Lamord is a man of Normandy who is mentioned in Scene 18. (Scene 18#100) He does not appear on stage.
The mention of Lamord by Claudius plays a role in persuading Laertes to attempt revenge at the Fencing Match in the final Scene.
Claudius's description of Lamord's horsemanship, saying it was as if Lamord were "incorpsed, and deminatured" with his horse, has long been recognized as suggestive of a centaur. In annotating this line in Hamlet, George Steevens wrote as long ago as 1793, “This is from Sidney’s Arcadia, B.II: 'As if, Centaur-like, he had been one peece with the horse.'” Arcadia was published in 1590, so the idea of a good rider and his horse being "one body" was well established in English fiction by the time Shakespeare completed Hamlet as we have it. (The Steevens quote is from The Plays of William Shakespeare, Steevens, George, and Isaac Reed, eds., 4th rev. ed., London: T. Longman ..., 1793.)
Adding Lamord's comments about swordsmanship to the centaur concept gives a centaur with a sword, as shown in the illustration at right. That image is cropped from what is known as the "Rosenwald sheet," which is a woodcut print that was intended for making playing cards of the minchiate kind. The Rosenwald sheet dates from about AD 1500.
Now, we are not supposed to think that Lamord is actually a centaur with a sword. We understand he is a man. It's only that human imagination is not limited to the mundane, and in being entertained we are not stuck with only what we see around us every day.
- Costume - not applicable. We do not see Lamord on stage. We may see him, in the mind's eye, as costumed in the finest style of a French chevalier.
The name, Lamord, has not been pinned down as a topical reference to a particular person. It may be an invention of Shakespeare based on the following.
- Lamord obviously suggest "la mort," which is a death reference. That is suggestive in a play with such a prominent Death Theme.
- "Morder" with its first syllable of "mord" is an obsolete spelling of "murder."
- The English word "mordant" with its first syllable of "mord" goes back to Latin 'mordere' ("to bite;" "to sting.") "Bite" and "sting" are both significant concepts in the play.
- The music term "mordent" with, again, its first syllable of "mord," refers to a musical shake. That catches the eye in writing by Shakespeare.
- Mordred, with its first syllable of "mord," is a prominent character in the legend of King Arthur, Le Morte d'Arthur. Events vary in different accounts of the Arthur legend, but certain resemblances can be found between the Arthur legend and Hamlet:
1) Mordred was Arthur's nephew, or his adopted son, or his sister's son (all of which is the case for Hamlet in relation to Claudius, given that Claudius calls Gertrude his "sister");
2) Arthur sent Mordred away in a boat, as a baby, intending to be rid of him, but Mordred returned (which corresponds to Claudius sending Hamlet away in a ship, intending to be rid of Hamlet, albeit while Hamlet is a young man, but note that Hamlet then speaks of himself as "naked," like a baby);
3) There are allegations, or insinuations, of incest in both the Arthur legend and Hamlet;
4) Mordred improperly acted as King in Arthur's absence (which can be seen to correspond to Hamlet forging a new King's order, for the deaths of R & G, when Hamlet is away from Claudius);
5) In the Stanzaic Morte Arthur Mordred is accused of being mad;
6) Re Ophelia's "false Steward" line in Scene 16, (Scene 16#178), Mordred is described as a "false steward" when he gains the crown of England;
7) Mordred and Arthur ended up killing each other in a kind of single combat (which has a resemblance to Hamlet even though Hamlet and Claudius do not exactly kill each other, and the single combat in the play is between other men.)
More resemblances between Hamlet and the legend of King Arthur might be found if more time were spent on the effort.
Therefore, it is my view that the name, Lamord, may not result from a single source, or a single idea, but may be the product of a number of influences which came together. Shakespeare dealt so much in concepts in the play. The -mord syllable might be from any or all of the above, or more, and the La- beginning used simply to cast the name in a French style.
Lamord has no lines, but in the course of flattering Laertes Claudius repeats praise that Lamord supposedly conferred upon Laertes.
Themes and Motifs
Those most pertinent for Lamord:
Claudius describes how Lamord Put on a Show of horsemanship, and speaks of how Lamord praised Laertes's swordsmanship.
Lamord does not appear on stage. He is mentioned in Scene 18.
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