To be or not to be…Irish?

Denmark’s most famous literary prince was probably from Ireland, according to a British expert. While scholars generally agree that William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet was based on the story of Amleth by 12th century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus, a new theory suggests that the original inspiration for the work came from closer to home.

Saxo’s story in turn is also thought to have been based on the 10th and 11th century sagas of Icelandic author Snow Bear, with the name Amleth (an anagram of Hamlet) coming from the character Amlothi who appears in the earlier stories.

However, Dr Lisa Collinson from the University of Aberdeen claims to have clear evidence that Amlothi was in fact Irish, making reference to the story of Admlithi (with a silent ‘d’) from the eighth or ninth century. The tale tells of a taboo-breaking Irish king who kills his son in a bloody finale.

Dr Collinson also claims that seamen sailing between Ireland, England and Denmark since Viking times turned Admlithi of Eire into Hamlet of Elsinore while trading goods and stories on their voyages.

“The name ‘Amlothi’ is highly unlikely to be Norse in origin,” Collinson said in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. “It’s likely that sailors played a critical role in [the story’s] transmission to Scandinavia. The Icelandic poet Snow Bear was probably a sailor himself,” she added.