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"DEE BESTRAFTE BRUDERMORD" AND ITS RELA-
TION TO SHAKESPEARE'S "HAMLET." 1
It is well known that a German dramatization (D) of the
Hamlet story has been preserved, which H. A. O. Reichard first
published in the form of an abstract in 1779 and two years later
in full. It was based on a MS of the year 1710 which is now
lost and which was entitled Tragoedia Der bestrafte Brudermord
oder Prinz Hamlet aus Ddnnemark. In the main outlines of the
action as well as in many details it agrees with Shakespeare.
Most of the characteristics which D has in common with Shake-
speare are found in the quarto edition of Hamlet of the year 1604
(B), containing practically the current text, and also in the
quarto edition of 1603 (A), based, as is well known, on a very
careless copy that an unscrupulous bookseller had ordered someone
to prepare during a performance. D has, however, also some
characteristics found only in B and others which appear only in A.
There is no doubt whatsoever, nor has anyone ever denied,
that D is one of those dramas which during the florescence of the
English theater were taken from England to Germany by travel-
ing companies of actors, and there subjected to all sorts of
changes, chiefly distortions. But there is still a great divergence
of opinion as to the nature of the English drama upon which the
German is based.
Some assert that D is based on the lost pre-Shakespearean
tragedy of Hamlet, now usually ascribed to Thomas Kyd (Z),
although perhaps many special features of Shakespeare's tragedy
may have been introduced into the German adaptation of the older
drama. This view I shall not discuss in detail in the following
paragraphs, as its erroneousness must be at once evident to anyone
competent to judge. Although those parts of D which diverge
from Shakespeare can be proved to be additions such as the
1 In this article I confirm and defend my views on Der bestrafte Brudermord which I dis-
cussed in detail in Berichte der phitol.-histor. Classe der KOnigl. Sachs. Geselhchaft der Wis-
senschaften, 1887, pp. 1 f ., and in Schauspiele der englischen KomOdianten, Deutsche National-
literatur, Vol. XXIII (1889).
249] 1 [Modern Philology, October, 1904
2 WlLHELM CeEIZENACH
traveling players in Germany inserted in other stock pieces
coming from England, those scholars who see traces of the pre-
Shakespearean Hamlet in D claim that they can show in the
parts of D not agreeing with Shakespeare traces of Kyd's taste.
The falsity of their arguments I have exposed elsewhere; 1 here I
wish to point out only that the prologue of the Furies upon which
the adherents of this view lay especial emphasis does not belong
originally to D, but was added later by the actors in Germany, as
is evident from several passages which are absolutely out of accord
with the play itself. 2
Still more erroneous of course is the assumption of the adherents
of this view that Z is the source of the parts of D which agree
with Shakespeare, thus making of Shakespeare a plagiarist and of
the author of Z one of the greatest poets of all time. Schick, for
example, concludes unhesitatingly from D that the traditional
legend had been so altered in Z that Hamlet does not reach his
goal by means of clever simulation, but meets a tragic end. I
think there can be no doubt that when Shakespeare, during his
gloomy period, created a new Hamlet tragedy, he treated the tra-
ditional story in the same manner as he did the legend of King
Lear about that very time. In both instances he changed the
happy ending to a tragic one, and at the same time modified the
traditional character of the main persons in such a way that the
tragic outcome seems like an inherent necessity.
I may limit myself, then, to a discussion of the views of those
who derive D from Shakepeare's Hamlet.
A typical peculiarity of A, found again in the dramatis per-
sonae of D, namely that Polonius is called Corambus (in A
Corambis), caused formerly several superficial observers to assume
that D is based on A. Some there were, however, and Dyce
among them, who noticed certain points of agreement between D
1 Cf . Berichte, pp. 23 f., and Schauapiele der englischen KomGdianten, pp. 131 f . I may
add here that kronstlchtig (D, I, 5} is a catch-word used in Dutch tragedies and thence
transplanted into Germany about the middle of the seventeenth century.
2 If there is in D, as some suppose, an allusion to Drake's return from his ill-starred
expedition to Portugal — i. e., to an event that was ostensibly contemporary with the appear-
ance of Z — I must add to what I have already said that Drake returned in June, 1589, and
that on August 23 Gbeene's Menaphon was entered in the Stationers 1 Register. In Nash's
preface to this work is found the oldest known allusion to Z. The event, the allusion in Z,
and Nash's reference must have followed one another with remarkable rapidity.
"Der Besteafte Bbudeemoed" 3
and B. Dyce surmised therefore that the author of the German
version used the current text (B) as well as A. Genee expressed
a similar view, and the opinion that D is based on A, but
includes also some of the peculiarities of B, was shared, so far as
I know, by most competent judges until 1887, when I expressed
the opinion that D is based on a lost version of Shakespeare's
text (Y), which was used in the performances of the Shakespeare
troupe and which had the peculiarities of both A and B. Further-
more, I stated that Y was closely related to B which reproduces
practically the authentic Shakespeare text, but that Y in view of its
stage production had contained some modifications ; and that these
were also transferred to A, which is based on a copy made in the
theater. We know that such copies were prepared at that time in
the theaters by the assistants of unscrupulous booksellers. Of
course, there can be no doubt that such an assistant reproduced in
a very careless way what he heard on the stage, very often abridg-
ing and distorting it. But in those instances in which A agrees
with D and not B we may suppose, according to my view, that the
divergence from B is to be explained not on the basis of arbitrari-
ness or carelessness, but that it goes back to Y, or, in other words,
that it is a faithful reproduction of what was heard upon the
stage. On this account D is of importance in the history of the
text of the Shakespearean tragedy ; in some points of D likewise
which agree neither with A nor B we may suppose that the old
English stage-tradition has been retained by D.
A year after my publication of this view Tanger objected to
it. 1 Tanger holds that D is based essentially on A. He thinks
that the traits in D which point back to B are not so numerous by
far as my compilation would make them appear; and that, as a
matter of fact, there are only "exceedingly few traits which remind
one of B." Moreover, these characteristics are not to be traced
back to their source, he says, but are rather subsequent additions
to the German adaptation, due to the stage tradition which was
ever and again enlivened by English players.
In the first place, Tanger overlooks this fact: the supposition
that the English companies in Germany used A as a basis of their
1 In the Jahrbuch der deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, Vol. XXIII (1888), pp. 224 f.
4 WlLHELM CrEIZENACH
performances is at the outset very improbable. This edition con-
tains, to be sure, the essential features of the action as does B, but
it is improbable that the actors, if they did use a printed edition,
would have selected this bad text, which was mutilated beyond
recognition in many places, and of which only one single edition
was extant, when numerous editions of the better text could
be had. On the other hand, the supposition that D is based on
a MS "written in the theater must seem very plausible from the
outset to anyone familiar with the history of the German stage
during the period we are discussing. Such MSS must be assumed
without any doubt in the case of a large number of stock-
pieces played by the English companies. The Tragoedia von
Barrabas, Juden in Malta, for example, was performed in Dres-
den in 1626, although the original, Marlowe's Rich Jew, was not
published before 1633. Machin's Dumb Knight was entered on
the Stationers' Register in 1608, but Ayrer, who died in 1605, had
rendered it into German. Other English dramas performed in
Germany, such as Peele's Mahomet and those dramas on which
Tugend und Liebesstreit, Sidea, Julius und Hippolyte are based,
were not printed at all.
Peculiar also is the manner in which Tanger attempts to sub-
stantiate his view that the points of agreement with B can be
explained through later interpolations of a text based on A. First
of all he tries to show that twenty of the many points of agreement
between D and B which I enumerated 1 are not conclusive. He
can do this somewhat easily, for I said that I would present not
only those points of agreement which show an indisputable connec-
tion, but also those that may possibly be due to mere chance.
After eliminating all the cases which in his opinion belong to the
latter class, Tanger himself admits three or rather four cases in
which the agreement cannot possibly be attributed to chance.
3. The speech of the king at his first entrance begins as fol-
lows in D, I, 7 :
Obschon unseres Herrn Bruders Tod noch in frischem Gedachtniss
bey jedermann ist und uns gebietet alle Solennitaten einzustellen, werden
wir doch anjetzo genOthiget, unsere schwarze Trauerkleider in Carmosin,
lln the following paragraphs I have numbered these coincidences exactly as in the
Berichte, pp. 15 f.
"Deb Bestrafte Bbudeemoed" o
Purpur und Scharlach zu verandern, weil nunmehro nieines seeligen Herrn
Bruders hinterbliebene Wittwe unsere liebste Gemahlin worden; darum
erzeige sich ein jeder freudig und mache sich unser Lust theilhaftig.
These words are taken, of course, from the speech of King
Claudius, B, I, 2, If.: "Though yet of Hamlet our dear brothers
death .... Taken to wife" — words which are not found in A.
11. In D, III, 9, mad Ophelia cries: "Siehe da, mein Ktltsch-
chen, mein Kutschchen;" in B, IV, 5, 70: "Come my coach" —
again wanting in A.
20. 1 The name Francisco occurs in D and B, but not in A. In
A the soldiers on guard are not called by name; in B they are
called Barnardo and Francisco ; in D as in A they have no names,
but the officer who enters later on is called Francisco, while in A
and B his name is Marcellus.
7. In D, II, 7, Hamlet says to the actors: "Ich bin ein grosser
Liebhaber eurer Exercitien und meine es nicht libel, denn man
kann in einem Spiegel seine Flecken sehen." This passage is
evidently a distortion of Hamlet's words at the corresponding
place in B, III, 2, 23: "Playing, whose end both at the first, and
nowe, was and is, to hold as twere the Mirrour up to nature, to
shew vertue her feature," etc. In A the comparison of the mirror
is entirely wanting. Tanger is uncertain whether he should
count this point of agreement among the class from which the
element of chance is eliminated, but surely there would be no
doubt in the mind of anyone else.
Besides these three, or rather four, instances, whose coincidence,
as Tanger himself admits, cannot possibly be due to chance, I
shall set down a few more, the agreement of which cannot be acci-
dental, as all except Tanger will doubtless admit.
4. When the king hears of Laertes's journey, he asks Coram-
bus in D: "1st es mit Eurem Consens geschehen?" whereupon
Corambus answers with a few puns on "Consens." In B, I, 2,
58, Polonius answers:
[He] Hath my Lord wroung from me my slowe leaue
By laboursome petition, and at last
Vpon his will I seald my hard consent,
I doe beseech you give him leaue to go.
1 Cf . BericMe, p. 36.
6 WlLHELM CeEIZENAOH
In A 162 Corambis answers:
He hath, my lord, wrung from me a forced graunt
And I beseech you grant your Highnesse leaue.
Tanger thinks it is mere accident that Consens in D and consent
in B are in corresponding places, and refers to the fact that else-
where in D the tendency to use foreign words is manifest — a
tendency widespread in Germany at the beginning of the eighteenth
century. But why was this particular word used in this particu-
lar place? Why is it exactly the same foreign word as in the
English text, and not one of the numerous others that might
have suited the context equally well, as for example Permiss,
Sanction, Concession, Approbation? Chance? Believe it who
13. In D, IV, 5, the king says to Leonhardus (Laertes) that
it is hard to get justice on Hamlet because his mother "backs"
him and the common people love him dearly. In the correspond-
ing place of B, IV, 7, 11, he tells Laertes that he has spared
Hamlet for two reasons:
The Queene his mother
Liues almost by his lookes, etc.
. . . the other motiue
Why to a publique count I might not goe,
Is the great loue the generall gender beare him.
All this is wanting in A. In order to remove the supposition
that there is any connection between B and D at this place,
Tanger refers to the great court scene in A where, though in an
entirely different connection, Hamlet is designated by the King at
the beginning of the tragedy, as " the Ioy and halfe heart of your
mother" and as "Denmarkes hope." In this way Tanger thinks
he has demonstrated the possibility of an accidental agreement.
Refutation of this argument seems superfluous.
17. In D, V, 6, before the fencing scene begins, Hamlet makes
apologies for his deficient practice in the art of fencing. Leonhar-
dus replies: "Ich bin Ihro Durchlaucht Diener, Sie scherzen
nur." Similarly he answers in B, V, 2, 268: "You mock me,
Sir." These words are wanting in A. Here too Tanger says the
coincidence is nothing but a matter of chance. The only proof
"Dee Besteafte Beudeemobd" 7
that he can cite is that in A also Hamlet speaks of his lack of skill
in fencing and that "Sie scherzen nur" and "you mock me" do
not mean exactly the same thing. Again it suffices to repeat his
argumentation, without entering upon any refutation.
19. In D and B Hamlet expresses the wish before dying that
Fortinbras (in D Fortempras) may succeed him ; in A no such wish
is mentioned. Tanger points out that the manner in which Fortin-
bras is declared successor in D is entirely different from that in
B. But this fact no one denies; it is, moreover, easily accounted
for in D, which has been considerably remodeled. Tanger cannot
prove, then, that this agreement of D and B as against A is a
matter of chance.
Besides these eight indubitable cases I shall quote a few more
that show agreement between D and B. Though the element of
chance may not be absolutely eliminated from them, yet it is
in my opinion highly improbable that the agreement is accidental.
1. In B, I, 1, 8, Francisco says:
— tis bitter cold
And I am sick at hart.
In D, I, 1, 11, the first sentinel says:
Ob es gleich kalt ist, so hab ich doch hier einen Hollenschweiss aus-
In A no mention is made of the cold in the first nor in the later
terrace scene, though in the latter place Hamlet comments on the
2. In D, I, 5, the ghost begins his disclosures with these
H6re mich, Hamlet, derm die Zeit kommt bald, dass ich mich wieder
an denselben Ort begeben muss, wo ich hergekommen.
Similarly the ghost says in B, I, 5, 2:
My houre is almost come
When I to sulphrus and tormenting flames
Must render vp myselfe.
These lines are wanting in A. Again Tanger supposes that it is
accidental. He says:
Is it conceivable that the author of D would have neglected the
8 WlLHELM CeEIZBNACH
appeal to popular belief contained in the words "to sulphurous and
tormenting flames" ?
The omission of this phrase is sufficiently explained by the
decidedly North German Protestant tone of D elsewhere evident,
which would not have tolerated for a moment such a concession
to the Catholic doctrine of purgatory.
6. In D, II, 6, and B, II, 2, 623, Hamlet expresses in a mono-
logue the wish that the actors might perform something similar
to the murder of his father. This does not appear in A.
9. After the abrupt termination of the inserted drama Hamlet
says to Horatio in D, II, 8:
Sahet ihr, wie der Konig sich entfarbte, als er das Spiel sahe?
Horatio: Ja, Ihro Durchlaucht, die That ist gewiss. Hamlet: [Er hat]
Eben also meinen Vater getddtet, wie ihr in diesem Schauspiel gesehn.
In B, III, 2, 298, Hamlet says:
Did'st perceiue? Horatio: Very well my Lord. Hamlet: Vpon the
talke of the poysning. Horatio: I did very well note him.
All this is wanting in A.
14. In D, V, 2, and B, V, 2, Hamlet tells Horatio how he
escaped the attempts on his life during his journey to England ;
in A this is told less emphatically in the conversation between
Horatio and the Queen. In D and B Hamlet indicates during
his talk with Horatio that he owes his escape to God.
Of all these cases let us first discuss the three or four from
which Tanger himself eliminates the possibility of chance, and in
which he wants to explain the agreement by saying that certain
peculiarities of B were subsequently inserted into the text based
on A. In regard to No. 11 (Ophelia: "Sieh' da, mein Ktitsch-
chen!") and No. 7 (the comparison of the mirror, about which
Tanger is uncertain) one cannot, of course, exclude altogether
the possibility, when these passages are taken from their context,
that they were inserted from some other version by the actors for
the sake of effect. In regard to No. 3 (the speech of the King in
which he recalls the death of the brother and his own marriage,
and announces the close of the time of mourning) Tanger thinks
that here A had a gap "which, in case of a performance of this
text, had to be filled inevitably." This view is altogether erro-
"Der Bestbafte Brudeemoed" 9
neons. The thought in D is perfectly intelligible without the
words which Tanger supposes had to be inserted, especially as the
two terrace scenes of D were played consecutively before the great
court scene. Thus the audience knew all the facts from the
speeches of Hamlet and the ghost. Moreover, mention had already
been made of the noisy festivities that the King was arranging.
Tanger tries to explain No. 20 (Francisco) in a still easier way.
After he has attempted to show that the other points of agree-
ment are later interpolations, he merely says: "The case may be
similar in regard to the name Francisco, which occurs in D and B,
but not in A." This is going a little too far, for precisely in the
case under discussion a subsequent insertion for the sake of a
better understanding of the text or for theatrical effect is abso-
lutely out of the question.
If it is found, then, that of the three or four points of agree-
ment recognized by Tanger two cannot be explained except by
supposing that parts of B were contained in the copy of D, the
number of cases must be increased; for the four other points of
agreement will convince everyone except Tanger that they cannot
be due to chance. A subsequent insertion by the actors is espe-
cially inconceivable as regards 13, 17, and 19.
Tanger' s idea in arguing so peculiarly is evident. His theory
that D is substantially based on A he tries to corroborate by say-
ing that "D has exceedingly few points which go back to B."
But this is really the reverse of the actual facts. We shall see
presently that the undisputed points of agreement between D and
A are not half so numerous as those between D and B.
We have already noted that agreement between D and A does
not necessarily prove D dependent on A, but that the common
source Y sufficiently explains all coincidences. Dependence of D
upon A could be proved only by showing that D contains traits
due to the bookseller's assistant who prepared A for the press:
misunderstandings of what was spoken on the stage or arbi-
trary changes and additions. Such modifications could have
gotten into D, not from Y of course, but only from A. Now,
Tanger really believes that he has found something in D and
A which could not have been derived from Y, but must be due to
10 WlLHELM CBEIZENACH
the fact that the writer of A misunderstood. In this way Tanger
wants to explain the most striking and characteristic coincidence
of D and A: Corambis and Corambus. He has hit upon the
amusing idea that the writer of A, hearing the name Polonius
repeatedly on the stage, mistook it for Corambis, and thus this
name got into the first printed edition. It can be readily under-
stood that this assertion, made before the members of the English
Shakespeare Society, caused considerable hilarity. There can be
no doubt whatever that the agreement between D and A is trace-
able to Y. The form in D (Corambus) is correct and agrees, we
may assume, with that in Y, for the name Corambus occurs also
in Shakespeare's AIVs Well that Ends Well, IV, 3. And that
Corambus was changed to Corambis in A owing to a mistake in
hearing needs no explanation. But why the name Corambus
should occur instead of Polonius, whether there was any covert
allusion in the latter name and the actors on that account were
afraid to utter it aloud from the stage — this of course we cannot
One remarkable point of agreement between A and D, occur-
ring in the scene which takes place in the Queen's bed-chamber,
may indeed throw a new light on the stage representation of
Hamlet in Shakespeare's time. In B, III, 4, 18, Hamlet says
to his mother:
Come, come and sit you downe, you shall not boudge,
You goe not till I set you vp a glass
Where you may see the [injmost part of you.
What wilt thou doe, thou wilt not murther me,
What how helpe!
Hamlet bids his mother sit down quietly and listen to him;
should such a request make his mother suspect that he intends
to kill her ? The words of the poet certainly do not make the
thought sufficiently clear. As a rule, it is left to the actor to sup-
plement what is lacking by tone and gesture. Tieck demanded
that a stage direction be inserted after Hamlet's words, to the
"Dee Bestbafte Bbudeemoed" 11
effect that Hamlet lock the door and thus arouse mortal terror in
the Queen. In D the corresponding lines are:
Hamlet: Pfui! Schamet Euch. Ihr habt fast auf einen Tag Begr&b-
niss und Beylager gehalten. Aber still, sind alle Thilren vest ver-
schlossent Konigin: Warum fraget Ihr das. (Corambus hustet hinter
Here, to be sure, the thought is distorted, but we are justified in
assuming that the words in italics have come from an old stage
direction. This supposition is made certainty I think when we
compare the corresponding passage in A:
Mother, mother, O are you here?
How is't with you mother?
How is't with you?
I'le tell you, but first weele make all safe.
Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
Mother, you haue my father much offended.
How now boy ?
How now mother! come here, sit downe, for you shall heare me
What wilt thou doe? thou wilt not murder me;
When Tanger points to the connection between the italicized
words in A and D he is entirely right, but he is wide of the mark
in supposing the passage in D occasioned by that in A. Here
again the coincidence is traceable to Y. The writer, obliged to
work hastily, involuntarily put into words Hamlet's significant
movements in this rapidly progressing scene.
But I shall not discuss further the points of agreement between
D and A, as I have dealt with them at length in former publica-
tions. I only wish to emphasize again that these coincidences are
not nearly so numerous as those between D and B ; if we consider
12 WlLHELM CbEIZENACH
only those points of agreement from which the possibility of
chance is eliminated, we find that there are eight coinciding with
B and three with A, not counting the two mentioned above which
I have cited in the Berichte, pp. 14 and 32, under No. 10.
The results of my investigations may be summarized as follows:
There can be no doubt that (1) D is traceable to a stock-piece of
English players traveling in Germany; that (2) the performances
of such companies were very often based on stage manuscripts;
that (3) in D characteristics of A and B are found that occur in
no printed edition; that (4) the Shakespearean troupe must have
played a version of Hamlet in which again the characteristics of
A and B were combined. Therefore the supposition that D is
based on the stage text of the Shakespearean troupe is well
founded. This conjecture becomes a certainty after a careful
comparison of the parts of D which agree with those of A and B.