‘You shall heare me speake’: The Architecture of Feigned Soliloquy in <i>Hamlet</i>’s Gallery


  • Emma K. Atwood University of Montevallo


In the first quarto of Hamlet (Q1)—popularly deemed the 'bad quarto'—we are told that Hamlet frequents a room at Elsinore Castle called the gallery. In fact, he meets Ofelia in the gallery twice: in the unstaged “ungartered” scene and again in the 'To be, or not to be' scene. Both times their intimacy is betrayed. The first time, Ofelia tells all, and the second time, Claudius and Corambis (Q1’s Polonius) eavesdrop. In the second quarto (Q2) and the first folio (F), however, all references to the gallery are absent. It follows that Hamlet’s gallery has not garnered much critical attention. After all, it can easily be taken for a throwaway reference, swallowed up by the ever-looming dramaturgical convention of the 'unlocalized stage'. But what would happen if we were to take this gallery setting seriously? Attending to the architectural specificity found in playscripts like Hamlet Q1 can help illuminate the social resonances of the spaces these characters inhabit, revealing otherwise unspoken motivations and understandings. In turn, I contend that gallery settings, following their real-life correlatives in early modern great homes, inspired a new dramaturgical technique—the feigned soliloquy. Recovering the social resonances of the gallery can help us better understand a tension central to Hamlet, which is also a tension central to early modernity: the struggle to outwardly represent one’s inner self—'that within which passeth show'—and the limits of accessing another person’s mind.