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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 408
NOTES ON HAMLET

I have shown in Note B that it is very unsafe to argue to Hamlet's youth from the words about his going back to Wittenberg.

     On the whole I agree with Prof. Dowden that, apart from the statements in V. .i., one would naturally take Hamlet to be a man of about five-and-twenty.

     It has been suggested that in the old play Hamlet was a mere lad; that Shakespeare, when he began to work on it,1 had not determined to make Hamlet older; that, as he went on, he did so determine; and that this is the reason why the earlier part of the play makes (if it does so) a different impression from the later. I see nothing very improbable in this idea, but I must point out that it is a mistake to appeal in support of it to the passage in V. i. as found in Q1; for that passage does not in the least show that the author (if correctly reported) imagined Hamlet as a lad. I set out the statements in Q2 and Q1.

     Q2 says:

(1) The grave-digger came to his business on the day when old Hamlet defeated Fortinbras:
(2) On that day young Hamlet was born:
(3) The grave-digger has, at the time of speaking, been sexton for thirty years:
(4) Yorick's skull has been in the earth twenty-three years:
(5) Yorick used to carry young Hamlet on his back.

     This is all explicit and connected, and yields the result that Hamlet is now thirty.

     Q1 says:

(1) Yorick's skull has been in the ground a dozen years:
(2) It has been in the ground ever since old Hamlet overcame Fortinbras:
(3) Yorick used to carry young Hamlet on his back.

     From this nothing whatever follows as to Hamlet's age, except that he is more than twelve!2 Evidently the writer (if correctly reported) has no intention of telling us how old Hamlet is. That he did not imagine him as very young appears from his making him say that he has noted 'this

   1Of course we do not know that he did work on it.
   2I find that I have been anticipated in this remark by H. Türck (Jahrbuch for 1900, p. 267 ff.).

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