowes] me with feare and wonder.

The F1 word harrows can reasonably be viewed as merely a spelling correction, or a spelling standardization, of the Q2 word "horrows," so there's no real difference.

It does seem barely possible that Q2 "horrows" might be a Shakespeare coinage combining the meanings of "horrors" and harrows. So I'll mention that. The meanings of both "horrors" and harrows can apply for the utterance, and the author may have combined them. However, this possibility is much more of a theoretical consideration than a practical point for the playscript, for we lesser minds than Shakespeare's.

I use F1 harrows in the playscript on this site. It's a word that works directly for appropriate action for the line, as I point out in the regular Note, when one "suits the action to the word."

Return: Scene 1#01-050


{Speake to} [Question] it Horatio.
Speak to

The Q2 phrasing is easily more credibly authorial, since the emphasis throughout the passage is on Horatio speaking to the Ghost. Marcellus is insistently repeating himself. Q2 is correctly followed.

{The Folio editor apparently mistakenly followed Q1, which shows "Question," probably in anticipation of Horatio's questions that ensue; but Marcellus, at the time he speaks, doesn't know how Horatio will proceed to address the Ghost, whether with questions or declarations, so it indicates the Q1 reporter got ahead of himself, based on his knowledge of the ensuing questions in the dialogue.}

(In performance, it's necessary for Marcellus to be insistent - in the way of an officer ordering a soldier, since that is Marcellus's natural style.)

Return: Scene 1#01-052


He smot the {sleaded pollax} [sledded Pollax] on the ice.
sleaded pollax
sledded Pollax

I go through the meaning in the regular Note, where I point out the significance of the Q2 spelling sleaded. The F1 spelling cannot be an authorial correction or fine tuning of the play.

{The Folio editor didn't know the significance of the sleaded spelling, and changed it to the conventional word which is only part of the meaning in the word puzzle Shakespeare gave us.}

(In performance, Horatio can frown and do an action like swinging an axe at an enemy - best done low here, rather like swinging a baseball bat, instead of overhead. They were using overhead actions for visual cueing in Scene 1, and we don't want a miscue.)

Return: Scene 1#01-072


Thus twice before, and {iump} [iust] at this dead houre,

Jump in Q2 is authorial, it means "precisely." Marcellus says that the Ghost appeared at precisely the same time on the earlier nights. The word conforms with the use of jump in line EH 3870. The word choice has a suggestive undertone of the Ghost frightening the men, making them jump. (Q1 also shows jump.)

The F1 word "just" is not credible as an authorial improvement, because in addition to being too ordinary, it does not conform with the other uses in the play of "just," or a form of it. Elsewhere, the author used "just," or a form of it, to refer to justice. With some other words in Hamlet, Shakespeare ran the gamut of their definitions, but he didn't do that with just/justice.

{The F1 word is apparently entirely editorial, a mistake in the Folio; presumably the editor was unfamiliar with that usage of jump.}

(In performance, Marcellus could make an abrupt gesture of emphasis. He might even do a little hop.)

Return: Scene 1#01-074


And {with} [why] such dayly {cost} [Cast] of brazon Cannon

Both words make sense and may be authorial in the respective publications. The F1 change to why makes Marcellus's speech consist of a question every two lines, after his first line. It lends additional rhythm to his speech. On that basis, it can be viewed as an authorial fine tuning. (Q1 also shows "why.") It does not seem credible the Folio editor, himself, would make this particular change.

{The Folio editor was probably correct to use why.}

(In performance, Marcellus will be making the usual gestures that go along with questioning, as he speaks, for either word.)

Then also in this line:


Q2 cost is the authorial word, because the word must go along with "foreign mart," in the next line, to which "cast" can't apply. The sense of the utterance requires cost. (Q1 also shows cost.)

{The Folio editor may have taken it as "cast" when he had difficulty reading old manuscript, simply because that seems to go better with "brazen cannon," but without taking "foreign mart" into account. It is easily possible Shakespeare intended to pun with "cast" strictly in connection with "brazen cannon," while having cost as the playtext word; thus the Folio may, intentionally or unintentionally, reveal an intended authorial pun. However, cost is correct in the script.}

(In performance, cost can be acted by rubbing the thumb against the first and second fingers of the hand, in the classic "money" gesture of rubbing a coin. As far as I can tell, "cast" doesn't seem actable in the context. A throwing gesture would be absurd, since it would make Marcellus look like an idiot, who imagines he could toss a cannon, and a pouring gesture would only make Marcellus look like he wants a drink. Perhaps he does, but that has nothing to do with cannons and what they're talking about. The easy actability of cost compared to "cast" is evidence strongly in favor of cost as the author's word.)

Return: Scene 1#01-082


Well ratified by lawe and {heraldy} [Heraldrie,]

The Q2 spelling is considered a mere variant of the F1 word, and so it is, for literal reading. However, the exact Q2 spelling goes somewhat better with the question of whether the Ghost is an omen, a herald, of events to come. On that basis, the Q2 form seems more likely to be the author's exact own.

{The Folio editor probably just used the contemporary spelling in his day.}

(In performance, Horatio could do an action as if reading from a large scroll, the way a herald stereotypically does: "Hear ye, hear ye..." or otherwise behave for a moment as if proclaiming.)

Return: Scene 1#01-097


Did forfait (with his life) all {these} [those] his lands

Q2 these is authorial, and is mandatory for the point that Elsinore Castle is on the land King Hamlet won from the Elder Fortinbrasse. Fortinbrasse, himself, states that expressly in Scene 20.

{The Folio may have taken the word "those" from Q1.}

(In performance, Horatio's action can be a low outward sweep of the arm to indicate their surroundings. Pointing toward someplace else would be wrong.)

Return: Scene 1#01-098


Which he stood seaz'd {of} [on], to the conquerour.

Q2 of is authorial, but F1 "on" is not. Seized of is an exact legal phrase, a technical phrase in law, that is, which Shakespeare obviously knew, and it is credible for Horatio, a university scholar, to use it here as he is speaking legalistically about the land wager. The Folio editor lacked the author's legal knowledge, and didn't realize it was exact legal phrasing, so he changed the word to "on" from thinking that should be the preposition to go with "stood."

{The Folio editor changed the word to get the ordinary phrasing he knew.}

(In performance, Horatio probably best delivers his entire speech "teacher style," pacing a bit, and gesturing, as if lecturing classroom students. Horatio has been a university student, so he's well familiar with teachers and how they lecture. Here, it's natural for him to act the "professor" for Marcellus and Barnardo. Not to imply Horatio is being condescending, only that it's the style he will adopt from his university experience.)

Return: Scene 1#01-099


Was gaged by our King, which had {returne} [return'd]

The phrase "which had return" can be read as "which had gain;" "which constituted a gain." A return is a gain, over an original amount. The word return is common in that sense, where value and things financial are discussed. King Hamlet's land "had return," constituted a return (on his risk) for Fortinbrasse had he won.

This line is typically misunderstood. Horatio is not talking about Fortinbrasse getting his own land back, but rather, the land King Hamlet wagered being conveyed to Fortinbrasse. Return is used with reference to conveying, or turning over, or remitting, the land to Fortinbrasse, as a gain to him, a return.

{The Folio editor probably made the change to past tense because he thought it meant "would have returned."}

(In performance, Horatio has been holding out his hands to indicate the land, so at return he simply draws in his hands.)

Return: Scene 1#01-101


Had he bin vanquisher; as by the same {comart,} [Cou'nant]

Q2 "comart" is authorial, and is a Shakespeare coinage. There's no reason not to think so. The word is formed from the prefix "co-" meaning "mutual," and the root "mart" meaning bargain/agreement. Mutual agreement.

The question becomes whether the Folio word was so persuasive, for some reason, as to cause the author to surrender his own coinage. The Folio word has Biblical significance in relation to the Death theme, a major theme of Hamlet. Isaiah 28, 15-18: "We have made a covenant with death ... then shall ye be trod down by it." (Geneva wording.) It's known the author had good familiarity with the Bible. It's credible the author made the change because of the word, and passage, in Isaiah, which allegorically encompasses the play, from the initial agreement for a battle to the death between King Hamlet and the Elder Fortinbrasse, to the ultimate result that, by the end of the play, nearly all the major characters are "trod down."

{The Folio editor probably found the author's change to covenant and properly used it.}

(In performance, either word could be acted by clasping the hands together, simulating a handshake.)

Return: Scene 1#01-103


Sharkt vp a list of {lawelesse} [Landlesse] resolutes

I see no reason to assume misprint of either. Both can be read to make sense. The F1 word is authorial, as I present in the regular Note. I cannot see how it can be other than authorial, because of what it offers for meaning. In the context of the play it is both pertinent and profound. Landless fits the context, exactly, as Horatio speaks of land. Also, landless is easily actable, in context.

Q2 "lawless" has a simpler meaning. It refers to the men not respecting the legality of King Hamlet's victory. They are no respecters of law, thus "lawless" men, outlaws. That is so much simpler in meaning, I can't view it as Shakespeare's ultimate preference between these words. Nowhere in his writing did he show much preference for the simpler expression.

{The Q2 word is probably authorial, in the Q2 printing, but the Folio editor probably found landless as a later authorial fine tuning, intended to bring in the issue of the land better.}

(In performance, landless is easily actable, in context, by Horatio simply gesturing to indicate the surrounding land. It would be best done with the palm downwards, to combine a "no" meaning. Thus, just do the usual palms-down "no" wave of the arms, only a bit wider than usual. I don't know of any easy action for "lawless" in this context. The actability of landless adds support to it being a true authorial change, after Q2, or at least after he wrote the manuscript that became Q2.)

Return: Scene 1#01-108

the "moth" passage in the Second Quarto
the "moth" passage absent in F1

The 18 lines starting with
Scene 1#01-118 Bar. I thinke it be no other, but enso;
and ending with
Scene 1#01-135 Vnto our Climatures and countrymen.
do not appear in the version of Hamlet that was published, in 1623, in the First Folio of the Shakespeare plays. Various theories have been offered to explain the F1 omission.

The theory most frequently advanced seems to be that F1 honored markings made for the purpose of playhouse abridgement. I do not find that theory persuasive, simply because there is no good reason why a publication for general readers would be abridged to suit staging requirements. The F1 editor had to know that the Folio was not going to be a playhouse book for actors, for internal use at the theater. So, he ought to have simply ignored any playhouse abridgement markings, if he found any. Such markings would have meant nothing to a printing for the public, obviously.

The omission of the lines would be more understandable if it were the other way around, that is, if the lines were in F1 but not Q2. The reason is, the passage can be read to contain an allusion to Queen Elizabeth I being in bad health, (the moon sick almost to doomsday,) which would have been a touchy subject around 1602, but not in 1623.

Queen Elizabeth, in written praise by various authors, was poetically associated with Diana, the moon goddess. One can see the Elizabethan censor disapproving the passage for publication near the time James Roberts registered Hamlet, in July of 1602, because of the possible interpretation too personal to the Queen. (Elizabethan writings had to be approved by a censor before they could be published.) Queen Elizabeth I died on March 24, 1603. In 1623, when F1 was published, Queen Elizabeth I's health was a non-issue. So, if the lines had been left out of Q2, and then restored in F1, it would make more sense.

My theory is that the lines were marked for deletion from publication around the time Hamlet was registered for publication, in 1602. The reason being, the censor found an unacceptable interpretation in reference to the Queen's health. By the time Q2 was published, the Queen had died, so the printer of Q2 ignored the earlier censorship marking, since he knew why it was there. Being "sick almost to doomsday" could no longer be read to apply to the Queen. However, the Folio editor found the "not for publication" marking on the old manuscript, after some 20 years. Not knowing why the "don't publish" marking was there, and that it could safely be ignored, he honored it, and left out the lines.

In outline, my theory is:

  • 1. The Hamlet manuscript was reviewed by the censor, as usual, after Roberts registered to print the play in July of 1602;
  • 2. The censor disapproved the line that could be read as a possible reference to the Queen's health;
  • 3. The "quick and dirty" solution Roberts found, to comply with the censorship, and not make it look like he had left out a line by mistake, was to mark the two speeches for omission, skipping the entire problem;
  • 4. By the time the Q2 printing run began, in 1604, the lines could no longer be interpreted as referring to the Queen's health, since she had died;
  • 5. The Q2 compositors knew why the earlier "don't print" marking was there, and they properly ignored it, since it no longer applied;
  • 6. The F1 editor, in 1623, found the "don't publish" marking, or notation, on the old manuscript, and not knowing why it was there, and that it no longer applied, he honored it.
  •  :: Thus, we find the lines in Q2, but not in F1.

The lines are authorial, regardless of any theory about them, so they should be included in any good Hamlet publication, and should be spoken in performance whenever the time allotted for the play allows.

{The Folio editor probably mistakenly honored an old "don't publish" marking or notation.}

(The lines should be included in performance whenever possible.)

Return: Scene 1#01-130


The Cock that is the trumpet to the {morne} [day],

Q2 morn is authorial, F1 "day" is not. I find no argument that could sustain this F1 difference. In comparison with Q2 it fails all the tests (style, poetry, theme, allusion, etc.) and is only suitable just for literal meaning in the line. The Folio has an error. Beyond all else, Q2 morn puns with "mourn" and we know the Thematic significance of the idea of "mourning" in the play.

{The Folio editor looked ahead two lines, to where the word "day" properly appears, and accidentally printed it here. It's a simple eye skip error.}

(In performance, Horatio can gesture toward the horizon, where the sky is starting to lighten. That is to the east, which is stage right.)

Return: Scene 1#01-161


And then they say no spirit {dare sturre} [can walke] abraode
dare stir
can walk

The Q2 phrase is authorial. Stir follows from Francisco's mention of "not a mouse stirring." There are several other uses of stir or a form of it over the course of the dialogue, which creates a Stir Motif in the play. That motif is related to the Wheel of Fortune Theme, since a stirring action is a kind of "wheeling" action.

{The Folio editor apparently mistakenly used Q1, so the Folio phrasing is probably not authorial, but rather a Q1 reporter's memory error. If Shakespeare ever did use the Folio phrasing, he afterwards changed it, to get an instance of a motif, or theme.}

(The Q2 wording is actable simply by making a rotary motion of the hand, as if stirring something. Stirring is a "wheel" motion, as mentioned, thus linking to the Wheel concept in the play, and the Wheel of Fortune idea. This consideration strongly establishes the word stir as authorial. I don't know of a simple, appropriate gesture for "walk" while standing still, in this context. It would be inappropriately farcical for Marcellus to actually walk back and forth, and the childlike gesture of "walking" a hand with the index and middle finger seems also inappropriate here.)

Return: Scene 1#01-172


No fairy {takes} [talkes], nor witch hath power to charme

Q2 takes is authorial, but the F1 word is probably not. Since the context concerns spells and magic, the F1 difference does not make good sense. Then, the "take" idea is repeated in the play, in reference to casting a spell, and is quite significant to events, and that firmly supports the Q2 word.

{The Folio probably has an ordinary mistake.}

(In performance, Marcellus should say takes and he can do a "magician" type of hand gesture, a sort of grabbing - seizing, taking - action.)

Return: Scene 1#01-174


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