No "authorized" text of all of Shakespeare's work exists. Many scholars speculate that the first text of Hamlet, for example, in the so-called "Bad Quarto" or Quarto 1 (Q1), probably came from the recollections of actors, and Q1 is considerably shorter than the text we read today. Quarto 2 (Q2) brings the text closer to what we know, but the complete works were not published until 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death, in what is known as the First Folio (F1).
Time needed: at least 45 minutes
Distribute the handout To Be Or Not To Be -- Three Versions. Ask students to examine the three versions of the soliloquy, focusing especially on Q1 and F1. How are they different? What do students notice about the significance of the differences?
Assign students to write a comparison of the Q1 and F1 versions of the soliloquy. What are the major differences, and what is the effect of the differences?