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Hamlet, part 7: Solid or sullied?

I know. I said I was moving on to The Tempest and I am. But I really wanted to talk about Hamlet's first soliloquy before moving on. It is usually performed as follows, which is basically the text from the First Folio (from 1623, put together after Shakespeare's death), cleaned up with modern spellings and punctuation:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God, God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't, ah fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!


In the Quarto published during Shakespeare's life (in 1604), the "s" word in that first line is "sallied", a form of the word "sullied".

You can see scans of both versions in this post, which does nothing to resolve the issue as to which version is "correct." Modern editions of the play pick one and roll with it, based on their own determinations as to which source is more reliable. (On the one hand, "solid" seems to go better with thawing and melting; on the other, "sullied" seems like Shakespeare's original choice, but who knows what sort of oversight there was in the printing of the Quarto?) Modern actors pick one and roll with it as well. David Tennant,Kenneth Branagh, Mel Gibson, Kevin Klein and Laurence Olivier all say "solid" in their film versions, but "sullied" is still sometimes selected.

Oh, and how much do you love the play of words on "canon/cannon" here? (I know I love it SO MUCH!)

Here's Kenneth Branagh's reading for you:

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 4th, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
I downloaded Hamlet to my nook last night for free! :D
Jun. 4th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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