How Books Got Their Titles

Gary Dexter’s blog attempts at uncovering the stories behind famous titles of books. He adopts the following criteria for the books that feature on his blog:

1) the title should not be explicable simply by reading the text of the book itself;
2) each title should be the title of a book or play that has been published as such (rather than e.g. a poem or story that appears as part of a collection);
3) no quotations as titles.

From his post “Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died, aged eleven, in 1596. This was four years before Shakespeare came to write Hamlet.

What does this mean? There are several theories concerning the influence of Hamnet on Hamlet. The first is that father and son were not particularly close (Shakespeare spent all of Hamnet’s life away in London) and that the story of the Danish prince was just a random subject for a revenge tragedy: Hamnet was not in his mind. A second theory has Shakespeare turning to the Hamlet legend as a way of exploring his grief over the death of his son. This idea has recently been given a new spin by the critic Stephen Greenblatt, who has pointed out that certain strange features of Hamlet — particularly Hamlet’s protracted indecision about whether or not to act on the ghost’s advice — exist because Shakespeare wished to draw attention to the changeover from Catholic to Protestant burial rites, a changeover he had recently witnessed at his son’s graveside.

Read the entire post here and visit Gary’s blog here.

Image Source: Steve Rhodes


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