Did you know that three very different versions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet were published in the early 1600s? Stage performances and film adaptations of Hamlet tend mix all three versions together into an everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink edition of the Bard’s most well-known play. The show can be very long as a result. And in a very long Hamlet, the title character spends more time debating “To be or not to be,” among other questions.
In the pages of the First Folio, Hamlet is not the same indecisive character that he often seems to be on stage and screen. In this multimedia presentation, we’ll explore the early versions of Hamlet how they differ from each, how they change the play’s plotlines and character development, and how they have inspired widely varying stage and film portrayals of the title character.
Joshua Calhoun, an assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, discusses those versions in this free talk.
Calhoun specializes in Shakespeare, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry, and the history of media. As a Faculty Affiliate at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), he also teaches courses in the environmental humanities. His work has been published in PMLA, Shakespeare Studies, and Environmental Philosophy. He is currently writing a book about poetry, papermaking, and ecology titled The Nature of the Page in Renaissance England. Drawing on original archival research, environmental history, and the poetry of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the book tells a vibrant natural history of the ecological negotiations and technological contrivances used to store and transmit human ideas.
Calhoun, who serves on the Advisory Committee for the UW-Madison Center for the Humanities, also leads hands-on public workshops on the history of papermaking. He is the co-founder of Holding History, a mentorship-driven public engagement project that trains an interdisciplinary group of students to share their knowledge and the resources of the campus with the broader community.
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The lecture is part of the citywide celebration for Shakespeare’s First Folio at the New Mexico Museum of Art, in collaboration with the History Museum exhibit The Book’s the Thing: Shakespeare from Stage to Page.