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178
The Tragedy of Hamlet,
 

Hamblet in 1608. This English translation differs in a few particulars from Belle-Forest, and these differences seem to be due to the influence of Shakespeare's play. Thus, in Belle-Forest the counsellor who acts the spy during Amleth's (Hamlet's) interview with his mother, conceals himself under a bed-quilt, upon which Amleth leaps when entering the room and so discovers the eavesdropper. In the Hystorie, the counsellor hides behind the arras, as in the play. Again, Hamblet, at the moment of this discovery, calls out "A rat! A rat!", of which there is no trace in Belle-Forest.

There is one other conjectural source for Shakespeare's play, viz., an earlier play by another author on the same subject. The evidence for the existence of such a work is as follows: In 1589 was published Greene's Menaphon with a prefatory epistle by Thomas Nash "to the Gentlemen Students of both Vniuersities." In this epistle, Nash briefly reviews contemporary literature and refers to "whole Hamlets, I should say Handfulls of tragical speeches," linking this remark with a reference to Seneca.

The next reference to an early play of Hamlet is from the Diary of Philip Henslowe,[1] the theatrical manager, for the year 1594.

"Ye 9 of June 1594. R[eceive]d. at hamlet, viijs". At this time the Lord Chamberlain's and the Lord Admiral's men were playing for Henslowe at the theatre at Newington Butts. The former company was the one to which Shakespeare belonged.

Lodge's Wit's miserie, and the World's madness, published in 1596, contains this passage: "[Hate Virtue is] a foul lubber, and looks as pale as the wisard of the ghost, which cried so miserably at the theator, like an oyster-wife, Hamlet reuenge."

  1. The entry differs from those Henslowe made when the play mentioned was a new one.