angers fragment of the manuscript by Saxo Grammaticus

Saxo Grammaticus in the 21st Century


The Danish Historian from the end of the 12th century, Saxo Grammaticus, is the first author to give a full account of Hamlet, corresponding surprisingly closely with Shakespeare’s play. For the first time his full history has been translated into English. The event is marked by a Conference

Saxo grammaticus Oxford University press coverSaxo was probably a canon of Lund Cathedral and lived from c. 1160 -1208. He was in the service of Archbishop Absalon, who encouraged him to write a history of his own country from the beginning up to his own time, but with a strong Christian bias.

Starting with the myths and heroic tales of primitive Scandinavia, he devoted the first nine of his sixteen books to legendary material before dealing with the first kings of the Viking age and finishing, after having related the early exploits of King Cnut Valdemarsson (1182 – 1202). The activities of the Danish kings were intimately bound up with the monarchies of Norway and Sweden; Cnut the Great, one of Saxo’s heroes, whose empire stretched as far as Britain and Iceland, was ruler of both these countries. In the last books Saxo was particular concerned with describing the campaigns of Valdemar the Great and his warrior archbishop, Absalon, against the Wends of North Germany.

The work is a prosimetrum, that is, in six of the first nine books he inserts poems in Latin metres, which are intended to parallel verses of old Danish heroic poetry. Saxo’s Latin prose style is often complex, based as it is on models like Valerius Maximus and Martianus Capella, but he is a lively and compelling story-teller, often displaying a rather sly sense of humour, and an interest in the supernatural. He is the first author to give a full account of Hamlet, whose adventures he relates at some length, the elements of which in a great many respects correspond surprisingly closely with the characters and incidents of Shakespeare’s play.

For the first time the work of Saxo Grammaticus has been completely translated into English. This translation is now published in a parallel edition together with a scholarly Latin text of Saxo Grammaticus. Thus, this important text is made available for a new generations of medieval historians.

Saxo Grammaticus: Gesta Danorum: The History of the Danes I – II
Edited by Karsten Friis-Jensen and Peter Fisher
Series: Oxford Medieval Texts
Oxford University Press 2015


Saxo Grammaticus in the 21st Century
On the occasion of K.Friis-Jensen and P. Fischer’s new edition and translation (Oxford Medieval Texts 2015)
The Noble Women’s Convent, Albani Torv, Odense 22.06.2015

10:00-10:15: Welcome

10:15-11:00: Peter Fischer (Cambridge) “The New Edition and Translation of Saxo”

11:00-11:30: Michael Gelting (Copenhagen) “Saxo Grammaticus in the Archives

12:00-12:30: Mia Münster Swendsen (Roskilde) “Saxo and Sven Aggesen”

12:30-13:00: Per Andersen (Aarhus) “Saxo’s Legal Thought – a Research Status”

14:00-14:30: Sverre Bagge (Bergen) “Saxo’s Norwegian Narrative (c. 1150-1170)”

14:30-15:00: Björn Weiler (Aberystwyth) “Saxo as an International Author – in the 13th and the 21st Century”

15:30-16:00: Peter Zeeberg (Copenhagen) “Saxo Translations – into Danish and English”

16:00-16:30: Lars Boje Mortensen (SDU) “Which roles will Saxo play in Emerging Non-national Literary Histories?”

16:30-17:00: Thomas Heebøll-Holm (SDU) “Saxo Grammaticus and English Twelfth-Century Historiography Revisited”

For additional information and free admission please contact

Charlotte Thorup:


The Angers Fragment is believed to be part of the original manuscript of Saxo’s. It was found in France in the 19th century and is believed to have been brought to Paris in connection with the first printing of Saxo’s Chronicle in 1514. Source: Public Domain/Wikipedia.





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