Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark: A Hamlet Wikibox TLIAD



"To be, or not to that's the question?"

Angels and ministers of grace preserve us!

What ho!

This is madness; be there method in it?

Quite so. In my bid to give everything real-life precedent like I did with King Arthur and Titus Andronicus, I've decided to tackle the most well-known of Shakespeare's plays.

...The Merry Wives of Windsor?

Obtuseness, thy name is alter ego!

What shall you write, my lord?

Words, words, words.

More matter, with less art.

Oh, very well. Hamlet (and Ur-Hamlet, if you believe in that hypothesis) is based on the tale of Amleth (lit. Fool), where the son of a murdered king to whom his mother quickly weds feigns madness, stabs a spy through a curtain and arranges the death of two retainers who intended to do him in. This clearly was a well-known legend by the 13th century.

The history of the Danish kings is pretty well-established starting from Gorm the Old, with the last dynasty before that, the House of Olaf, remaining semi-legendary and only attested through inscriptions on runestones. Of the known kings, you have Olof the Brash, who was succeeded by his two sons Gnupa and Gyrd, who, after subjugating Norway, were in turn succeeded by the short-lived Sigtrygg. Sigtrygg reigned briefly before being overthrown by Harthacnut I, son of the deposed Sweyn of Norway.

Given how many happy coincidences there are between the House of Olaf and the events of Hamlet, I couldn't resist. A narrative TL would probably just repeat the play, and Wikiboxes can only tell so much, hence this bizarre fusion of the two. Satisfied?

Speak the speech, I pray you.

Let us sit on the ground, and tell sad stories about the death of kings.

Peace! Count the clock.

The clock hath stricken twelve. We shall have the day to finish this, from when I next speak.

O horrible, o horrible, most horrible!

I'm very excited by this, though I do wonder—are those really coincidences, or had Shakespeare gotten his hands on some Danish history books, like the Gesta Danorum, that he used to base the story off of?
Hereby I follow this with great pleasure
Soft you now!

Hmmmmmmmmmm.. .
Hmmmmmmmmmm...? :p

O horrible, o horrible, most horrible!

I'm very excited by this, though I do wonder—are those really coincidences, or had Shakespeare gotten his hands on some Danish history books, like the Gesta Danorum, that he used to base the story off of?
A g-gh-ghost?! Zoinks, Horatio! :eek:

These are pretty much coincidences; the story of Amleth (whilst in the Gesta Danorum) in all probability has exactly zilch to do with the House of Olaf. After all, there's no proof Sigtrygg ever plotted against Gyrd, for example. That isn't going to stop me from rationalising a series of events which is consistent with both, though! :cool:

Peace! Count the hour. The time is out of joint!


The Conquest of Denmark by the House of Olaf is attested to by the Sigtrygg runestones, along with Sweyn Estridson and Adam of Bremen. Olof the Brash, a Swedish chieftain, invaded Denmark during the interregnum resulting from the assassination of Godfrid, Duke of Frisia, and the divided and disorganised Danish warlords and chieftains were unable to mount an effective defence; Olof was able to conquer Jutland [1] (and most probably Zealand, given geographic proximity and the prominence of Helsingør [2] in the reigns of his heirs) during his lifetime.

Evidence suggests that Olof may have only held dominion in these territories, but the erection of the Sigtrygg runestones in about 934 in Schleswig clearly indicates that the conquest of the area around it (no matter how limited) had been completed by then by Olof's sons Gyrd "Klaus" [3] and Gnupa Olafsson [4], and that the House of Olaf were overlords in Denmark.

Olof (or Olaf) "the Brash" was a Swedish chieftain who, according to Sweyn Estridson and Adam of Bremen, invaded Jutland around the turn of the 10th century, beginning the House of Olaf's conquest of Denmark. Little else is known about him save the fact that his sons, Gyrd Klaus and Gnupa Olafsson ruled together in the Swedish tradition, until Gyrd had Gnupa put to death following the Danish invasion of Norway [5].

[1] All OTL events.
[2] Elsinore, predating the construction of the actual castle.
[3] Claudius
[4] King Hamlet
[5] But more on this later...;)
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly

...leaving more time for Weber ;)
Well you've grabbed my attention :D spin thy tale bard!

Oh man here we go again :D

Let us continue! :)

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly

...leaving more time for Weber ;)
...OUT, DAMNED SPOT! (But seriously, update will be by tomorrow :cool:)


The invasion of Vingulmark by the Danish monarchs of the House of Olaf was initiated after (or concurrently with) their consolidation of power within Denmark itself by Gyrd Klaus [1] and Gnupa Olafsson [2], sons of Olof the Brash. Due to the paucity of resources, it is unclear if both brothers acted together, or if they split their responsibilities between the two fronts; the second possibility is given credence by the row that emerged afterwards.

It is unknown to what extent they intended to subjugate the Norwegian petty kingdoms, but this period correlates with an archaeologically visible dominance of Danish rule in Vingulmark at the very least [3]. It is unclear (but possible) if their ambitions brought Denmark into conflict with Harald Fairhair, who intended to unite Norway under himself. Gnupa appears to have slain Sweyn, the ruler of Vingulmark in combat (Gyrd may have been in Denmark or elsewhere in Norway), and forced Harthacnut [4], the son of Sweyn to swear fealty to him, essentially vassalising Vingulmark.

The victory expanded the imperium of Gnupa and Gyrd considerably, and a dispute seems to have arisen between the brothers as to who ought to rule which lands, leading to the assassination of Gnupa by Gyrd. Harthacnut would eventually avenge himself upon the Danes by seizing their own throne.


Gnupa Olafsson (c.890-934) was a son of Olof the Brash, and served with his brother Gyrd Klaus as King of Norway until his death at Gyrd's hand. Gyrd and Gnupa probably continued the conquests of Olof in Denmark, moving south from Jutland, which Olof had invaded at the turn of the century, into Schleswig. Archaeological evidence of the Sigtrygg runestones suggests that this was achieved at the very latest in 934, also providing a terminus ante quem for Gnupa's own death.

In order to cement the rule of the House of Olaf in Denmark, Gnupa married a local noblewoman, Gertrude Asfrid "the Blessed", an alleged descendant of Ragnar Lodbrok (with the caveat that many pseudo-historical Danish figures have also been connected with Ragnar.) Their union produced one son, Sigtrygg Amleth "the Fool" [5] heir to Gnupa.

Either having concluded their conquest of Denmark or about to, Gyrd and Gnupa proceeded to invade Norway, subjugating Vingulmark at the very least, with Gnupa himself slaying its ruler Sweyn and forcing his son Harthacnut to swear fealty to the Danish throne. This achievement of Gnupa's seems to have brought him into conflict with Gyrd, and the two had a row over who ought to hold dominion over which lands. Gyrd resorted to having Gnupa murdered, becoming sole ruler of Denmark and its holdings in Norway.

It is alleged, at least in the Tale of Amleth, that Sigtrygg Amleth was unaware of his uncle's role in the death of his father until he saw a vision of Gnupa's ghost in Helsingør; the resulting feud between Sigtrygg and Gyrd would eventually lead to the total termination of the House of Olaf, and the usurpation of the Danish throne by Harthacnut.

[1] Claudius
[2] King Hamlet
[3] This is actually true.
[4] Fortinbras
[5] Hamlet
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Were it not that I had bad dreams...;)


Paulinus Polonius (c.860 - 936), most frequently referred to by his cognomen Polonius ("of Poland"), was a Polish nobleman and Danish statesman deeply involved in the affairs of the House of Olaf, especially in those of kings Gyrd Klaus, Gnupa Olafsson, and Sigtrygg the Fool. Polonius was born somewhere in the area now known as Greater Poland, and probably emigrated to Denmark during the reign of Olof the Brash, father of Gyrd and Gnupa.

Polonius took up positions of authority in the courts of the kings of Denmark, eventually becoming chamberlain to Gyrd and Gnupa. He sired two children, Laurits and Othila in this time. He seems to have sided with Gyrd over Gnupa, and while his involvement in Gnupa's death is unprovable, it is probable that he was at least aware of it. He may also have had a role in convincing Gertrude Asfrid, widow of Gnupa, to marry Gyrd to cement Gyrd's legitimacy as sole ruler of Denmark.

When Sigtrygg, the son of Gnupa, eventually caught on to Gyrd's involvement in his father's death, he began to act more erratic, leading his mother Gertrude to begin confiding in Polonius. Gyrd tried to use Polonius to trawl for the method in Sigtrygg's apparent madness, but this came to naught as the young prince would only ramble about suicide and fishmongers. Polonius's loyalties may have been strained at the time as Harthacnut of Norway, unwilling vassal of Denmark, was threatening to invade either Denmark or Poland.

Eventually, Sigtrygg walked in on his mother consulting Polonius, and the chamberlain hid behind a curtain. Sigtrygg confronted Gertrude about her awareness of the plot to kill Gnupa, and when the argument became heated, Polonius called for help. Thinking Polonius was Gyrd, Sigtrygg stabbed through the curtain again and again, killing Polonius. Othila would commit suicide soon after, and the contention between Sigtrygg and Laurits would eventually lead to the extinction of the House of Olaf.

Othila (c.920 - 936) was a Danish noblewoman of Polish extraction during the reign of the House of Olaf. She was born as the second child and only daughter to Polonius, chamberlain of Gyrd Klaus and Gnupa Olafsson. Her brother was Laurits, a soldier in the service of Denmark. Othila was betrothed at a fairly young age to Sigtrygg the Fool, son of Gnupa and heir apparent to Gyrd and Gnupa.

Gyrd had Gnupa killed shortly after the conclusion of the Danish invasion of Norway (possibly with Polonius's involvement). When Sigtrygg discovered the plot, he acted increasingly erratically to deflect suspicion from himself, to everyone's confusion, especially Othila's. When appeals from Sigtrygg's mother Gertrude Asfrid and Polonius failed, Polonius dispatched Othila to talk sense into Sigtrygg. Sigtrygg, still putting on the appearance of madness, instead berated her and ordered her into a convent.

Sigtrygg would later kill Polonius whilst the chamberlain hid in the quarters of Gertrude, and Othila went insensible, wandering the halls of Helsingør barefoot and scattering flowers whilst mumbling to herself. She eventually drowned herself to end her torment, causing a spat between Sigtrygg and Laurits, to the extent that her former beloved and her brother exchanged blows in the shaft in which she was to be buried. This contention would eventually lead to the extinction of the House of Olaf, and the ascendancy of Harthacnut and the House of Gorm.

(c.920-936), also rendered in Latin as Laertes, was a soldier of Polish extraction in the service of the Danish king Gyrd Klaus. He was born as the eldest child and only son to Polonius, a prominent noble and statesman during the rule of the House of Olaf in the early 10th century. He was followed by his sister Othila, betrothed to Sigtrygg the Fool.

By all accounts Laurits seems to have been a loyal soldier and retainer of Gyrd, although prone to violence and emotion. This came to a head during the plot of Sigtrygg to avenge himself upon Gyrd for Gyrd's murder of his brother and co-ruler, Gnupa Olafsson the father of Sigtrygg. Sigtrygg had slain Polonius as the chamberlain hid behind a curtain in Sigtrygg's mother Gertrude Asfrid thinking the spy was Gyrd, and Othila committed suicide shortly afterwards.

Laurits and Sigtrygg came to blows during Othila's funeral, and Gyrd intervened, offering to officiate a holmgang (a precursor to the mediaeval duel) to redress their dispute. Laurits and Gyrd plotted to do Sigtrygg in, and Gyrd arranged for Laurits' blade to be laced in poison, also poisoning a chalice if Sigtrygg wished for refreshment. The subsequent duel in Helsingør would eventually lead to the deaths of all three parties as well as Gertrude, for she drank from the chalice by mistake, clearing the way for Harthacnut of Norway to seize the Danish throne.

Gertrude Asfrid "the Blessed", (c.900-936) was Queen-consort of Denmark in the early 10th century, married first to Gnupa Olafsson then to his brother Gyrd Klaus. She was the mother of their successor, Sigtrygg Amleth "the Fool". Gertrude was born at the turn of the century, allegedly to Odinkar, a son of Ragnar Lodbrok (although many historical figures have had fabricated links to the pseudo-legendary Ragnar) and was married to Gnupa to entrench the legitimacy of the Swedish-born House of Olaf.

Gertrude became Queen when Gyrd and Gnupa ascended to the throne together, in Swedish tradition. It was during this time that Schleswig was subjugated by the House of Olaf, as evinced by the Sigtrygg runestones erected by Gertrude (using her epithet Asfridr) there. Gnupa was assassinated by Gyrd in secret shortly afterwards, and Gyrd married Gertrude to gain the power of patriach over Sigtrygg. It is unclear as to Gertrude's involvement in her husband's death, although she was notably nonchalant during Sigtrygg's investigation. One notable episode during the revenge of Sigtrygg was his staging of a story from the Edda, depicting the murder of Balder by Loki. Sigtrygg changed the script such that Nanna, the grieving wife of Balder, instead of throwing herself on his funeral pyre, was seduced by Loki. Gyrd Klaus rose in consternation, leaving the play in great fury; Gertrude simply mused that Nanna's actress's performance was melodramatic.

As Sigtrygg's behaviour became more erratic, Gertrude confided in the royal chamberlain Polonius. Sigtrygg walked in on one of these meetings, and seeting a figure hidden behind a curtain, stabbed it to death, thinking it Gyrd. Laurits the son of Polonius swore revenge on Sigtrygg for the deed, along with the suicide of his sister (and Sigtrygg's betrothed) Othila, and the two would eventually settle their differences in the duel in Helsingør, which Gyrd had set up to ensure the death of Sigtrygg, poisoning Laurits' blade and a chalice of mead. Gertrude accidentally drank from the chalice and died, living long enough to see Laurits die and Sigtrygg turn on Gyrd. The extinction of the House of Olaf paved the way for the conquest of Denmark by Harthacnut of Norway.

Gyrd Olafsson, also known as Gyrd Klaus (c.890-936), also rendered in Latin through typographical error as "Claudius", was the King of Denmark from about 920 to 936. He was one of two sons (the other being Gnupa Olafsson) of Olof the Brash, founder of the ruling House of Olaf. Gyrd and Gnupa ascended to the throne together in the Swedish tradition upon the death of Olof. Gyrd appears to have gained the name "Klaus" (short for "Nicholas") upon his baptism. It is unknown if Gnupa was also a Christian.

It was during their co-rule that the House of Olaf consolidated their gains in Schleswig and invaded Norway, succesfully subjugating at least Vingulmark. Gnupa had slain King Sweyn and forced his son Harthacnut to swear fealty to the Danish throne. Having expanded their sphere of influence considerably, Gyrd and Gnupa began to quarrel, with their contention eventually ending when Gyrd had Gnupa murdered. Gyrd married Gnupa's wife Gertrude Asfrid to gain parental authority over Gnupa's son (and heir) Sigtrygg Amleth "the Fool". Eventually, Sigtrygg learned of Gyrd's involvement in his father's death and confirmed this knowledge by staging an episode from the Edda, where Loki murders Balder using mistletoe and (changing the script) seduces Balder's wife Edda. Gyrd's consternation and hasty exit confirmed his guilt in Sigtrygg's eyes, and uncle and nephew began to scheme against each other. Gyrd attempted to have Sigtrygg killed in Mercia by secret orders given to his retainers; Sigtrygg intercepted the orders and altered them so that his retainers died instead.

Sigtrygg, upon returning to Denmark, made his attempt on Gyrd's life but could not bring himself to violate the sanctity of the chapel in which Gyrd prayed. Gyrd would come to exploit the contention between Laurits and Sigtrygg; Sigtrygg had slain Laurits' father Polonius, mistaking him for Gyrd, and Laurits and Sigtrygg had traded blows at the funeral of Laurits' sister Othila, who killed herself shortly after her father's death. Gyrd officiated a holmgang, the Duel in Helsingør between the two, lacing Laurits' sword and a chalice of mead with poison. In the confrontation, Sigtrygg was injured with the sword according to plan but also wounded Laurits with his own sword, eventually turning on Gyrd as well, forcing him to drink from the poisoned chalice (which Gertrude had died from moments earlier) before stabbing him to death. Sigtrygg died soon afterwards, and Harthacnut found no effective resistance in his conquest of Denmark.


Sigtrygg Gnupasson, also known as Sigtrygg Amleth "the Fool" (c.920-936) was the final King of Denmark of the House of Olaf, "reigning" for about five to ten minutes in 936, his usurpation and death the final act of a complex plot of revenge between himself and his uncle (and predecessor) Gyrd Klaus. Sigtrygg was born to Gyrd's brother Gnupa Olafsson and Gertrude Asfrid "the Blessed" in about 920 AD, and betrothed to Othila the daughter of Gyrd's chamberlain Polonius.

Gyrd had Gnupa assassinated shortly after their successful invasion of Norway and vassalisation of Vingulmark; Sigtrygg only learned about Gyrd's role in his father's death after Gyrd had married Gertrude to gain parental authority over him. Sigtrygg confirmed Gyrd's guilt by staging an episode from the Edda, in which Loki murdered Balder, and deviating from the canon, seduced Balder's wife Nanna. Gyrd, now aware that Sigtrygg was cognizant of his guilt, arranged to have him murdered by his retainers in Mercia; this backfired when Sigtrygg intercepted his orders. To cast suspicion off himself, Sigtrygg began to act erratically, earning his cognomen Amleth ("foolish; insane"), mumbling to himself about suicide and mortality, talking to the skull of the former court entertainer Yorvik as though he was still alive, calling Polonius a fishmonger and berating Othila as a "nymph" and ordering her into a convent. Sigtrygg considered killing Gyrd as he prayed in a chapel, but elected not to violate the sanctity of the church.

Sigtrygg killed Polonius when he confronted Gertrude, thinking the man hidden in her chambers was Gyrd. This created a feud between himself and Polonius's son Laurits, exacerbated when Othila committed suicide shortly afterwards. After Sigtrygg and Laurits had quarreled in the shaft for Othila's grave, Gyrd offered to officiate a holmgang between the two of them to settle their differences, the Duel in Helsingør. Unbeknownst to him, Gyrd and Laurits conspired to ensure Sigtrygg's death, lacing Laurits' sword with poison as well as a chalice of mead. Although Sigtrygg was injured with the tainted sword, he also slew Laurits with the same sword, and Gertrude died after accidentally drinking from the poisoned chalice. Sigtrygg turned on Gyrd, forcing him to drink the poison before stabbing him to death.

With the entire House of Olaf dead by the end of this series of events, Harthacnut, unwilling vassal of the Danish Kings in Vingulmark, successfully invaded and conquered Denmark, avenging his father Sweyn, who had been killed by Gnupa.

[1] Claudius
[2] Hamlet
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...and done, ere the day was up!


Harthacnut I, or Harthacnut Sweynsson (c.880-940), also referred to as Cnut I, was a semi-legendary King of Denmark. Harthacnut was born to Sweyn, a ruler in Vingulmark, Norway. Vingulmark fell into the Danish sphere of influenced during the joint reign of Gyrd Klaus and Gnupa Olafsson, who invaded Norway. Gnupa killed Sweyn and forced Harthacnut to swear fealty to the Danish throne, effectively vassalising Vingulmark. Harthacnut was compelled to agree, but swore vengeance on the House of Olaf.

He eventually got his opportunity after the fallout from Gyrd's assassination of Gnupa over a dispute concerning whose authority lay where, and the vendetta of Gnupa's son Sigtrygg Amleth "the Fool" against Gyrd. Following a complex series of plots and counter-plots between the two, both Gyrd and Sigtrygg would die at each others' hand, leaving no effective resistance against Harthacnut's invasion of Denmark. This event is recorded by Adam of Bremen. Harthacnut would die soon after his conquest, and he was succeeded by Gorm the Old, founder of the House of Gorm.

[1] Fortinbras
Absolutely brilliant work. I hope I remember to nominate this for a Turtledove next time around, for it's exactly the kind of scenario TLIADs are made for.
Oddly, it reminds me of Meadow's World War II vignette about the Plagues of Egypt in that it's very much playing with the traditional narrative forms of alternate history. Just as how in that the reader was left unsure about the presence of the supernatural, in this timeline does something similar by repositioning the work of fiction in the timeline.
I'm not entirely sure whether the play Hamlet was written in this timeline as well, but if it was I'd love to see some of this timeline's scholarship on the play.
Wonderful as always, and a beautiful way of bringing my favourite Shakespearean work to life. Like you said, it fits eerily into the historical record.

Now just to trace the legendary roots of the Rosenkrantz and Gyldenstjerne families to 10th-century Denmark...
Wonderful as always, and a beautiful way of bringing my favourite Shakespearean work to life. Like you said, it fits eerily into the historical record.

Now just to trace the legendary roots of the Rosenkrantz and Gyldenstjerne families to 10th-century Denmark...

I swear I once read a mashup of Romeo & Juliet but with these two instead called R&G.

Good work as ever Tom Colton