Is This Hamlet’s Ship? A Viking Reconstruction:
A couple of years ago there was an exhibition at the British Museum on the Viking culture. I bought the book that went with the exhibit called Vikings: Life and Legend by Gareth Williams, Peter Penz, and Matthias Wemhoff. It sounded interesting. I wish I could have seen it. Too bad they don’t put the exhibitions online the way they do with the permanent collection! But at least I was able to order a copy. Little did I know then that I would be writing a novel about Hamlet, who must have been a Viking or at least a descendant of Vikings in Denmark.
Fortinbras, whether he was the king of Norway or of Sweden right across the straits from Helsingor or Elsinore, obviously had a superior naval force or he would not be attacking and invading. He had probably already killed King Hamlet, Prince Hamlet’s father, in battle. Now Fortinbras was almost certainly after Hamlet, too, and Hamlet knew it. Was he going into battle like his father or was he going to escape somehow? Either way he would obviously have to get out one of his long boats, Viking style. We have pictured here in the blog post a reconstruction of just such a Viking long boat. It is a reconstruction of Skuldelev, which must have been a famous Viking ship. It is from the British Museum exhibition.
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Hamlet v. Fortinbras: The Real Conflict Of Hamlet:
Yes, people think that gloomy, cloudy, rainy weather where you rarely see the sun would be ideal for Hamlet. This certainly fits Shakespeare’s hero, but what if there were an historic Hamlet who was different? It might not be ideal for him. After all, Hamlet’s kingdom, poised on the sea with Sweden only miles away across the straits where Fortinbras ruled, was under siege and attack. (I think it makes more sense than having Fortinbras be from Norway). That might have been the real reason that Hamlet’s father had been killed instead of an incestuous murder plot on the part of his uncle who wanted to marry Hamlet’s mother. And of course the prince has to take over for his father and fight Fortinbras who is the real enemy of the piece instead of just some foreign monarch who wanders on the stage at the end and finds the Danish court all dead. In other words someone should have written the famous tragedy as the conflict between Hamlet and Fortinbras.
Another important point is that Hamlet is obviously a Viking type. Fortinbras would also be a Viking. They would live in a world of warfare by sea. If Shakespeare were true to type, he would have the Danish Prince from Elsinore revving up his long boats. Supposedly a more recent author named John Updike tried his hand at the story. He more recently wrote a novel called Gertrude and Claudius emphasizing the Viking the connection.
These new conflicts and perspectives are all incorporated in the upcoming Cheops Books LLC historical thriller, Murder at Hamlet’s Castle.
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