The Sources of Hamlet

The Sources of Hamlet

The Sources of Hamlet

The Sources of Hamlet

Excerpt

In 1898 I published a volume of strange lore, printed for the first time, entitled Hamlet in Iceland -- the sequelæ, as it were, of the Morbus Hamleticus from which few young scholars are able to escape. In an introductory essay I attempted to throw new light upon the development of the Hamlet legend. The reception of the book, here and abroad, compensated for long years of labour and research, and valuable discussion ensued on certain debatable points affecting the genesis of the barbaric tale, which, though wondrously transformed by the genius of Shakespeare, is, nevertheless, the very fibre of the play. During the past quarter of a century much has been written on the subject, from many different points of view, and I have given long and careful consideration to opinions opposed to my own. Absolute agreement is hardly to be expected on such questions as the origin of the name Hamlet, and the development of the story as given by Saxo Grammaticus. Notwithstanding high authority, I am convinced it will ultimately be conceded that the story developed (as I attempted to show) under Celtic influences, and that the very name of the hero may thus be accounted for as a transformation of the common Scandinavian Aleifr, the equivalent of Olaf. I see no reason for withdrawing from this position.

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