Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Supermoon Over Glastonbury

One of a couple of pictures of the "Supermoon" from last Saturday.

I love the optical illusion of the "giant moon" created by a telescopic lens. If only the moon could actually appear that large. Still, it creates a neat image, even if it's (I assume) a composite image.

Can a thirty-two-year-old have tonsillitis?

All signs point to yes...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Was Hamlet Irish?

The Guardian has an article about the recently-published theories of Dr Lisa Collinson, a professor of medieval Scandinavian at Aberdeen, wherein Hamlet's name is traced to a medieval Irish story; she sums up her ideas at the Oxford University Press blog:
[I]n an article published online last week in the OUP journal Review of English Studies, I have set out my own  – no doubt even less perfect – theory, which I hope will be of as much interest to artists of various kinds as to scholarly specialists.

In this new article, I conclude that Hamlet probably came ultimately from Gaelic Admlithi: a name attached to a player (or ‘mocker’) in a strange and violent medieval Irish tale known in English as ‘The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’. If I’m right, this means that some version of the Hamlet-name was associated with players hundreds of years before Shakespeare lived or wrote.
 And she gives an interesting argument which you really should read in full.

But I'd like to see if anyone has ever traced the story of Hamlet to the Old Irish story The Destruction of Dind Ríg.

In that tale, Loegaire Lorc is king of Ireland, and his brother Cobthach is a petty king of Bregia. Out of envy, Cobthach kills Loegaire, and then proceeds to kill his nephew Ailill. He only leaves Ailill's son, Moen Ollam, who is driven mute by the events, until he was an adult. Then, upon being struck, he regains the ability to speak, and is renamed Labraid. His uncle welcomes him to a banquet at Tara, but then has him driven out because the people say that Labraid is more generous than Cobthach. Labraid/Moen goes off into exile, and then takes on a wife and allies. They plot to return to Cobthach's lands, and proceed, using both force and a magic harp that puts people to sleep, to sack the stronghold Dind Ríg.

Cobthach and his great-nephew make peace, and Labraid/Moen rules over Leinster. But he isn't satisified, sicne he still hasn't had revenge over his great-uncle for the murder of his father and grandfather. Labraid/Moen constructs a house of iron, and invites Cobthach and his people into it for a feast--but Cobthach would only enter if Labraid/Moen's own mother was also in the house. And so they enter to feast, while outside, Labraid's men start building a fire. They point out that his mother is still in the house, but she tells him to go through with it. And so Cobthach is killed, as is Labraid's mother. But unlike Hamlet, Labraid survives.

It's not hard to see some parallels with Hamlet: the murderous brother; the muteness perhaps akin to Hamlet's madness; the exile and return in order to get revenge; the uncle inadvertently killing the mother. If Hamlet's name comes from Irish is it possible that his story--deriving from an unrelated source, though both stories deal with the destruction of a royal house--does as well? That it somehow filtered into medieval Norse literature?

Sure? Why not? But then again, how would it have happened? I don't know, but I'd be curious to find out.