The first thing I noticed when I opened Quarto 1 was all the f’s. I wondered why there were f’s where there shouldn’t be f’s and no s’s where there should have been s’s. After a few minutes I finally connected the dots. Oops. I guess this was all printed/written before the lowercase s became what it is now, and before the letter u looked like a u instead of a v. Ahh. Yes, it makes sense now.
The other big thing I noticed is that there are a few spellings of words different from modern times, such as the word poison being spelled “poyson” in Quarto 1. The word Cyprus is the one that really kept bugging me, given my heritage. Obviously I know that Cyprus isn’t even the real way to spell Cyprus but somehow it sounds and looks better than “Cipres” (for the record, the real way is Κύπρος, which phonetically would be more along the lines of Kee-prose or Kypros). Alas, the folio was more accurate in that sense so I can’t complain too much.
One thing that caught my eyes was that in both Quarto 1 and the First Folio, the titles of scenes and acts were in what I’m assuming was probably Italian/latin. I guess that gives us a hint at how old school this stuff really is. I can thing of a few reasons why the first word of the next page is written at the bottom of the previous page. Theory #1: this was a play to be read aloud, not to just be sold as a book so when reading this actors needed to be able to know what was coming next or awkward silence would ensue. Theory #2: maybe the iambic pentameter would be screwed up if the actors didn’t know what was about to happen. Theory #3: both.
Shakespeare has become a lot less intimidating to me since we’ve started reading his works, and seeing them in their (mostly) original form reinforces that notion even more. He was just a guy who wrote a lot of plays during his time, and while writing really isn’t exactly considered a lucrative career anymore, there’s still a lot of Shakespeares all around us trying to make it in that difficult field. So here’s to writing, and here’s to the next Shakespeare.