Abstract

The scene of Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia (act 2, scene 2) reveals a unique moment in the theatrical presentation of epistolary feeling. In its different versions in the early texts of the play (the first two quartos and the First Folio), the typography, layout, and wording of the scene expose deep ambiguities of performance and interpretation. More than simply analyzing the vicissitudes of memory or the print shop, I argue that the textual mobility of this episode comes from its dramatic content itself: the letter raises questions about the performance of someone else’s interior condition, and each text answers those questions differently and for potentially different audiences. In the end, this scene illustrates how lyric performances signal generational distance and speak directly to the central questions of reading and behavior motivating the play.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 841-863
Launched on MUSE
2014-09-03
Open Access
No
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