I heard something interesting about Shakespeare on the radio today. It was a story about a new service of the British Library. They have put all of their earliest quarto editions of Shakespeare online in a digital format. You can “flip” through every page of works such as the 1603 “bad quarto” version of Hamlet. It was the first to be printed, but was basically a bootleg edition based on what various actors could remember of their lines. It does contain some more detailed stage directions that scholars now find interesting because they probably reflect how the plays actually looked in Shakespeare’s day. However, its value as English verse was seriously flawed. For example, in the 1603 quarto, Hamlet’s famous soliloquy “To be, or not to be, that is the question” starts out:

To be, or not to be, I there’s the point,

To Die, to sleepe, is that all? I all:

No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,

Here are some samples of the text from each quarto. First, the 1603 quarto:

bad quarto

Second, the more authoritative 1605 quarto:

good quarto

good quarto

The website had lots of information on each play and might be useful to Dad or Joel next time they teach Shakespeare. There are also lots of very old audio recordings of various famous actors performing different lines going all the way back to the early 1900s.



One other interesting find on a different note: Here is a pretty good quality free program for creating crossword puzzles. It does better than many I have tried and is useful for creating vocabulary review work as well as having fun I guess.


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