Final night time I used to be watching this video on YouTube of 9 completely different actors doing the well-known “To be or to not be” soliloquy. (The actors, so as, are: Kenneth Branagh, Laurence Olivier, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Plummer, Mel Gibson, Ethan Hawke, Adrian Lester, Richard Burton, Andrew Scott.)
As I listened to the primary few variations of the well-known monologue, one tiny little element caught out to me: they stated, “Thus, conscience doth make cowards of us all.” (emphasis mine) Maintain on…I do know the textual content of Hamlet fairly effectively. I assumed it was “conscience does make cowards…” (once more, emphasis mine)
And in order that’s the place I started a visit down a rabbit gap, all primarily based on this one little phrase. I regarded on-line at one among my go-to Full Works of Shakespeare assets. It learn, “does.” So I went to the Folger Digital Texts: “does.” Okay, I assumed, perhaps that is a kind of issues that’s completely different between the First Folio and Second Quarto editions. (There are a LOT of readings like that.) So I went to Web Shakespeare Editions, and took a have a look at each the trendy spelling and authentic spelling editions. Does, does, does…
I feel it was at that time that I figured I’d Google “conscience doth make cowards.” That led me to a few websites that truly had “doth” within the line. One was a web site I used to be fairly acquainted with, the web site of the Poetry Basis. Certain sufficient, the road on that web site reads, “Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all…” However, in fact, there’s no indication on that web site the place they received that studying that was showing to be fairly uncommon.
This morning, the issue was nonetheless gnawing at my mind, so I received out a number of of my Full Works editions, in addition to just a few completely different editions of the play alone. All of them, with no exception, learn, “…conscience does make cowards…” Oh, the New Oxford Shakespeare and the Norton Shakespeare (third ed.) play with the road a bit, by following Q2 in its studying, “Thus, conscience does make cowards,” omitting the Folio’s “of us all.” However that verb was at all times, at all times, ALWAYS “does.”
So I made a decision to seek the advice of the Shakespearean hive thoughts a bit, and ran the variant by a few of my favourite Shakespeare bloggers whose Twitter feeds I comply with: @ShakespeareGeek, @bardfilm, @ShakespeareRes, and @ClearShakes. I defined what I had found, in a two-part tweet, and requested for his or her opinions.
@ShakespeareGeek @bardfilm @ShakespeareRes @ClearShakes I went down one other Hamlet rabbit gap final night time. I used to be watching the video beneath of 9 actors doing a well-known soliloquy, and I seen the primary few stated, “Thus conscience DOTH make cowards of us all.” 1/2
— ℂ𝕠𝕣𝕪 ℍ𝕠𝕨𝕖𝕝𝕝 (@caspianrex) April 27, 2022
I received some good replies. The creator of ClearShakespeare.com (a wonderful podcast, by the way in which) knowledgeable me that it appeared the “doth” variant was an 18th-century emendation, because it confirmed up in Samuel Johnson’s well-known version of Shakespeare’s works in 1765. So, in fact, that led me to archive.org, the place I started a laborious strategy of taking a look at a number of 18th-century editions of Shakespeare: Rowe, Theobald, Warburton, and Steevens. All of them, besides Johnson, most popular “does” to “doth.” So now it regarded like we could have found the perpetrator: Dr. Samuel Johnson, the curmudgeonly scholar, who I had little question would have felt comfy tweaking the Bard’s language to sound extra mellifluous to his important ear. Textual help be damned…
It’s loads of time to spend researching one phrase, I do know. However it’s the kind of factor actual Shakespeare students do on a regular basis. In terms of Shakespeare scholarship, I’m fully self-taught. Aside from learning just a few of his performs in highschool, I’ve by no means taken a single Shakespeare course (aside from a web-based overview hosted by the Shakespeare Birthplace Belief a number of years in the past, and taught by Jonathan Bate, a wonderful British Shakespeare scholar). However as self-taught Shakespeareans go, I feel I’ve a fairly respectable degree of information and understanding of the subject. And these little textual particulars proceed to fascinate me.
And now, expensive reader, the battery on my laptop computer is getting a bit low, so I’m going to wrap it up whereas I nonetheless can! Thanks for studying, and should you’ve loved following my little journey down the Hamlet rabbit gap, think about donating a couple of bucks to the web site on the hyperlink beneath!