Textual Criticism Exercise

Due: Sept. 25.

In this exercise you will examine a famous example of variant texts, that is, of the "To be and not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet, and practice your skills in the comparison of different texts. Rather than trying to establish an "ideal" or "best" text, you will instead be responsible for first identifying the variants in the texts, and then describing what difference it makes if you choose one variant over another.

Procedures: You will be given a handout with three different versions of the "To be or not to be" speech: from Quarto One(1603), Quarto Two(1604), and Folio One(1623).

  1. Examine all three versions.
  2. Number the lines in each version.
  3. Make a systematic list of the significant differences between Q2 and F1 versions of the speech (including differences in punctuation and spelling, but not in capitalization). Example:

    Q2, l.1: question,;F1, 1.1 Question:

  4. Then choose five significant variants, and for each example, explain the difference in meaning if you choose one over the other.
  5. Study the general differences between the Q1 and F1 versions of the speech, and write two or three paragraphs describing the differences in tone and theme between the two versions of the speech.