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All at Sea about Hamlet at Sea


“All at Sea about Hamlet at Sea” argues that the record of performances of Hamlet off the coast of Africa in 1607 is a forgery and should not be used as a basis for discussions about performances of the play—as it is continually. The essay further suggests that the forger is John Payne Collier, who had a hand in countless forgeries in works of early modern literature. Who forged the 1607 document is less important, however, than the fact that it is forged. The essay discusses the history of arguments for and against the document’s reliability and finishes with a review of three recent essays that use the document to advance their arguments. It concludes by noting the difference between the attitude of historians toward the 1607 document and that of literary critics who rely on historical documents to support their arguments.

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