‘A Memento for Mortality’, the Publications of Leonard Becket, and the Afterlife of Hamlet

Cathcart, Charles (2016). ‘A Memento for Mortality’, the Publications of Leonard Becket, and the Afterlife of Hamlet. The Review of English Studies, 67(279) pp. 275–293.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgv098

Abstract

‘A Memento for Mortality’ has enjoyed a rich anthology history since its initial print appearance in the first edition of the seventeenth-century publishing sensation A Help to Discourse. Scholars have found it hard to assess the epitaph’s provenance or to identify the agency that lay behind its creation. This article looks towards the writings published by Leonard Becket as a way of casting light upon the genesis of ‘A Memento for Mortality’. This genesis is a many-sided one and is more complex than anthologists and scholars have suspected. At the same time the very oddity of this inception has much to reveal about the nature of Becket’s enterprise. The imprint of Hamlet upon the texts released by Becket helps to indicate the steps by which ‘A Memento for Mortality’ took shape; and examining this imprint forms a means by which to explore the appropriative nature of the Becket corpus.

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