Scholars have long agreed that William Shakespeare based his Hamlet on Amlethus, a legendary figure found in the “History of the Danes,” a saga written around 1200.
The name Amlethus was then traced back to the word Amlothi, which appears in a 10th- or 11th-century poem by the Icelandic poet Snow Bear.
But according to Lisa Collinson, of the Centre for Scandinavian Studies at the University of Aberdeen, the roots for Hamlet are even deeper and can be traced to a little known Irish tale called the “Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel.”
In all honesty, why didn’t Laertes ask Gertrude how she knew so much about Ophelia’s death? He just accepted that she saw his sister drowning and did nothing to help her, and then came out with a terrifically rehearsed speech about Ophelia thinking she was a fish and drowning. Claudius I can understand, because he was a murdering incestuous bastard who cared for no one but himself, but Laertes obviously had a close kinship with her. Regardless, I’m fairly certain Gertrude killed her.
I found Susan Bennett’s review of Tony Howard’s book Women As Hamlet: Performance And Interpretation In Theatre, Film, And Fiction. I’m curious about this book myself, and this review was very helpful. I would link to it, but it’s a PDF. So here is the whole text:
“Tony Howard’s lively and informative study draws our attention to the fact that the extensive history of Shakespeare’s most famous character includes an extraordinary and rather unexpected presence of women including, remarkably, the first Hamlet on film and, in all likelihood, the first Hamlet on the radio (1). Howard tells us that since the mid-nineteenth century more than two hundred professional actresses across the globe have played the role of the procrastinating protagonist and his Women as Hamlet impressively examines a wide selection of those performances in the theatre and on film as well as looking to representations in other media including the visual arts and fiction.
The project starts by situating some of the most famous female Hamlets among the number of travesti roles on the professional stage. This includes, of course, Sarah Siddons in the eighteenth century along with Charlotte Cushman and Sarah Bernhardt in the nineteenth. Detailed and carefully nuanced accounts of their performances—for example, Howard creates a vivid picture of Cushman’s Hamlet, drawn from the actress’s own prompt book—provide a fine sense of how their presentations were realized and received. Howard also looks specifically at this historical trajectory in the context of emerging discourse and activism around women’s rights: for example, he notes of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s popular “sensation” novel, Eleanor’s Victory, that it was a rewriting of Hamlet “as a feminist social critique” (73).
Reading Shakespeare’s plays are an earnest and rewarding assignment. Every student is painfully aware of how much the English language has changed since they were written in the Elizabethan era. This deck features terms from Hamlet that are delightful to say and important to know.