The <i>Hamlet</i> First Quarto (1603) & the Play of Typography


  • Erika Mary Boeckeler Northeastern University



I argue that the First Quarto of Hamlet (1603)expresses a more intense sensitivity to polysemous typography than has been critically articulated. The orthography, typography, and layout functioned as rich sources of meaning-making for early modern readers, poets, and publishers. Performances happened on the playtext page that were often unavailable in a live theatrical setting. This article makes a crucial critical intervention in recuperating the poetic value of Q1, a text that has historically generated interest mostly within analytical bibliography, performance studies, and character studies. Readers were sensitive to how visual wordplay activated important themes to which my critical analysis attends.

Author Biography

Erika Mary Boeckeler, Northeastern University

Erika Boeckeler ( is an assistant professor in the English department at Northeastern University. Her first book, Playfull Letters: A Study in Early Modern Alphabetics (University of Iowa Press, 2017) argues that artistic experimentation with the alphabet had a sweeping impact on the intellectual and social history of the early modern period. A second book manuscript examines how writing and its media collide in such a way as to alter them both.