Jenkins, Harold (1909-2000), literary scholar, was born on 19 July 1909 in Shenley, Buckinghamshire, the eldest son of Henry Jenkins (1878-1932), a dairyman, and his wife, Mildred, nÃƒÂ©e Carter, who were cousins. Harold had an elder and a younger sister, and two younger brothers. Educated at a local school from the age of three, he won a free place in 1920 at what became Wolverton grammar school. Scholarships enabled him to proceed in 1927 to University College, London, where he read English language and literature. He graduated in 1930 with first-class honours, winning both the George Morley medal in English literature and the prestigious George Smith studentship (1930-31). The subsequent award of the Quain studentship enabled him to continue his studies for another five years, during which he also taught.
His MA thesis (1933) on the Elizabethan dramatist Henry Chettle, supervised by W. W. Greg, was published in revised form as The Life and Work of Henry Chettle in the following year. After a year as William Noble fellow in the University of Liverpool he took up a lecturership in English in 1936 at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, where he stayed until 1945. His Witwatersrand DLitt thesis (1945) appeared in revised form as Edward Benlowes (1602-76): Biography of a Minor Poet (1952). During his time in South Africa, he produced book reviews in the form of radio broadcasts, 1940-1941 and 1944-1945. In 1939 he married Gladys Puddifoot (1908-1984), whom he had met as a student. She became a respected historian and was an ideal partner, sharing his scholarly interests until her death in a road accident in 1984.
Returning to London as lecturer at University College in 1945, Jenkins was promoted to Reader in the following year, and in 1954 took up the chair of English at Westfield College. During the 1950s he wrote essays on Twelfth Night and As You Like It, and a classic study, The Structural Problem in Henry IV (1956), delivered as his inaugural lecture at Westfield College. In 1954 Jenkins was assigned to edit Hamlet for the New Arden Shakespeare, and in 1958 he became joint general editor with Dr Harold Brooks. In 1967 Jenkins was appointed Regius Professor of rhetoric and English literature in the University of Edinburgh. He retired early and returned to London in 1971 to work on his edition of Hamlet, which was published in1982. His studies of the play produced at least eight articles or major lectures, two of the most notable being his British Academy lecture in 1963 entitled Hamlet and Ophelia, and his 1967 inaugural lecture at Edinburgh, The Catastrophe in Shakespearean Tragedy.
In later life Jenkins received several prizes and honours including the fellowship of the British Academy in 1989 and the 1986 Shakespeare Prize from the FVS Foundation of Hamburg. A volume in his honour, Fanned and Winnowed Opinions, including essays by friends along with a memoir and a list of publications, appeared in 1987. For over forty years Jenkins served on the council of the Malone Society, of which he was elected president in 1989, and for which he edited Chettle's Tragedy of Hoffman (1951).
He died at home in Surrey, on 4 January 2000, bequeathing his books to Queen Mary and Westfield College, which also houses his literary paper