Earliest known reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet in Harvey's copy of Speght's Chaucer

Description

This is the earliest known reference to Hamlet, in a note made by the scholar Gabriel Harvey in his copy of the works of Chaucer. Here he notes that ‘The younger sorte takes much delight in Shakespeare’s Venus, & Adonis: but his Lucrece & his tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, have it in them, to please the wiser sort’.

This casual note has been used as one piece of evidence in dating the play to about 1600, based on other allusions in the annotations. It also shows that Hamlet, which must have been a relatively new play, had already been well-received.

Full title:
Thomas Speght's edition of The Workes of... Chaucer, 1598, with autograph notes by Gabriel Harvey, including the earliest known reference to Shakespeare's Hamlet
Published:
1598, London
Created:
c. 1600
Format:
Book / Folio / Manuscript annotation
Creator:
Gabriel Harvey [marginal annotation], Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Speght [editor]
Usage terms

The printed text is Public Domain

The handwritten annotations are Public Domain in most countries other than the UK

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Add MS 42518

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Hamlet and revenge

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan
Themes:
Tragedies, Power, politics and religion

Hamlet shows Shakespeare intent on sabotaging the conventions of revenge tragedy. Kiernan Ryan explains why.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

Hamlet

Created by: William Shakespeare

Hamlet opens after the death of King Hamlet. His brother has succeeded him to the throne and quickly married the ...