There is some limited evidence that the play is based on historical fact, but the main thrust of the play appears to be of Shakespeare’s own devising. However, the basic story of Hamlet is found in the folk literature of Iceland, Ireland and Denmark hundreds of years before Shakespeare’s time, the earliest reference being an 11th century Icelandic poem. 600 years before Shakespeare’s version, tales of ‘Amlodi’ the clever son whose name means ‘stupid’, were being told in Scandinavia, to be followed by the legend of ‘Amleth’ as recorded in the twelfth century in the Danish history book, Historia Daica. In this, the prince emerges triumphant as the new king. Hamlet is often associated with Francis de Belleforest who published the story in French in his volume Histories Tragiques in 1570. Shakespeare’s play had already been written by the time that Belleforest’s appeared in English so it is more likely that inspiration was derived from a now lost play, which scholars refer to as Ur-Hamlet and which was circulating on the London stage around 1589. There are also strong associations with a revenge play written in the 1580s, thought to be influenced by Belleforest and attributed to Thomas Kyd (author of The Spanish Tragedy). Shakespeare veers from his source more in Hamlet than in any other play.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.