on December 4, 2006
I am currently working on my MFA/Directing. I directed Hamlet and am now writing my defense of it. I have two thoughts on this third edition.
After going through this edition, from a point of view of the script, I'm not sure I understand the need to update Harold Jenkins's 2d edition. The script itself was easier to navigate in the 2d edition and I thought Jenkins's notes were more helpful. I also disagree with some of what Thompson and Taylor have to say in their editorial notes below the script. That said, I am biased because I used the 2d edition as a sort of "Hamlet Bible" as I directed the piece. Jenkins's notes were extremely insightful and useful. I became very comfortable with it.
On the other hand, this third edition has some different insight into the play in performance than does the second edition, as well as information on casting and music that was not included in Jenkins. Obviously there is much written about William Shakespeare in the world, and this 3rd edition of Arden is probably the most up-to-date resource for bibliographic material (as well as some photos of past productions of the play). Jenkins edition is 24 years old, ancient in the scholastic world's "what's new" when it comes to sifting the vast quantity of material written on Shakespeare and Hamlet.
Obviously, the needs of the theatrical world for playing Hamlet are different than that of the scholastic world (of which I am currently stuck in both). I think Jenkins is more user-friendly for the theatrician while Thompson & Taylor suit the needs of the scholastic better. My final thought is that a scholar/student of Shakespeare will want to have both the second and third editions for the differences they have to offer.
on April 6, 2000
The Arden editions of Shakespeare are the best available. While they cost a lot more than the standard cheap editions, they have so much more. The Folger editions (probably the most widely available editions of Shakespeare) have footnotes that are quite general and never do they have enough. In addition, they really don't have that much extra information on the play--only a small essay analyzing the modern issues of the play. The Arden editions are truly the scholarly editions of Shakespeare. Ninety percent of the time that I have a question on the text, a footnote provides more information. In addition, a lengthy introduction is included. Everything is documented. While at this point I don't care that much about how the quarto version of Hamlet said "no", when the folio version said "so", it's nice to know that if I have a specific question, the answers in there. My thoughts on Hamlet: Don't fret about understanding the material, just dive in. Shakespeare offers interesting plots to the beginners and vivid prose to pick over to the advanced scholar.
on May 22, 2009
I find this very interesting, at least one of the reviewers who gave such a low review not only reviewed this book, but every other book in this Ignatius Critical Series edit by Joseph Peace. In each one, he gives only one star, basially saying the book is a waste of time and money.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!
Why would someone, keep on reading all the books in this series, and then say that reading them is a waste of time? It just does not make sense! Not only that, but the majority of the book is giving nothing but the text of Hamlet. How can any true fan of Shakespeare give that one star. Just the text of Hamlet alone would make it at least 2 stars.
So it seems to me that there are some here who have a hidden agenda of not wanting me to read this book - not because of its allegedly poor literary value. So the more they protested, the more I was intrigued.
So I got the book, and I am so glad I did! For the first time, Hamlet came alive to me. The footnotes were enough to hep be understand the arachaic phrases, but I was not overwhelmed with them. The editor wanted Shakespear to speak for himself. None of the footnotes tried to persuade you to their interpretations. That was left to the commentaries after you read the Hamlet story.
The commentaries were extremely insightful, looking at Hamlet from a Catholic perspective. And why not? Other commentaries look at Hamlet from a modernist or a feminist perspective. Why not from a Catholic perspective? Again, I do not understand these one-star critics. If they were really fans of Shakespeare, they would be happy to see a book like this that would broaden Shakespeare's audience. But it seems they would rather that Hamlet never be read than to read Hamlet from a politically incorrect view.
To read why Shakespear was probably a Catholic and was writing from a Catholic persepective, you may want to read The Quest for Shakespeare
on January 9, 2007
The folks at Arden decided to bring forth all three versions of Shakespeare's revenge (or anti-revenge) tragedy so that those who care can study the similarities and differences between the texts for themselves. I teach many Shakespearean plays and using the "bad quarto" of 1603 in conjunction with the oft used conflated text is an eye-opener for students who get a chance to truly engage in the text when comparing, say, Hamlet's third act soliloquy of the Folio (1623) version with the often maligned 1603 version. As usual, the people at Arden do an excellent job at editing the works. This is an excellent companion piece to the recently released third edition of Hamlet by the same editors of the 1604 Quarto text. A welcome addition to any Bardolators library.
on June 11, 2001
An excellent version of the play, a balanced and comprehensive introduction, and extended notes about subjects of controversy or interest -- if you want to buy a copy of Hamlet this is the edition to get.
Most people have not read many versions of the play; nor have many people read most of the hundreds of books and articles on this play. For whatever strange reason, i have made it through much of the Hamlet criticism. And, i think i can fairly recommend this edition.
As you may or may not know, there are essentially three different versions of the play that have survived, the first (or bad) quarto, the second quarto, and the folio. Jenkins wisely relies primarily on the second quarto, but is not afraid to supplement or modify it with the folio and even the first quarto where it is appropriate.
But differences in the text of the play between this and other editions of the play is not the reason to buy this book. The reason is that there is so much more here than just the play. First, there is the 150+ page introduction, which is as balanced a review of thought on Hamlet as you are going to find. Next, the text of the play has the standard array of footnotes to explain various word meanings or relevancies. Third, at the end of the play there are longer notes that discuss in depth issues that the text raises which are beyond the scope of a normal footnote. These longer notes are great with an in depth discussion of hundreds of issues including whether a nunnery refers to a house of ill-repute and how old Hamlet is.
on October 1, 2010
I've been teaching Hamlet using this text for about two years (four semesters) to college freshmen/sophomores in a general composition/literature class. The Ignatius edition is the best that I've used (and I've used several); I put it slightly ahead of the Folger edition. (The Folger edition does have the advantage that it includes plot summaries of scenes -- very helpful to beginning Shakespeare readers -- which the Ignatius lacks.)
The essays that are included are solid and insightful. They are particularly helpful in helping readers understand the Christian context of the play. Regardless of whether or not the reader is Christian, it's necessary to understand Christian ideas about sin, repentance, and justice in order to grasp the nuances of the play. When students are encouraged to really think deeply about these topics, they end up making connections between the events of the play and the events of their own lives -- for instance, about the struggle between desire ("I want what I want" -- just like Claudius) and reason ("I want to do what is right -- but how do I figure out what that is?" -- like Hamlet). This edition has been the most useful for me in terms of helping my students to do this kind of deep thinking.
On a practical level, I like the editor's choices about what words to gloss; to any adult reader who has read a lot of Shakespeare and other classic authors, the vocabulary glosses may seem like overkill, but it has been my experience that my 18-22-year-old students need and benefit from them.
It is helpful that the glosses are footnoted rather than end- or side-noted; this makes it easier to find them if you need them, while not being too intrusive if you don't. Visually, it's an attractive edition with plenty of white space -- important for taking marginal notes! - and the full names of characters spelled out.
on February 6, 2012
This is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, but in the Kindle edition the footnotes are not activated. Because of this you have to go to the end of the scene/act to look up a word, phrase, or historical data...then there is the issue of getting back to where you were before.
Is it too much to ask for publishers to do their job, and stop producing substandard Kindle books thinking the consuming public will take whatever crap they offer us.
Remember, Amazon allows us to return Kindle books withing a week of purchase. All you have to do is go to Manage Your Kindle and then find where all your books are kept, from there you go to the Actions Tab and select Refund.
If we all begin to complain and return these books then publishers will get the message and begin to do their jobs correctly/thoughtfully.
Again, this is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays but I am NOT going to stand for substandard eBooks anymore.
on April 9, 2001
Both as an academic teacher and as a researcher I have used Jenkins's edition regularly for nearly twenty years, and continue to marvel at the wealth of scholarly material - factual and interpretative - which it offers. I consider that no other edition of *Hamlet* is remotely as useful, though I frequently find myself in disagreement with this great editor.
Jenkins's text is eminently satisfying: sensibly and responsibly based, and scrupulously and intelligently modernised, even if one prefers (as I do) e.g. "solid" to "sullied".
His introduction is informative and well-considered, though I must admit I find his interpretative view of the play, both there and in several of his longer notes, at times less than penetrating. I feel he idealises Hamlet too much, misjudges the failure of Hamlet's play-within-the-play, and is less than openminded when it comes to making sense of e.g. the sexual elements in Ophelia's dreams (which are hard to interpret decisively, but certainly more significant than his cursory view suggests). On the other hand his information on ghosts, for example, is highly valuable and useful.
His shorter notes, explaining many difficult words and contemporary concepts, are always illuminating, frequently "spot on", and usually helpful even if one disagrees, in that he provides most of the information which one needs even if one ultimately arrives at a different judgement from his.
If banished or imprisoned and allowed only one edition of *Hamlet* I'd take this one. Not only because it is the best, but because it would help me in spending many weeks, months, or years on this riddling, frustrating, but endlessly fascinating play. Jenkins's edition is a monument to late twentieth century scholarship, and will undoubtedly continue to be recognised as such. - Joost Daalder, Professor of English, Flinders University, South Australia
on November 1, 2003
When Henry James sat down to write on his Venetian travels for what later became the Italian Hours, he began with a disclaimer: "It is a great pleasure to write the word; but I am not sure there is not a certain impudence in pretending to add anything to it." Turning to Shakespeare, we might amuse ourselves by writing on, say, Hamlet, but can anything be said that's not already been said, and better, a dozen times, by superior critics and closer readers? In the appropriate spirit of humility (and in utter submission to the Bard and his great gift to civilization), I offer a few thoughts on the Arden 2nd Edition of Hamlet, and not on "the greatest work in the history of literature."
Hamlet is by far the longest of the Ardens at 574 pages. It breaks down thusly: the prefatory material of editor Harold Jenkins - one of the Arden Series general editors and a Hamlet authority of great renown - alone takes up 164 pages. Three-quarters of this is bibliographical and historical. In his 40-page critical introduction, Jenkins addresses many of the plays thorniest problems, with the Talmudic attentiveness of the closest reader. Then comes the play itself, spread over 264 pages (in terms of sheer length relative to the Bard's other plays, the text is a monster, coming in at more than 3800 lines). Each page of the Arden includes an average half-page of Jenkins' detailed, argumentative, authoritative, and uncommonly helpful footnotes. The final 146 pages consist of longer (end)notes that Jenkins simply could not physically fit onto the bottom of a page. Many of these are short essays (including an appendix that glosses an earlier discussion on the dating of the play).
Each of the Arden Hamlet's three sections might merit separate publication (after a modest bit of repackaging), but as a totality, Jenkins' edition must be the greatest value on the Shakespeare market. Jenkins' ruminations on the provenance of the story and the many sources Shakespeare might have drawn on, the "Ur-Hamlet" that might have come from the quill of contemporary Thomas Kyd (The Spanish Tragedy), the complexities of determining an authoritative text, the drama's inconsistencies and unanswered questions, the import of the great soliloquy of III.i (which is emphatically NOT, insists Jenkins, a deliberation on whether to commit suicide), Elizabethan revenge dramas in general, and so much more make this a truly indispensable, illuminating, even breathtaking volume.
We think we know this play well. We have read it, and seen performed on stage and in memorable or hideously forgettable films. Many of its greatest lines are embedded in our hearts. The beginning of true understanding, however, resides in a superbly annotated scholarly edition. The Arden is one of several choices you can make and is for me the one to own, equally suitable for students, scholars, actors, and mere Bardolators. It will - provided, of course, you are not already a scholarly specialist in Elizabethan drama - knock the scales from your eyes. And until the 3rd edition now in preparation under Ann Thompson is published, this Hamlet will stand as the epitome of the Arden Shakespeare's greatness as a series.
We do not guild the lily by proclaiming this to be the most comprehensive edition of the greatest drama to come from any pen in history. The book is absolutely bristling with textual elucidations, notes and marginalia and a stunningly detailed, if somewhat dry, introduction. Moreover, no other edition I have used (and I have read Hamlet more than fifty times since the summer of my seventeenth year, including this edition over two enriching days during the past week) so clearly lays out the textual divergencies of the various versions of the canon, Q1, Q2 and F, as does Arden.
Than being said, it is the text itself which shines through in this (and any other) edition -- let us not mistake the husk for the grain.
Hamlet (as Harold Bloom argues so persuasively) more than any other play is surely Shakespeare's life work -- a work which he poured more of himself into over a longer period of time than any other. Written in its final version just months after the death of the playwright's only son, Hamnet, and his father, it represents Shakespeare's personal triumph over adversity and darkness.