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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare's Names
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0433  Thursday, 11 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 11:27:50 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0396 Re: Shakespeare's Names

[2]     From:   Jim Lake <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 08:40:52 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0415 Re: Shakespeare's Names

[3]     From:   Maria Hablevych <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 18:22:01 +0000
        Subj:   Shakespeare names

[4]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 17:16:47 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0426 Re: Shakespeare's Names

[5]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 13:03:49 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0396 Re: Shakespeare's Names


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 11:27:50 -0000
Subject: 10.0396 Re: Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0396 Re: Shakespeare's Names

>Why is the father of Hamlet named Hamlet?  >

I have always suspected some significance here, as with others named
after their fathers. Is it possible that it suggests some obligation to
follow in father's footsteps, whether in rank or behaviour? Thus Henry V
is Henry when acting like his father, but Hal when in sympathy with
Falstaff. I throw out this idea without much consideration!

>Falstaff is an
>obvious example of a name created to suggest something of the
>character.

What do you take that suggestion to be? (By the way, the name of the
real-life character who replaced Oldcastle was Fastolff. He built our
local castle in Caister, Norfolk; and one of the old divisions of
Caister was Caister Bardolph).

>More difficult, however, may be the name Iago. >

Does Iago not mean "deceiver", as in the Biblical Jacob? And is Iachimo
similarly derived?

>Has anyone considered the possible significance of the name "Polonius"?
>It seems to me that the name is an obvious encomium, like Coriolanus,
>awarded in recognition of military or political achievement over Poland,
>which the play portrays as a traditional enemy of Denmark.

Oh, we must have some textual evidence.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Lake <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 08:40:52 -0600
Subject: 10.0415 Re: Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0415 Re: Shakespeare's Names

Murry J. Levith's WHAT'S IN SHAKESPEARE'S NAMES, Archon Books, 1978, is
quite useful-there's an introduction and then a comprehensive treatment
of the names of most of the characters in all 37 plays.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Maria Hablevych <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 18:22:01 +0000
Subject:        Shakespeare names

>Why is the father of Hamlet named Hamlet? They share the same name
>in none of the sources. This is one of Shakespeare's own
>contributions to this ancient legend.

The obvious answer to the question is: to show that Hamlet the son also
"was a man, take him all in all"  before his own "noble heart" has
"cracked" (one  may add here all other characteristics of e  father, as
given for the most part by his son:  Hamlet the son sees Hamlet the
father as the  perfect man, whose perfect heir he is supposed to  be).
This clearly was Shakespeare's idea, and a very important contribution
to the legend which implies much less about this, very obliging, aspect
of heredity: like (noble, valiant, honest, loving -  -) father, like (-
- - -) son. "Hamlet" the name should not be paralleled to "Brutus" in
its Latin meaning, esp.  since Brutus happens to be Hamlet's counterpart
in "Julius Caesar" (cf. "He was a man", in the least). Hamlet was far
from a "thick slow- witted character": his "melancholy" and "sloth" have
been deduced from his self-accusations. I believe Shakespeare thought
higher of his spectators/readers, i.e. considered them able to
distinguish between the self-image of a character, as occasionally
spoken out, and his image as created by his author during the entire
play.

And yet, speaking of names, it is interesting to trace HOW "Hamlet"
comes from the play's sources. There is no "H" at the beginning, either
in Saxo (Amlothi), or in Belleforest (Amleth). Nor in its Latin version,
"Ambletus" (in Krantz's Chronica Regnorum Aquilonarium, Strasburg, 1545,
the same page, 619, speaks of the Danish "Ambletus", and of "Claudius",
the Roman emperor).  Interestingly, the "b" of "Ambletus" occurs in "The
Hystorie of Hamblet" (the anonymous translation from Belleforest,
printed 1608), where "Hamblet" vies with, and wins over "Hamlet" (in the
excerpt I have at hand, there  are 6 occurrences of "Hamlet" as compared
to 20 of "Hamblet"). With "The Hystorie..." appearing in print after Q1
and Q2, isn't it strange that the translator should have "invented" his
own "b"-version of the familiar name (known as early as 1588, see the
first printed mention of "Hamlet" as pronounced on the London stage, in
Nashe's Preface to Greene's Menaphone, 1589), instead of reproducing
it, or, at least, following the French original: no "H", no "b"? Why
should he, at the same time, have been faithful to Belleforest's
spelling of "Geruthe", -- not to Q1's "Gertred" or Q2's "Gertrard"? And,
finally, why did he choose to introduce into his text some very peculiar
points of Shakespeare's play ("the arras/hangings", "a rat! a rat!", and
"dragging by the heels")? This is a very weird  translator, who 1) tries
to be "innovative", introducing "b" into a well-known name, and yet
forgets, now and then, of his own innovation; 2) who is challengingly
unfaithful in rendering the original "Amleth", and yet faithfully
transliterates "Geruth(e)", "Horuendile" (in one occurrence,
"Geruendile", for Hamlet's father), and "Fengon", for "Claudius" (he is
also faithful in not giving any names to Corambis/Polonius, or to
Ofelia/Ophelia); 3) who is nothing but apish in elaborating a crucial
episode a la Shakespeare, where the proper translation, in the 1608
context, would prove both original" ("innovative") and "faithful".

Another interesting point about this translation is that it was made
from the corrupted 1582 edition of Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques
(see The Arden Shakespeare Hamlet, ed. H. Jenkins, p.91, fn.1, p.94,
fn.3), though there were more, and better, editions printed before and
after the date (1572, 1576, 1583, 1601).

It is natural to assume that "The Hystorie..." was translated (soon)
after 1582 -- and certainly before 1589, or even 1588. In this case, the
translator could have been none other but the author of Ur-Hamlet.

This is a small part of what the story of Hamlet the name tells me. I
can share more concerning the play's names (or Hamlet's age), if members
be interested, yet I would like to hear first of others' opinions, --
and especially, on the possible connection between "Hamblet" and
"Hambleton", the name of a town somewhere in the north-east of England.
Could anybody give information about the town:

how old it is, how well it may have been known in its neighborhood at
Shakespeare's time, how it could be reached from some larger settlements
(especially, from aristocratic manors), what the name's etymology may
be, etc.?

Maria Hablevych

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Lviv University,
Ukraine

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 17:16:47 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 10.0426 Re: Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0426 Re: Shakespeare's Names

There is also a provocative and typically entertaining essay by Random
Cloud (aka Randall McLeod) which reminds us that what we call
'Shakespeare's' names may not be as Shakespearean as we think, thanks to
the attempts of editors to tidy texts up:

Random Cloud, 1991, '"The very names of the persons": Editing and the
invention of dramatick character', in David Scott Kastan and Peter
Stallybrass (eds) Staging the Renaissance: reinterpretations of
Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, pp. 88-96 (Routledge)

Jonathan Hope
Middlesex University

[5]------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Mar 1999 13:03:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0396 Re: Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0396 Re: Shakespeare's Names

>Unproblematic naming, of course, abounds: There's no hidden meaning in
>the name Henry.
>
>Jack Heller

For what it's worth, Henry, as is fairly well known, is "prince of the
realm."

Clifford Stetner
 

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