‘To be, or not to be’: Hamlet Q1, Q2 and Montaigne

Frampton, S. 2019. ‘To be, or not to be’: Hamlet Q1, Q2 and Montaigne. Critical Survey. 31 (1).

Title‘To be, or not to be’: Hamlet Q1, Q2 and Montaigne
TypeJournal article
AuthorsFrampton, S.

The differences between the second quarto (1604-5) version of Hamlet’s soliloquy beginning ‘To be, or not to be’ and the version contained in the first quarto (1603) have often been used to argue for the authorial integrity of the former and the degenerate nature of the latter. However, recent research has questioned the customary primacy between these two texts, arguing instead that Q2 revises and expands Q1 (as the title page of Q2 claims). This article will attempt to substantiate this interpretation by showing that Shakespeare's revision of ‘To be, or not to be’ is inspired by the ideas and vocabulary of Montaigne’s essay ‘By diuers meanes men come unto a like end’, translated by John Florio and published in 1603. Shakespeare’s indebtedness to Montaigne has been noted before, most notably in The Tempest. But it is significant that possibly Shakespeare’s first direct encounter with Montaigne is inspired by the very first three pages of Montaigne’s Essays.

KeywordsHamlet, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Florio, first quarto, second quarto
JournalCritical Survey
Journal citation31 (1)

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Under embargo until 25 Feb 2021

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