Genesis and autobiographical references

Coming into shape and first performance

We don’t know exactly when William Shakespeare’s "Hamlet" was written and when it was first performed. As early as 1590, a play circulated in England, the so-called “Ur-Hamlet”, which cannot be ruled out as originating from Shakespeare's pen and representing an earlier version of his later drama. However, research assumes that "Hamlet" was probably written around 1601.

In 1602, an entry appears in the Directory of London Publishers, Printers and Booksellers that speaks not only of a revenge drama called "Hamlet," but also states that it was recently performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's theater company. This entry does not necessarily allude to the first performance of the play, but because of the mention of Shakespeare's theater company, it is a strong indication that by 1602 Shakespeare's now-familiar play, was already being performed instead of the original Hamlet.

It is not until 1603 that the first written evidence of Shakespeare's authorship of "Hamlet" is available: A published print explicitly names him as the author and also states that the play "The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke" was performed not only in London, but also in Cambridge and Oxford. The 1603 version, however, is still extraordinarily short and fragmenta...

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