2014 Barbara Palmer/Martin Stevens Award for Best New Essay in Early Drama Studies

Award: 
Barbara D. Palmer Award
Martin Stevens Award
Award Year: 
2014
Tiffany Stern, University of Oxford. ‘Sermons, Plays and Note-Takers: Hamlet Q1 as a “Noted” Text’, Shakespeare Survey, 66 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 1-23.
 
Tiffany Stern’s essay, “Sermons, Plays and Note-Takers: Hamlet Q1 as a ‘Noted’ Text,” reads like an especially well-written and deftly plotted mystery novel. Taking as her subject the so-called “bad quarto” of Hamlet, Stern leads the reader through a thoroughly documented and totally compelling rethinking of Q1’s origins. Stern persuasively argues that this text is the product of a note-taking scribal audience who employed contemporary notation al habits to produce a “pirated” text for publication. In her analysis, evidence for published sermons based on “taken” notes is interwoven with a wealth of contemporary detail from the book trade, writing practices, and performance conditions. In a lesser essay, this impressive contextualization might merely inform a reading and comparison of the Hamlet texts, but Stern brings to life a new world of early modern performance through descriptions and details that offer many small openings onto the textual culture of the period.
 
The rapprochement made between the public for sermons and the audience for the theater brings a fresh new angle to these two types of performance, one that is based on an aspect of reception as opposed to textual content. Overall, this essay not only offers a significant reassessment of Hamlet Q1, but also makes a claim for the cultural importance of note-taking practices in the early modern period more generally.