5. Who's there? (in English)

Thou com'st in such a questionable shape (Hamlet, 1.4.461)

If, remembering Michail Bakhtin's remarks upon the great time, in which a work of art lives, we pose the question, What is the best example of a literary work living in great time?, we shall probably most often receive get the frequent answer: the tragedy Hamlet by Shakespeare. What a great life indeed! Vsevolod Meyerhold, who wanted to stage Hamlet in the 1930's and had even asked Boris Pasternak to translate the play, once said, that if in the future there was no one literary peace of art except Hamlet the theatre would not be dead. We could add to this well-known statement by Meyerhold2, that the literary criticism's sphere would be alive too. May be in this hypothetical case the Russian Shakespeareans would pay more attention to the original text of Hamlet, which is usually eclipsed by the classical translations of the play. Incidentally, the problem of blocking out the initial texts of Hamlet exists not only for Russia, but for native speakers of the great bard's language as well. The real Shakespeare is usually veiled by the so-called classical editions in which the Hamlet of the First Folio and of the Second Quarter are compounded in the united play.

In this context I would like to apply one more question, set by Bakhtin, to Shakespeare's work in general and to Hamlet in particular: does an author invite a literary critic to his symposium table? Bakhtin answered in the negative, but as far as Shakespeare is concerned it seems to me otherwise. The author of Hamlet insistently invites scholars to analyse his works, to penetrate the texts, to decipher the sense of them. Shakespeare's works are not only living through a great time but were written directly for this time, if we include in the notion of great time all the past and future contemporaneities, not excepting the time, when the author himself was alive. Shakespeare's directivity, his orientation towards the future proceeds from the obvious demands of his works to appeal to scholars, to a special audience, who will not only receive his words but appreciate them in all their possible senses.

The Shakespearean nonlinear mode of presenting Hamlet for future generation (i.e. for us inter alia) presupposes the existence of three basic variants (the First Quarto3, the Second Quarto4 and the First Folio5) like three coordinates showing the real volume in which the meaning of Hamlet lives, grows and develops. (Never mind, that one of these coordinates is treated usually as bad Quarter: this characteristic only adds some free possibilities for apprehension.) The original texts invite scholars and literary critics, they need the philologist-textuary, who may be even a textualist first and foremost. However historically this philologist came first not as a textuary, textologically oriented literary critic, but as an editor, a publisher, who used to live in rather "small time", unfortunately. The publishing tradition since the second half of the seventeen century has arranged Shakespeare's Hamlet in the almost monologic massiveness. (Only in the last century some philologists tried to transform this massiveness6into a polyphonic unity.) The First Quarto is usually thrown aside as bad, though something goods are taken from it. Then the good (Second) Quarto and the First Folio's Hamlet combined in a new work, which had become longer than any of the initial texts. Thus the centaur Second-Quarto-First-Folio, corresponding to neither variant of the author's will, however chameleonic-like and unstable this may seem to us, came to the enlightened Europe and then to all enlightened world, if we are dealing with Boris Pasternak's translation, and to this side of our known world (1.1.95), if we think in terms of Shakespeare's original.

Russia, being disposed between Europe and the other world, also met with Hamlet halfway along his historical way: the first translation into Russian was made by M. Vronchenko and published in 1828. Of course, in those days bothered care about the authenticity of the original it will be a matter for satisfaction when historians of literature even discover what issue one or another translator used. The second translation (by N. Polevoy, 1837) was fresh and romantic, and very far from Shakespeare's text. But the next translation (by A. Kroneberg, 1844) quickly became a classic work. It was regularly republished over a period of one and half centuries and bears comparison even now with the other renditions. This and all subsequent nineteenth century translations of Hamlet founded and consolidated a translation tradition, which was not appreciated in an adequate manner7 at that time. It is obvious now that the tradition had been appreciated within its own context, self, because to judge correctly the quality of a translation, to understand the adequacy of transmission of the original sense is to do almost all the prime translational work.

So Hamlet passed into Russia through at least two screens: on the one hand, the moderation and accuracy of some British editors, making the post-synchronization of Hamlet with the help of snipers and glue, and, on the other hand, the Russian translators' dependence on their own translational tradition, the ambit of which the great translators-poets of the twentieth century (Michail Lozinsky, Boris Pasternak) could not out-travel.

The very beginning of Hamlet can be regarded as an appropriate illustration of these statements. Who's there? is the first reply following after the first line Enter Bernardo and Fran-ciscof,{,} two sentinels. Bernardo questions Francisco. In all Russian poetic translations we can find literally the words Who's here?. And certainly this is not just a mistake: a schoolboy can differentiate the words there and here, and the same opposition exists in Russian as well. It is safe to say that the first translators corrected the Shakespeare's text presupposing a kitchen-sink understanding of the situation. Indeed, from the whole scene we can see that Francisco was at his post (this text is traditionally printing in all popular editions although it is not Shakespearean) and Bernardo had come to relieve him. Topographically Bernardo is outside while Francisco is inside. In usual situation that is Francisco, who ought to say Who's there?8. But the situation is not quite customary or normal and Hamlet is not a drama of the kitchen-sink school. Besides, the very beginning of a play is extremely important thing, especially from the point of view of aesthetic construction (architectonics), and to reverse the meaning of a word cannot remain unnoticed.

The example demonstrates how the translational tradition works and impresses itself on literary culture. The house-hold motivation, which a translator could have in mind, is in my view secondary, to my mind, because it is not difficult to find psychologically realistic motivations for the first Who's there. The next reply (Nay, answer me,(:) stand, and unfold yourself 1.1.2) everybody translates into Russian more or less correctly, but this slice-of-life correctness does not correspond (even using the kitchen-sink approach) to the initial radical mistake. The possible inner sense of the second reply is Give me back my text, it's I who must ask the question, implied in the simple Nay.... Boris Pasternak more sequaciously connects the first here with the answer , , , that is literally: No, who are you yourself, answer at first. So the traditional mistake demands a new interpretation of the meaning of the original.

The problem of the adequate translation of initial replies is connected with the understanding of their deep significance for the whole play and therefore concerns not only the Russian Hamlet. For example here we have some Spanish attempts to translate Who's there?: Quién va? (translation by Manuel Ángel Conejero and Jenaro Talens); Quién vive? (Agustín Muños-Alonso); Quién está ahí? (translation by L. Fernándes Moratín). Although the first two variants (both Qui vive?, the second variant has the inner form Who is alive?) are much more correct, than Russian ones and transmit the original design of reply reversal, only the third, literal one retains that sertain meaning, which corresponds to the tragedy as a whole. Some variants of translations into Polish and French are: Kto tu? (Józef Parszkowski Who's here?), Kto to? (Maciej Slomczyński Who's that?), Kto idzie? (Stanislav Barańczak Who's coming?) and Qui va là? (Françoi Maguin). The last two are much better than first two or any Russian examples.

In Hamlet the initial question constitutes the crux of the matter. The query To be or not be... is closely connected with the answer to this starting question: who's there, in the undiscover'd country? (3.1.80). Who's here is not a question at all either in a domestic or in a mystical sense. Everybody knows who and what is here. Everybody (including Bernardo) knows beforehand, that here Francisco is at his post.

We mentioned above that it is not very difficult to find real scene motivations for Bernardo's first question. Why does he use the words which should be pronounced by Francisco? From the immediate context we know that everything happens at cold midnight ('Tis now struck twelve, 1.1.7). Two armed persons are coming to a virtual borderline from opposite directions. However factitious that borderline might be it is still a borderline and it always conveys some danger especially for a person, coming from the outside. To safe himself from any trouble that person should say something, rather than wait for a formal question (from the sentinel inside). What might he say in this situation? Perhaps It's me, or Is anybody here?. In either case it would sound stupid enough, and besides, these phrases could hardly protect the speaker from possible abruptness, showing his obvious trepidation. And anyway the person who tries to speak first in this situation is more subject to anxiety or even terror. Bernardo has been waiting intently for the question under consideration. And since nobody has asked him, he has himself pronounced the formula of the other sentinel, perhaps as a kind of joke, perhaps to conceal his fear...

And now it is time to turn to Francisco. Why was he late with his reply? But who has said, that he was late: he was not late, probably Bernardo was in a hurry. The answer of Francisco shows that he has no doubt about anyone's rights or obligations. Indeed Bernardo has hurried: he is more afraid than Francisco, who has never seen Ghost and never even heard about it. Francisco's fear is abstract. Bernardo hastens to see that everything is all right with Francisco because he is afraid of approaching Ghost and, besides, he responds for Francisco, being an officer while Francisco is a rank and file soldier. These attitudes are not quite obvious: the name honest soldier (1.1.19) may be not the same than rank and file soldier. But in fact Bernardo is Francisco's superior: he calls Francisco thou while Francisco calls him strictly you (1.1.2, 6). (That is the reason Bernardo let himself steal the Francisco's text.) Russian poetic translators usually lose these attitudes or (like M. Losinsky) translate inconsistently.

Anyway an officer (not being a mind-reader) pronounces the reply of another person, works with another's utterance, attracting special attention to it and converting the slice-of-life question to the symbolic one. The action emerges at once in the space between the border and outside the border: a person from the outside pronounces the text of a person inside the border, and by this paradoxical action obliterates this borderline, effacing all possible boundaries.

The soldier, of course, immediately recognises his commanding officer: if doesn't, why does he accosts him as you, whereas the provocative sense of the first reply Who's there is clear to him? Besides, Francisco is waiting for Bernardo just at this time. Nevertheless he probably has not heard Bernardo's timely approach, has tarried in indecision with the question or (as it is presupposed above) Bernardo himself has outstarted him. But anyway he says Nay, answer me,(:) stand, and unfold yourself, where the first three-word phrase substitutes for Who's there? (the phrase that had not been posed at the right time), and the second phrase carries on the military ritual. The solder tries to accomplish his duties properly. The thoughts of the officer are busy with other things: Bernardo's second reply Long live the king! is not the answer to the question of the sentinel, just as his first reply was not his own question in the usual sense of the word.

But between these phrases (quite strange from the point of view of kitchen-sink aesthetics) there is one more symbolic sentence, which can play its role only in combination with the opening Who's there?: Stand and unfold yourself. These are the two barbs of the key to the tragedy (one of the possible keys of course). Although scholars who investigate the architectonics of Hamlet seems to be concerned exclusively with the first question9, almost neglecting the second one, Hamlet nevertheless scrutinises both questions consistently. Thus the tragedy is divided into two. The first half of the play (till 3.2) is devoted to the first problem and the latter half to the second one. The revenge, and in connection with it the outward plot of the play is the third (and third-rate) problem (Long live the king!), which is not a real question at all, but the rather a suggestion of the length of time given to the hero for solving the two first questions.

But let us remember well the third (or may be the first) textual coordinate of Hamlet. Bad Quarto gives us: Stand: who is that?, combining two future questions in one or very likely proceeding from the author's insufficiently formulated idea. Most probably the idea of subdividing the sentence into two independent questions comes to the playwright after he had finished the first variant of the tragedy. In any case the First Quarto contains the core of both questions. If we consider this core in detail we can notice that, initially equivalent to Stand: who is that? the phrase Stand and unfold yourself takes priority as an element of the plot. It is the question of the author, waiting for the hero, it is the first step in any creative literary process. And from this main sentence the prime dialogue emerges: 1. Who is there & 2. Nay, answer me: Stand and unfold yourself. If the first reply is taken more or less unchanged from the First Quarto, the connotations of the second one is much more complicated: we find here a borrowing of meaning but also its serious alteration. But the key word is Stand, which formally goes with the second reply, although its meaning belongs to the first one. Stand is by no means the simple verb, it is not the usual stay, which a sentinel is expected to say, that stay which Horatio uses to stop the Ghost. I think stand is not stay at all, but can only acquire the meaning stay in some situations. And in any case this meaning is occasional and additional. The basic import is addressed to the hero: raise yourself, climb, cock up!

We can read this starting pare of replies as the dialogue between the author and his hero:

Hamlet. Who's there?

Author. Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself.

We must take into account, that these questions arise in the play; they arise in front of the hero before the Ghost has come to formulate his task to Hamlet. All the demands of the Ghost (to revenge, on the one hand, to remember, on the other) are only special instances of those basic problems stated at the very beginning of the play. The Ghost plays an important, but ministerial role in Shakespeare's work. Of course this Ghost is directly connected with the first question, in some sense being an example of what (or who) is there. The question has narrowed down for Hamlet to Who is the Ghost? and he consequently prepares a mousetrap not only for the king Claudius, but for Ghost as well. After the play-within-a-play the question for Hamlet will be formally resolved. And immediately the second (and from that moment the main) question comes onto the forestage: Stand and unfold yourself. Surely this task did exist in delitescence in the first part of the play, but was veiled by the first question Who's there? and pressed back by the inquisitiveness of the hero. But ultimately the command to unfold himself becomes predominant and the hero will go on fulfilling this task till the end at first more or less unconsciously, then consciously enough and just before his death the hero's only concern is with this question. Hamlet bequeaths to Horatio the task to unfold his person as Person, of finding and opening to everybody personality of the hero, Hamlet.

To unfold himself, Hamlet battles both with myth (on which his story is overwritten) and with genre (in which his actions can only exist on the stage). But this is another side of Hamlets meaning, which is connected with the problems of art forms and demands not only a semantic but a genetic genre approach, first approximation of which is proposed in another chapter of the book, devoted the functions of chorus in Hamlet. Here I offer only a few hints in this direction. It is no coincidence, that those basic opening questions are pronounced by Bernardo and Francisco, who disappear from the stage very soon: Francisco almost immediately after his sentence unfold yourself, Bernardo after the second scene. His main (chorus) function was to proclaim the main sense of Hamlet as the prologue or chorus did it in the attic tragedy.

The task to stand and unfold himself is not only Hamlet's. It is the aim for a modern hero and even a modern (in statu nascendi) man in general. Modern man is the main result of the Renaissance culture, but the process of solving that task, answering that question is not finished: Shakespeare has formulated the task for all mankind including us today. And first of all we must have read and understood the task in Hamlet, in which it is formulated in such a way, that touching the inner essence of each person it does not demonstrate itself, but is enwombed in the words, plots and swords.

1. In this paragraph Shakespeare's Hamlet is always cited (with the numbers of act, scene and line) according the edition: Hamlet by Shakespeare. . . . / , , . .. . ., , 2003. This is the only Russian edition, in which both main variants of the original are presented together, at once combined and distinguished correctly: the text in crochets is only in the 2nd Quarto, the text in angle brackets is only in the 1st Folio. The word without any brackets, to which the text in parentheses (round brackets) abuts on after the interval, is only in the 2nd Quarto; in the I Folio this word changes to the text in the round brackets. A sign, to which the text in round brackets abuts on without any interval, is only in the 2nd Quarto; in the 1st Folio this sign changes to the text or the sign in the round brackets. All the brackets are smaller than a usual font to differentiate from the normal text's round brackets. All underling (bold or italic fonts) is mine.

2. Dmitri Shostakovich. Testimony: The memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich, as related and edited by Solomon Volkow. L., 1981. P. 84.

3. The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke by William Shake-speare. As it hath beene diuerse times acted by his Highnesse seruants in the Cittie of London: as also in Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere. 1603.

4. The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke by William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect Coppie. At London, printed by I.R. for N.L. and are to be sold at his shoppe under Saint Dunfton Chuch in 1604. (Partly 1605).

5. The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark // Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedeis. London. 1923.

6. See, for example: Werstine P. The textual mystery of Hamlet // Shakespeare Qarterly 39 (1988). . 126.

7. For discussion of translations of Hamlet into Russian see the article: .. . // . . . : . ., . . .. . ., 1985.

8. As far as I know, the only Russian scholar to take into account this reversal was A. Gorbunov: Who's there? Bernardo has come to relieve Francisco and the fact, that he first asks a question, points to his anxiety From the reply of Francisco we can see, that this question should have been asked by him (.. . . P. 586).

9. A good recent example: S. Greenblatt. Hamlet in purgatory. Princeton, 2001.