DISAMBIGUATING SHAKESPEARE. Rosenbaum’s discussion of Shakespeare’s spelling is based on his interviews with John Andrews, the founder of the Shakespeare Guild. Andrews is one of the leading advocates of using Shakespeare’s original spelling. In the Everyman edition of Hamlet, edited by Andrews, the text, based on the second quarto, reads: “The air bites Shroudly.”
During Shakespeare’s time, there was no settled spelling in English; Andrews calls the Elizabethan spelling “unanchored”. Rosenbaum takes the publication of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary in 1755 as the date when a standardized spelling began. The multiple spellings created ambiguities. Modern editing tends to force a single choice—a process which Andrews calls “disambiguation”.
To take another example from Hamlet, at the beginning of his soliloquy in scene ii of Act 1, does Hamlet say: “Oh that this too too sallied flesh would melt…” or “Oh that this too too sullied flesh would melt” or “Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt…”? Both quarto 1 and quarto 2 give “sallied”, but the folio says “solid”. The Norton chooses “sallied” because “Hamlet’s primary concern is with the fact of the flesh’s impurity, not with its corporality….’Sally’ is a legitimate sixteenth century form of ‘sully’….” The notion of melting, and thawing and resolving itself into a dew—the loss of corporality—is excluded. The ambiguity is obscured.