Bad Quarto

In Act 1, Scene 1 of this bad quarto, Horatio is quoted having said to the ghost, which has just appeared, “What art thou that thus usurps the state in/Which the majesty of buried Denmark did sometimes/Walk? By heaven, I charge thee speak.” The correct translation has Horatio saying, “What art thou that usurps’t this time of night,/ Together with that fair and warlike form/In which the majesty of buried Denmark/ Did sometimes march?” The bad quarto has Horatio essentially saying that the ghost is taking over Denmark, the state in which the king walked whereas the good translation has nothing nearly as ludicrous. It essentially has Horatio saying that the ghost is “invading” the night in the shape and form of the dead king of Denmark. Clearly, these two translations are very different with one supposing that the ghost is an invader of the state and the other simply making the assumption that the ghost, in the form of Old Hamlet, is appearing in the night.

In Act 1, Scene 6 of the bad quarto (this is really Act 1, Scene 1 in the real Hamlet), Ophelia tells Polonius that Hamlet “found me walking in the gallery all alone.” In the actual translation, Hamlet found her sowing in her room. Although this seems like a petty mistake, it bears some significance. In the bad Hamlet, Hamlet just happens to cross her path in a hallway, implying that Hamlet’s actions were made at the spur of the moment and could have been sincere. In the real play, he made a concerted effort to find her, which makes it more likely that his actions were planned, making the reader more aware of the fact that much of Hamlet’s apparent madness is contrived. So, it is this small overlooking of a detail that doesn’t allow the reader to fully understand Hamlet’s motivations and plans.

Other than these two instances of clear misrepresentation of the original text, the most frustrating part about this translation was that it was unorganized. Nearly all the names were misspelled or just plain wrong, with Ophelia being called Ofelia, Polonius being called Corambis, and Reynaldo is somehow Montano. Also, the division of the scenes into acts is not even the same as in the real text, with many of the scenes that should be in Act 2 being placed in Act 1. All these errors simply have the effect of confusing the reader and making it more difficult for him/her to enjoy the play in its full splendor.

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