[IRVING, Henry, Sir (1838-1905)]. SHAKESPEARE, William. [Hamlet: Prince of Denmark]. N.p. [London?], n.d. [not after 1875].
12o (165 x 110 mm). 116pp., interleaved with blank ruled leaves to facilitate annotation. (Lacking title-page and pp.1-6.) Forest green pebbled cloth, upper cover with gilt-lettered title (rubbed, front joint cracked); green cloth folding case.
SIR HENRY IRVING'S EXTENSIVELY ANNOTATED PROMPT COPY OF HIS INTERPRETATION OF HAMLET. Henry Irving's prompt copy, signed in ink ("Henry Irving 1875") and extensively annotated in pencil and blue, black, orange and red crayon. The date noted by Irving places it several years after Irving's electrifying first run in the role of Hamlet (1872) and its revival at the Lyceum (with Ellen Terry in the role of Ophelia) in 1878. His very revealing notes in this copy include lines or passages of dialogue marked for deletion, key passages bracketed for emphasis, individual words underlined, and precise stage directions. In Act I. Scene V (p.27), when Hamlet insists Horatio swear keep their encounter with his father's ghost a secret, Irving indicates the exact point where Hamlet is "passing sword into left hand." Later, when Hamlet enters and Polonius asks "Do you know me, my Lord?," Irving notes that Hamlet should be "bowing slightly"; and pinpoints a pause in Hamlet's reply. When Hamlet jokes "Excellent well; you are a fishmonger," Irving's notes show he should be "shading eyes with fingers." And when Hamlet asks, "Have you not a daughter?" Irving writes: "pause - eyebrows lifted enquiringly." Throughout the text, many such interpretive nuances are indicated: "pause-looking from one to the other," (p.41), "going away laughing" (p.43), "Queen turns away" (p.72), "eyebrows up," "smiling throughout this scene" (p.100).
In Hamlet's soliloquy at the end of Act II Scene II ("O what a rogue and peasant slave am I") Irving's directions fill 2 pages of text and facing blanks. Hamlet opens "leaning with hand on pillar," then he is to be "looking backwards and forwards," "pause-throwing out arms 'for Hecuba,'" "swaying up & down-beating foot," "walking" and "swinging arm round." In the poignant scene between Hamlet and Ophelia, Irving's annotations read: "vacantly, thinking of his mother," "she turns away in agony--he sees it-goes to take her hand-as she turns joyfully-abruptly stop-pause-kiss fingers and say pathetically 'Get thee to a nunnery'-." On several blank leaves at the end of this exceptional prompt copy, Irving has added notes regarding his very personal conception of Hamlet's character: "Those who are born to command acquire a manner that never deserts them Hamlet should be the gentleman and prince. A prince-gallant-stately-erect & proper. Young--&a king all over."