How can you compare the three early editions of Hamlet?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The three early editions of this play have meant it has been particularly difficult to establish any one definitive text of this play. The First Quarto edition (Q1) is generally referred to as the "bad" first quarto because it only contains about half of the text that the Second Quarto contains. The Second Quarto (Q2) is much longer than Q1, although it does lack about 85 lines that are printed in F1, which scholars speculate were ommitted to not offend the queen of James I, who was from Denmark. Finally, the First Folio (F1) was published which is the most complete version of the play, and the version that was published in Shakespeare's first collection of his plays. 

Some of the value of Q1 lies in the fact that it contained stage directions that gave useful information as to how actors were expected to move and when. It also contains a whole scene that is not mentioned in the other versions. The major disadvantage of this edition is its length and the quality of language, which is very poor compared to the other two. Some critics argue that Q1 is actually an abridged version of the entire play meant for travelling companies. 

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