This one will make your eyes bleed Tom Hopkins and St. Cajetan's!
•"A little more than kin, and less than kind." Hamlet 1.2
Believe it or not dear reader. but your humble correspondent has an article published and noted in the Oxford Review of Victorian Literature. On the square. It has been read by tens of people and it concerns the critical treatments of Dickens and Thackeray.
As a result of this perquisite, I receive notes from my pals with the Oxford Review.
Today, over my Fat Tuesday lunch at Leo, I read a nice note from my pal Neha Mistry informing me that a recent Oxford study reveals that Shakepeare's brooding Dane might actually have been a boozing Mick.
Scholars have long accepted that Shakespeare took the core of his Hamlet character from ‘Amlethus’, a legendary figure found in ‘The History of the Danes’ but new research proposes that an older Hamlet name can be found in a mysterious Gaelic tale, written in the eleventh century, based on eighth- or ninth-century materials.
The tale tells the story of a flawed king who broke taboos and was consequently killed in a strange hall, filled with uncanny figures. Among these figures were three players, one of whom was called Admlithi.
“As soon as I saw ‘Admlithi’, I thought of Hamlet” says Dr Collinson.
**Read this headline-hitting article, picked up by The Guardian, FREE online:**
- A New Etymology for Hamlet? the Names Amlethus, Amlothi and Admlithi:
By L.A. Collinson
“Earlier scholars based theories about the Gaelic origins of Hamlet on an odd name – ‘Amlaide’ - embedded in a short verse found in Irish annals. They constructed interesting arguments which allowed for Celtic influence on ‘Amlothi’, but they struggled to explain the form of the annal name, which remains obscure” explains Dr Collinson.
If Dr Collinson’s hypothesis is correct, then the association of Hamlet’s name goes back several hundred years longer than has previously been believed.
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Oh Hell Yeah!
The acting the goofiness, the whining and the mother complex - sounds like a lad from Visitation, or Little Flower. I looked deeper into the Oxgford study.
Hamlet was believed to have been a historical person, like Lear. Scholars of Icelandic and Old Danish as well as Irish have come up with this -The precise etymologies of Amlođi, Amlethus and ultimately Hamlet have remained unclear, despite many previous attempts to elucidate these. (Currently, the best-known interpretation of the name(s) is probably that offered in the latest Arden edition of the play: ‘stupid’.)5 The aim of the following discussion is to explore the possibility that all of these names might descend from Admlithi, recorded as a player-name in the medieval Irish tale Togail Bruidne Da Derga (TBDD, ‘The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel’), and to suggest some potential implications of this for our understanding of the histories of the Hamlet-figures developed by Saxo, and by Shakespeare.6 (For the sake of clarity, I shall keep to a minimum discussion of Haveloc.7
More so -the kenning and simile of the rich Skaldic, Irish poetry run on to the fantastically deep weaves of the uses of "mill." and "grinder" as tropes -Admlithi as Sea-Grinder: Irish, Norse, or both?
Despite its tiny (almost inconsequential) role in TBDD, it seems to me that the name Admlithi would have had an exceptionally broad range of potential applications, and could have been used in many, very diverse contexts. One reasonable possibility, I think, is that Admlithi was used to refer to a specific area of the sea when indirect expression was, for superstitious or poetic reasons, desirable. In the late-ninth or early tenth-century Irish glossary, Sanas Cormaic46—which itself appears to contain at least two Norse loan words47—the currents surrounding a whirlpool called Coire Brecáin (‘Brecán's Cauldron’) are compared to the paddles of a mill-wheel (orceil or orcéil).48 This complex work is currently being re-edited for the Early Irish Glossaries Database,49 but Paul Russell has published a provisional translation of the relevant passage, as it stands in the Yellow Book of Lecan (the manuscript containing the text of TBDD cited above):
Coire Brecáin, i.e. a great whirlpool which is between Ireland and Scotland to the north, i.e. a meeting place of many seas: the sea which comes round Ireland from the north-west, and the sea which comes round Scotland from the north-east, and the sea from the south between Ireland and Scotland. Then it takes them each in turn like whirling spirals50 and puts each of them in the place of the other like the paddles of a millwheel as it goes past, and sucks them down into the depths so that it is like an open-mouthed cauldron which would suck down even the whole of Ireland, and would put it in all together. Again it vomits up that mouthful and its thunderous belching and its crashing and its roaring can be heard among the clouds just like a cauldron boiling on the fire.51
This descriptive passage is followed by a narrative, belonging to a subgroup within the Sanas Cormaic entries which, through shared, ‘criss-crossing’ features, seem to evince particular interest on the part of the compilers in obscure language (including poetry), liminality (for example, sea and shoreline locations), and mysterious figures (superficially unpromising youths with great futures, and the fool (drúth), Lomna, whose head speaks after decapitation—and who, incidentally, has a similar namesake in TBDD).52
In the first part of the Coire Brecáin entry, it is the motion of mill-paddles, rather than grinding as such, which is invoked to describe the action of the currents of Coire Brecáin.53 Nevertheless, the content of the following entry (not only in the Yellow Book of Lecan, but also in the short version of this glossary in Leabhar Breac, and the Book of Uí Maine) does make it possible to suggest that, at some point in the creation of Sanas Cormaic (or one of its sources), the mill-reference may have been felt to be connected with grinding, specifically: ‘Cumal [a she-slave] i.e. a woman that is grinding at a quern; for this was the business of bondswomen before the mills were made’.54 After Cumal, the next-but-one entry is ‘Cotud ‘a whetstone’ i.e. everything hard [?], ab eo quod est cotis i.e. a stone (lie) on which iron weapons are ground.’55
The clustering of Coire Brecáin, Cumal and Cotud entries might of course be a compilatory coincidence, but, on the other hand, it is clear that, in the Irish glossaries, some entries had in fact been harvested from the same sources as those found close to them in their manuscripts, or else had been re-ordered, or even tailor-made, to fit in with their neighbours.56 In other words, entry order could be significant. The point I wish to make is that, in these manuscripts of Sanas Cormaic, Coire Brecáin is associated with mills, and mills are, immediately afterwards, linked to grinding (indeed, to much the same sort of grinding-context described in Grottasǫngr), and that this might conceivably reflect some sense that Coire Brecáin was itself a kind of grinder. Certainly, the whirlpool is depicted in Sanas Cormaic with a ‘mouth’, like a mill (the feature described as an ‘eye’ in Grottasǫngr).57 Even its name has a mill-aspect: although presented in Sanas Cormaic as meaning ‘Cauldron of Brecán’, where Brec(c)án is an untranslated personal name, Coire Brecáin could, I think, alternatively be interpreted as ‘Cauldron of The-One-Roughened-As-A-Millstone’. According to the Dictionary of the Irish Language, Coire Brecáin contains Brec(c)án, a ‘fanciful personal name’, meaning ‘speckled thing’. Brec(c)án is, in its turn, interpreted in the same source as deriving from brecc, ‘speckled’; this appears to be related to the verb breccaid ‘speckles’ and the verbal noun breccad, ‘act of speckling’. However, breccad could, very specifically, refer to the process of ‘picking’ (deliberately roughening) a quern or millstone with an instrument called a breccaire, ‘speckler’.58 Consequently, although brec(c)án is not specifically attested in DIL as meaning ‘one roughened as a millstone’, this would seem to me to be a fairly unproblematic interpretation of the word found in the genitive in Coire Brecáin. As ‘Cauldron of The-One-Roughened-As-A-Millstone’, the name Coire Brecáin could, I would argue, reflect some idea that the whirlpool resembled (or seemed to contain) a roughened millstone, complete with mouth.
Although it must be admitted that there is no evidence that Irish speakers ever did call a whirlpool ‘Admlithi’, it would seem that, had any wanted to give Coire Brecáin, for example, a nickname, ‘Great-Grindings’ would probably have made a perfectly appropriate choice—at least for one or more of the compilers of Sanas Cormaic. (This would mirror the kind of thinking behind the coining of the Dutch word maelstrom, ‘grinding-stream’ which has become a common European term for ‘whirlpool’.)59 Yet such a tag could have packed greater punch still in contexts which were at least partially Norse, its foreignness rendering it more obscure and thus more powerful (as a noa-term) and exotic (in poetry).60 Irish words were, after all, rather rare in Norse literary texts—although, importantly, a handful were preserved, including (in compound) men/min, the word for ‘flour’ which was mentioned earlier as an element in one (Irish) version of the Admlithi-name.61 My suggestion is therefore that Amlođi represents a corruption of an Irish name which was applied to (or perhaps even coined for) a specific area of grinding sea,62 such as the ‘Coire Brecáin’ of Sanas Cormaic, in the mixed-language region stretching from Ireland itself, across the North Channel, into the Hebrides and up towards the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland.63 Where exactly Coire Brecáin was thought to have been located is another question: the standard view is that the name probably originally referred to a whirlpool off Rathlin Island, but that another between Jura and Scarba in the Hebrides was—at some point—also given the same name (now, Corryvreckan).64 Either of these eddies could, I suspect, have been given a noa-name or heiti (Admlithi) in skaldic verse.
Coire Brecáin. As ‘Cauldron of The-One-Roughened-As-A-Millstone’ A whirlpool; Maelstrom; Hamlet; history and it is a giggle and keeps the old brain-pan fresh.
•"Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none."
- William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.2
Yeah, He's a Mick.
Yep, works for me.
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