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Armin, Shakespeare, and Heywood on dramatic empathy

Sullivan, Ceri ORCID: 2015. Armin, Shakespeare, and Heywood on dramatic empathy. Notes and Queries 62 (4) , pp. 560-562. 10.1093/notesj/gjv134

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BYSTANDERS in A Warning for Fair Women (published in 1599, ‘lately divers times acted’ by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men) interject three stories about the providential discovery of murder. The first grisly story is often cited in discussions about Hamlet’s mousetrap and issues of audience response. But a second crime reconstruction story, never commented on, might be equally important in solving three outstanding questions about the play. The issues of Hamlet’s age, how old Hamlet died, and Gertrude’s complicity with this are clarified when considering the fuller version of the second story in Thomas Heywood An Apology for Actors (written c. 1608, published in 1612). In the first story in Warning, in King’s Lynn (a market town in Norfolk), a woman is watching a tragedy in which a murderer is haunted by the ghost of the victim. She cries out that the play represents her own crime.1 Heywood does not change these details, and adds more: the play was Friar Francis, played by the Earl of Sussex’s Men, and the woman states how long ago she murdered her husband (seven years) and the method (poison, but no note of how this is administered).2 In the second story in Warning, when a grave some twenty years old is dug up, a skull with a nail knocked through its scalp is found. By working out who was buried there, it becomes possible (in some unidentified way) to find out who was the murderer. Heywood changes one detail (the man was only buried twelve years before), and adds much more about the mode of discovery. The woman has watched The Four Sons of Haman, played in Amsterdam by a troupe of well-known English comedians. The hero, disguised as a common labourer, does twice the work of his co-workers

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0029-3970
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 09:11

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