The Argumentative Old Git had a good post on the three different versions of Hamlet. We took a closer look at the First Quarto (Q1) and despite all its deficiencies the order of its scenes resolve some issues raised in the Second Quarto and First Folio. But I wanted to focus on a scene in Q1 that isn't in the other two versions. Horatio informs the Queen that Hamlet has returned safe from his English voyage. A copy of Q1 is available online, although this excerpt updates the spelling:
Enter Horatio and the Queen.
Madam, your son is safe arrived in Denmark.
This letter I even now received of him,
Whereas he writes how he escaped the danger
And subtle treason that the King had plotted.
Being crossed by the contention of the winds,
He found the packet sent to the King of England,
Wherein he saw himself betrayed to death,
As, at his next convers’ion with your grace,
He will relate the circumstance at full.
Then I perceive there’s treason in his looks
That seemed to sugar o’er his villany.
But I will soothe and please him for a time,
For murderous minds are always jealous.
But know not you, Horatio, where he is?
Yes, madam, and he hath appointed me
To meet him on the east side of the city
Oh, fail not, good Horatio, and withal commend me
A mother’s care to him. Bid him awhile
Be wary of his presence, lest that he
Fail in that he goes about.
Madam, never make doubt of that.
I think by this the news be come to court:
He is arrived. Observe the King, and you shall
Quickly find, Hamlet being here,
Things fell not to his mind.
But what become of Gilderstone and Rossencraft?
He being set ashore, they went for England,
And in the packet there writ down that doom
To be performed on them ‘pointed for him.
And by great chance he had his father’s seal,
So all was done without discovery.
Thanks be to heaven for blessing of the Prince!
Horatio, once again I take my leave,
With thousand mother’s blessings to my son.
Madam, adieu. [Exeunt.]
A question we had to address—if we were staging Hamlet would we include this scene? Many students wanted to include it because they believed it adds to Gertrude's characterization, demonstrating mettle in dealing with Claudius and showing concern for her son. I'm not convinced it paints her completely in a positive light, especially where she thanks heaven when hearing of G & R's death sentence.
So would you include it?
To me it depends on how you plan on portraying Gertrude. Is she weak-willed, easily pushed around, overwhelmed by the death of her husband and the seeming madness of her son? Or is she a strong character, doing what she wants regardless of what others think (and maybe having an affair with her brother-in-law)? Or somewhere in between. I prefer a strong Gertrude who's focusing mostly on herself (even if the text doesn't always support that reading) and the scene doesn't really fit for me if you go in that direction. But then that's my preference.