Hamlet and primogeniture succession

History the way it is meant to be heard Forums General Discussion Hamlet and primogeniture succession

This topic contains 1 reply, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Sqrjn 2 years, 11 months ago.

  • Author
  • #16519


    My brain is slowly digesting the massive amount of information our host has produced, as I've been a new listener catching up on the show. My mind has been throwing up random thoughts in the process. Here is one I'd like to share.Was Hamlet being passed over in favor of his uncle who married his mother supposed to be a reference to the history of Danish paganism. I had always assumed that this was a major issue in the play. Hamlet was righteously upset that he had been cut out of the normal succession while he was away at school.But maybe Shakespeare and his audience just knew their history better than I did, cause apparently brothers taking over and marrying sister in laws was not an unknown practice. It really makes me want to find out more.1. How would Anglo Saxons view the hamlet situation brother succeeding and marrying the queen even though there was an adult son?2. How would Elizabethans have viewed it?If hamlet is set in a culture where the son does not automatically succeed the father, it actually makes a lot more sense. Moody, depressive, intellectual first born son is sent to school taking him out of the running for King. Dad dies, well liked brother takes over with the backing of the royal werod and he marries the queen quickly to solidify his power and hers. Moody son comes back and is not instantly killed because this sort of thing is cool and everyone knew he was never really a contender anyway. Because a real Royal heir is not sent out of the kingdom for school he stays and prepares to be king. Really it's Hamlet who is acting inappropriately at least before he finds out his father was murdered.Also you would think Levirate marriages and the biblical inconsistency on the point might be a touchy subject for Elizabethans given King Henry's troubles. Maybe the audience knew the play was supposed to be set in a foreign court with quasi pagan habits, defusing the potentially political issues. Now that I think of it why arnt there a bunch of priests and a bishop running around in hamlet, their absence is distinctly unchristian. Polonius should have at least been a monk.

  • #20508


    So apparently Hamlet is based on a story from Saxo Grammaticus' Danish History! Hamlet's predecessor Amleth was a pagan and prince in a pagan court. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/amleth.htmlSaxo did accuse Amleth's Uncle of incest, so clearly he didn't think that marrying your brother's widow was ok. But maybe that's Saxo's Christian gloss (apparently taking Leviticus over Deuteronomy). However the story does not mention that the subjects of the new King had any problem with him marrying his brother's widow. In fact after Amleth gets revenge and kills his Uncle, he has to hide out because he is worried about the people would think. And later he gets accused of usurping Jutland from his Uncle by the successor of his maternal Grandfather.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.