10-second review: The changes and variations in published texts of Shakespeare’s plays affect meaning. Introduce two variants from the First Quarto and the First Folio of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be….” soliloquy. If students want to explore this topic of variants in Shakespeare’s published works, they should type into the Bing or Google search engines the words “Shakespeare’s variant texts.” (However, do not use the quotation marks.)
Title: “The Text’s the Thing: Using (Neglected) issues of Textual Scholarship to Help Students Reimagine Shakespeare.” Scott Parsons. English Journal (September 2009), 85-89. The secondary school journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Example: Compare two published texts of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy:
To be, or not to be, I there’s the point,/ To die, to sleepe, is that all? I, all:/ No, to sleepe, to dreame, I, mary, there it goes….
To be or not to be, that is the question:/ Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer/ The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/ Or take arms against a sea of troubles,/ And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep/ No more; and by a sleep to say we end/ The heart-ache.
Quote: “Ask them [students] then to decide which of the two beginnings to the soliloquy they think represents what Shakespeare actually wrote and explain their rationale. Most students will likely opt for the latter, and reasons will vary. Some will pick it because they’ve heard it before; others may just go for the more wordy of the two. Some will prefer the poetic quality of the Folio. I did have one student, however, who picked the First Quarto version. For him, these lines felt more passionate and immediate and therefore suitably abrupt.” p. 87.
Comment: Interesting approach to the study of Shakespeare’s language. RayS.