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This section includes some historical background of where the story of "The Dane" came from and will later be expanded with links to academic resources and study guides, as well as some of the research collected that was utilized in the development of this project.

The Hamlet Legend

Not many people outside scholarly circles realize that Shakespeare got the story of Hamlet from another source. It is derived from the Books of Danish History by Saxo Grammaticus, written around 1185, and published in print for the first time in 1514. It was later recreated in French through Belleforest's "Histoires tragiques", printed around 1572, which is the most likely source of reference for Shakespeare since it would have been in circulation in London.

The parallels between the story from Saxo Grammaticus and Shakespeare's rendition are so strikingly similar they cannot be ignored. Although the names are different (some only slightly such as 'Amleth' vs. 'Hamlet'), the plot points are identical in many ways except for some interesting variations. You can read the story translated into English here: The First Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus. Amleth is first mentioned on page 106 in the third paragraph.

"It's clear to me that Shakespeare changed the story to suit the tastes of his audience and to reflect contemporary social-political-religious trends. Essentially he "modernized" Amleth into Hamlet. Although "The Dane" is not modernizing the story in that fashion, there are changes to the language, including original material, that will help a modern audience understand Hamlet's story in ways that would otherwise be lost if we strictly stuck to Shakespeare's language. As the director, Christopher Gauntt has said: "In essence, when working on the script, whenever I ran into some sticking points that I thought might be lost on a modern audience, I would ask myself: 'if Shakespeare was alive today, and collaborating with someone like Alfred Hitcock or James Cameron, what changes would he have made for today's audience?'." - CG

For a brief summary of the story of Amlet and even more fun facts about the various legends and possible origins of the Hamlet story, check out this Wikipedia page on the legend of Hamlet.

Shakespeare's Hamlet

Facsimiles of the published plays.

The facimiles are photographic reproductions of the original printed texts. There were many versions of Hamlet that were published in the 1600s, but the most important three in terms of its history and content are the 1st Quarto, the 2nd Quarto, and the version in the 1st Folio, which also contains the rest of Shakespeare's works. Click on the links to see how the text was originally printed.

Hamlet - 1st Quarto (1603)
Hamlet - 2nd Quarto (1604)
Hamlet - from the 1st Folio (1623)

Researching Shakespeare's Handwriting

As part of his research, Christopher Gauntt wanted to study Shakespeare's handwriting. There aren't many examples attributed to him. There are a few pages from a play about Sir Thomas More, and a total of six known signatures, three of which appeared on his last will and testament, the content of which was most likely written by a lawyer, a copy which can be found in the United Kingdom's National Archives. In the process of studying the will, Christopher discovered an error:

"I found the handwriting of the will very difficult to read, and so decided to pair up the translation with the written words using photoshop. To my surprise, there was nearly an entire line that was missing from the translation. I informed the archives of the error, and they sent me an e-mail thanking me, and let me know that the site was updated. I guess I earned a bit of Shakespeare street-cred that day." - CG

Making The Dane

Why we decided to set The Dane in the 1520s

In researching The Dane, the goal was to try to find a historical time frame that was the closest match to the events that take place in the story and parallel the social-political-religious framework of the tale. The early 1520s seemed to be the best fit. A number of historical events have some surprising similarity to key plot points of The Dane and, for all we know, might have influenced some of Shakespeare's decisions on his adaptation of the original:

Granted, we aren't recreating actual history here. The story is based on tales from many hundreds of years earlier, may. But in order for our adaptation of Shakespeare's adaptation to make the most sense, in our view, it's best to set it in the right place and time so that the audience will see it in the most accurate context possible.

Why choose “ The Dane ” for the title?

From the very beginning, people asked if we planned on calling it "Hamlet" or use Shakespeare's full title "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark", or something else. After talking to many people, we decided to change the title for various reasons:

The Play's the Thing

Following is a brief description of how initial concept for 'The Dane' came about when Christopher directed a staged production of Hamlet in his senior year at UCLA.

"It all began with a conversation I had with a friend back in 1992 where I randomly decided I would direct whatever Shakespeare play he mentioned next. To my surprise he suggested Hamlet, which ironically I'd never read. I was a senior at UCLA, getting my degree in Theater at the time, so I figured, 'why not?' A good friend and mentor, D.J. Carlisle, suggested some books for me to take a look at, and hinted at looking at the religious angle, rather than the typical Freudian approach. That got me started, and soon I was seeing Hamlet in a way completely different than how it is normally taught. It was during my research in preparation for the play that I stumbled across the little pieces of information that led to my young Hamlet theory. Granted, I'm probably not the first to have thought of this, but it was something I hadn't heard of before, and it made for a fresh and exciting take on the play. It took five months of planning and rehearsing, so it didn't go up until the following year. The production was a great success. Looking back, I sometimes think of it as a dry run for what would become this film project." - CG

Image from the original flyer of the 1993 UCLA theatrical production