HyperHamlet offers an unusual edition of Shakespeare's play.
- It does not try to reconstruct the best possible, authoritative text (what people used to call the "original").
- It does not try to reconstruct the way the play was first used.
- It does not try to explain what the text “really” means, i.e. what it may have meant to its author or to those who first encountered it in the theatre.
- It does not try, in other words, to remove accretions that may have settled on the play over the centuries.
Ok. So what is it?
- it questions the general status of such endeavours.
- it offers material to reconstruct the cultural history of the play,of which "the dream of the master text", in Stephen Greenblatt's apt phrase, has become part.
- it documents how narratives, scenes, figures, phrases and ideas from the play have entered the discourse of periods, how they have enhanced the play's cultural status as a classic,and in turn fed back into the understanding of the play.
HyperHamlet was web 2 before there was web 2 (to paraphrase Juice Newton). It has been built, so far, Wikipedia style, by readers reading and contributing allusions. They are reviewed by editors, of course, and if found suitable added to the database (more like the Citizendium, I suppose, than Wikipedia).
For instance, I know of no other quick, convenient way on the Internet (or anywhere else) to discover that Hamlet's "Hoist with his own petard" (Hamlet's final speech at 3.4.225) is quoted in Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth A Romance (1821):
Scott, Sir Walter. Kenilworth. A Romance. Ed. J. H. Alexander. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1993. 352.
Text of reference: "My lord, my lord," said Charles, breaking in so soon as the King paused, "for your being here at a time so unluckily coinciding with the execution of your projects, I can only account by supposing, that those who make it their trade to impose on others, do sometimes egregiously delude themselves. The engineer is sometimes killed by the springing of his own petard. - For what is to follow, let it depend on the event of this solemn inquiry. - Bring hither the Countess Isabelle of Croye!"
It is "petard," not "petar," rather significantly, because HyperHamlet is based on the public domain Moby Shakespeare, by Moby Lexical Tools, 1992, as marked up by Jon Bosak; just as are the MIT Shakespeare texts--the version of the complete texts developed by Jeremy Hylton. Most other Internet versions of the text are also based on the same source. The provenance of the Moby Shakespeare, however, is far from clear (see Shakespeare 2.00 by Jon Bosak). The texts do not agree closely with any texts I know. At one time I tried assiduously to uncover the original source, but could not, and haven't revisited the mystery since.
The Open Source Shakespeare, on the other hand, is based on the Globe edition of 1864 (see the very interesting "The Farm Boy and the Nonconformist: A History of the Globe Shakespeare" at that site). It has "petar" (as does quarto 2) rather than "petard" and does not return a result when searching for "petard."
OED has "petard" or "petar" referencing
Florio's 1598 "petardo." (See also the
The second quarto (1604) has "Hoist with his owne petar" Modern editors will "correct spelling," or do as they will.]
Never mind all that. I find it truly amazing that I can explore Hamlet and find the interrelationships of quotes and allusions through time with such ease.
Take for example Hamlet's slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (3.1.66). It has 24 HyperHamlet references, from the pedestrian Byronic:
Letter to Samuel Rogers (1816)
Byron, George Gordon Noel, Lord. "[Letter to Samuel Rogers. 8 February 1816]." Byron's Letters and Journals. The Complete and Unexpurgated Text of all the Letters Available in Manuscript and the Full Printed Version of all Others. Ed. Leslie A. Marchand. 12 vols. London: John Murray, 1973-1982. Vol. 5, 25.
Text of reference: I shall be very glad to see you - if you like to call as you intended: - though I am at present contending with "the slings and arrows of outrageous Fortune" some of which have struck at me from a quarter whence I did not indeed expect them.
To the Moody Blues trope:
Slings and Arrows (1986)
Moody Blues. "Slings and Arrows." The Other Side Of Life. Polydor, 1986. Song 8.
Text of reference: Slings And Arrows // Slings and arrows, slings and arrows /Slings and arrows, slings and arrows / No chance for a second chance / When the arrows start to fly / No way is an easy way / To say goodbye / No dream is ever lost / If you never cease to try / Never thought you would walk away / From my side / I just can't hide from / Slings And Arrows / Slings and arrows
To the literarily obscure:
Slings and Arrows (2002)
Bonner, William M. "Slings and Arrows." Nature Publishing Group. Cf. http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/ncb/journal/v4/n10/full/ncb1002-e234.html. 18 July 2005.
Text of reference: Our genomes are subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In each of us, cosmic radiation is inflicting a DNA double-stranded break (DSB) in 100000 cells every second.
Comment: Review of a monograph In Situ Detection of DNA Damage.
"HyperHamlet could be described as a ‘dictionary in progress’ of quotation and allusion, which does not tell us where phrases come from (as other dictionaries do), but rather where Hamlet’s phrases have gone."
I find this truly valuable, as will others, I believe, in the quest to pluck out the heart of our own mysteries (as it were) and we Hamlet's.