Baltic Sea

Oh, poor Mick, I thought I knew myself! It turned out Hamlet is Irish!


While browsing Shakespeare’s literary sources in 2011, an expert on medieval Scandinavian languages ​​discovered that Hamlet the Dane may not be a Dane at all.

From Saxo to Shakespeare
Literary scholars had long believed that William Shakespeare’s world-famous tragedy, Hamlet, was inspired by a story in Gesta Danorum, a 12th-century history book by the scholar Saxo Grammaticus.

Saxo’s book, roughly translated from Latin as “Deeds of the Danes”, is a patriotic compilation of stories about Denmark and Scandinavia. It has long been an important source work for the early medieval history of Denmark.

Saxo tells the story of Amleth, of which Shakespeare’s Hamlet is an anagram for beginners. Saxos Amleth, in turn, is based on a Scandinavian saga from the 10th or 11th century recorded by an Icelandic author named Snow Bear that featured a character named Amlothi.

Amleth, Amlothi, Admlithi
But literature research in 2011 suggests that Hamlet, or at least the story that inspired the famous character, was not Danish. He wasn’t even Scandinavian.

An expert in ancient Nordic languages ​​from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, Dr. Lisa Collinson claimed to have found clear evidence that Amlothi was, in fact, Irish.

“The Amlothi name is very unlikely to be of Nordic origin,” Collinson told The Guardian.

“There’s really no convincing way to explain its shape in terms of familiar Nordic words – although that hasn’t stopped scientists from trying in the past.

The paradox that Amlothi – Hamlet’s source character – has a non-Scandinavian name led Collinson to delve deeper into the literary sources for Snow Bear’s stories.

This is how she discovered that something in Denmark – if not rotten – is Irish.

As crazy as the sea
Collinson found references to an Admlithi – the D is silent – in an Irish story from the 8th or 9th century entitled “The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel”. It’s a story about a king who breaks some social taboos and pays his price in a bloody finale. But in this story the character of Admlithi only plays a small role, not the main role.

Collinson notes that Admlithi, who she claims is the origin of Saxo’s “Amleth” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” has some interesting connotations that could provide new inspiration to literary scholars studying symbolism and character motivation.

The Gaelic word “admlithi†was used by seafarers to describe “a dangerous marine feature like a hot tubâ€.

“What I find most exciting is the idea that one version of the name Hamlet could once have described not just a man who is ‘as crazy as the sea’ or ‘threatened by a sea of ​​unrest’, but actually some kind of ‘golf’. or Whirlpool, with which Shakespeare had the character Rosencrantz compared, the ‘majesty compulsion itself,’ â€she said.

“Hamlet is named after a whirlpool incarnate – essentially a whirlpool of soapy water – somehow made flesh.”

Seafarers spread stories
How Admlithi der Gäle became Hamlet the Dane can probably be traced back to seafarers who have sailed the seas between Ireland, Great Britain and Denmark since the Viking Age and traded in goods and stories.

“Seafarers probably played a crucial role [the story’s] Transfer to Scandinavia. The Icelandic poet Snow Bear was probably a sailor himself, â€said Collinson.

But even if Hamlet is Irish, at least two other characters in the play really have Danish pedigree. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Gyldenstjerne in Danish) were powerful Danish families and relatives of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Historic setting
The play “Hamlet” is set in the real Kronborg Castle in Helsingør (called Elsinore in the play).

In Shakespeare’s time, Helsingør was a powerful seaport that controlled ship access to the Baltic Sea.

Every year in August, a world-class production of “Hamlet†takes place in the courtyard of Kronborg Castle.