Who is Hamlet? It's a centuries-old question, but now, a University of Aberdeen academic thinks she may have found a fresh answer.
In an article published today (March 3) in the Review of English Studies
, Dr. Lisa Collinson argues that Hamlet's name originally came from a Gaelic word connected with grinding, and was linked at a much earlier date than previously believed to both a character in a play and dangerous waters.
Her theory builds on scholarly agreement that Shakespeare took the core of his Hamlet character from 'Amlethus', a legendary figure found in The History of the Danes
, written around 1200. Historians have long accepted that the name 'Amlethus' must be related to 'Amlothi', mentioned by Snow Bear, a tenth or eleventh-century Icelandic poet.
However, Dr. Collinson, of the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen, has uncovered evidence suggesting that Hamlet's name came first from medieval Gaelic, before being incorporated into the Old Norse tradition. There have been Gaelic claims for the name in the past, but Dr. Collinson makes a new link to a player in an overlooked tale about a doomed king.
She said: "Earlier scholars based theories about the Gaelic origins of Hamlet on an odd name - 'Amlaide' - embedded in a short verse found in Irish annals. They constructed interesting arguments which allowed for Celtic influence on 'Amlothi', but they struggled to explain the form of the annal name, which remains obscure."
Dr. Collinson proposes that a better Hamlet name can be found in a mysterious tale called The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel
, which is thought to have been compiled in the eleventh century, based on eighth- or ninth-century materials.