Shakespeare's Thread


Staff member
I knew he had a son called Hamnet. Never seen him called Hamlet.


Civis Illustris
Shakespeare scholars, perhaps nervous of overtly biographical readings, have regularly referred to Shakespeare's son as Hamnet rather than Hamlet, pointing out that he and his twin sister Judith were named after Shakespeare's Stratford friends, Hamnet and Judith Sadler, but, as Park Honan notes, 'Hamnet' 'was interchangeable with “Hamlet” – in Shakespeare's will in a legal hand his friend would appear as “Hamlet Sadler” and among abundant local variants of the same name were (for example) Amblet, Hamolet and even Hamletti' (Honan (90)."Shakespeare+scholars,+perhaps+nervous"&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjE-6qhkZDmAhVJblAKHQfsAKEQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q="Shakespeare%20scholars%2C%20perhaps%20nervous"&f=false

The boy's name was interchangeable with 'Hamlet' (...) -- the Honan original: boys name was interchangable with Hamlet&f=false
I've just found out that Shakespeare had a son called Hamlet (or Hamnet) (and it was his only son who died in 1596) ... I didn't know that :puzzled:
Make of 33 what you will, sir.

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.

Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
That's an easy one. It can be definitively stated that Shakespeare wasn't influenced by Norse mythology in the slightest. Nobody of his time could have been.
Well I don't know as I've never looked into it. One would assume it's always Greek and/or Latin but I'm not too sure on Norse mythology in the elizabethan mindset nor in fact where I read that Hamlet was linked to an old Norse story.

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
What we know of Norse mythology comes from two sources, which came to light in Scandinavia in the 17th century after Shakespeare's death. But widespread awareness of the tradition had to wait until the 19th century.
I mean I can't say a thing with an ounce of confidence here but this below is from the British Library.

Saxo’s legend of Amleth in the Gesta Danorum

This is the old, Norse folk-tale of Amleth, a literary ancestor of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Scandinavian legend was recorded in Latin around 1200 by the Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus and first printed in Paris in this beautiful 1514 edition. It is part of the collection of tales known as Gesta Danorum – a partly mythical history of the Danes.

Saxo’s Amleth story – a summary
King Rørik of Denmark appoints two brothers, Horwendil and Fengo, as the rulers of Jutland. Horwendil slays the King of Norway, marries King Rørik’s daughter Gerutha, and they have a son named Amleth. Consumed by envy of his brother, Fengo murders Horwendil and marries his wife Gerutha. Amleth then feigns madness, clothing himself in rags and spouting nonsense, to shield himself from his uncle’s violence. In fact, the name ‘Amleth’ itself means ‘stupid’.
Yet Amleth’s behaviour attracts suspicion, and the King attempts to trap him into admitting he has plans for revenge. First, a beautiful woman is used to lure him into betraying himself, but she proves loyal to Amleth. Then a spy is planted to eavesdrop on Amleth’s conversation with his mother, in which she repents and he confesses his plans for revenge. Amleth detects the spy, kills him in a mad frenzy, throws his mutilated body in a sewer, and leaves it to be eaten by pigs. Fengo then deports Amleth to England with two escorts carrying a letter directing the King there to execute him. Amleth switches the letter with another one, which orders the death of the escorts and asks for the hand of the English Princess in marriage.
Returning to Denmark, Amleth arrives disguised, in the midst of his own funeral, burns down the hall and hunts down his sleeping uncle. Because Amleth had wounded himself on his sword, attendants had made it harmless by nailing it to the scabbard (the sheath used to hold it). Amleth swaps this useless sword with Fengo’s, succeeds in killing his uncle and next day is hailed as the King.

Comparing Saxo’s Amleth and Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Scholars have debated how Shakespeare encountered the story. It is unlikely that he saw Saxo’s version first-hand, but he may have read a French adaptation in François de Belleforest’s Histoires tragiques (or Tragic Histories) first printed in 1571.
Nevertheless, Saxo’s account has many of the defining features of Shakespeare’s drama:
  • a villain who kills his brother, takes over the throne and then marries his brother’s wife
  • a cunning young hero, the King’s son, who pretends to be mad to shield himself from his uncle
  • three plots used by the King to uncover the young man’s secrets: a young woman, a spy planted in the Queen’s bedroom (who is uncovered and killed), and two escorts who take the prince to England (also outwitted and killed)
  • a hero who returns home during a funeral and finally achieves his revenge through an exchange of swords.
There are equivalents for Shakespeare’s central characters – old and young Hamlet, old and young Fortinbras, Claudius and Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. But Saxo has no ghost demanding vengeance, and the identity of the murderous uncle is known from the start. There is no Osric, no gravediggers or play within a play. The legend lacks a Laertes character and the young woman does not go mad or kill herself. Perhaps most crucially, Amleth lacks Hamlet’s melancholy disposition and long self-reflexive soliloquies, and he survives after becoming king.
The 1514 edition's full title is Danorum Regum Heroumque Historiae.

Edit: I suppose one can split hairs on the term 'mythology' over folklore or legend. Dunno.
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Well that might be true for you and others who want to see mythology through one narrow aspect but dictionary definitions kind of back up my usage of the term. But we're splitting hairs so..

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
Dictionaries are lovely. Usage is the key to language as communication. The conventional definition of Norse mythology ought to be familiar to you.
My point was simply to look into the 'myths' of the Nordic peoples at some time to try and find the inspiration for Hamlet as I had briefly read about it somewhere else.

You might think of Gods only. I don't, I think of all the folklore and legends too. And it looks like I'm not on my own in this camp so I'll likely continue doing so.

Edit: agree to disagree I think is our best course of action.
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Whitlæg, descendant of Wooden/Odin (from what I'm reading Odin's brood were *established between 8th-10th centuries), makes an appearance in the story. This is taken from the 1514 (saxo) edition.

So it would appear to qualify as Norse mythology even by your standards. Dunno.

* the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Textus Roffensis

Etaoin Shrdlu

Civis Illustris
If you put a tenth of the time that you spend justifying your misconceptions into actually learning something, you would not have spent years and years on a Latin forum with nothing to show for it.
And I'm happy to concede on this point of Whitlæg if found wanting as this is uncharted waters for me, but it appears he was by the time of Saxo (1514) known to be a son of Odin via the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
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If you put a tenth of the time that you spend justifying your misconceptions into actually learning something, you would not have spent years and years on a Latin forum with nothing to show for it.
Does it have to be about having something to show? Isn't merely the pursuit and pleasure of reading and learning things reward enough.

I could maybe see a point to this if I were stating the sky is green and the moon is a fluffy ball of silvered cheese but I'm not, I'm merely drawing logical and fair conclusions based on what I'm reading.
Don't be so modest. Pretty much everything is uncharted waters for you, including that idiom.

Well, ok. We've reached that point again. I do wonder why you constantly instigate this by initially responding to me and drawing this crap out but let's have a week or so without responding to me, eh. That way this doesn't happen.