First of all, I read through most of Act I and II of this first quarto and aside from a few spelling differences and a few lines that were taken out, I really don’t think it’s that bad. Am I missing something? It honestly aligns pretty well with the plot and I don’t think it throws anything that crazy into the mix. Maybe I’m missing something.
The first thing that I noticed that was different was that Francisco was just referred to as Fist Sentinel, but that doesn’t really effect the meaning of the play at all.
Polonius is referred to as Corambis, but that also really doesn’t change the meaning of the play as a whole.
In Act I Scene 4 (~line 20)of the real Hamlet, Hamlet is in the middle of a long speech about the nature of the evil in men; however, in the first quarto, the ghost enters about a quarter of the way through Hamlet’s speech and the rest of the speech is never spoken, which changes readers’ perceptions of Hamlet’s mindset at this point.
In Act 1 Scene 5 in the real Hamlet (~line 85), Hamlet says “O, Horrible! O, Horrible! most Horrible!”. In the quarto, however, Old Hamlet says this, which changes readers perceptions slightly about how Old Hamlet feels about his own death, and young Hamlet’s response.
Another weird name thing happens at the beginning of Act II. While changing Polonius to Corambis doesn’t really change the meaning of the play, having Reynaldo’s name changed to Montano can be very confusing for anybody that has previously read Othello.
In the real play, the whole nunnery scene between Hamlet and Ophelia doesn’t happen until Act III; however, in the quarto, it happens in the middle of Act II, which is slightly confusing.
Overall, if you gave me this quarto at first and presented it to me as the real Hamlet, I wouldn’t be able to tell you that it wasn’t because I’m not a very experienced reader of Shakespeare. Honestly, it’s not that bad to us lay people. The plot is mostly the same and the spelling differences and name differences don’t make much of a difference.