The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Hamlet

Oh, it’s on now.

While working on my Hamlet guide for the kids I wanted to make sure I had my capitalization rules correct, so I asked on Twitter.  When speaking of Hamlet, do you capitalize the word “prince”?  I figure there’s multiple ways to say it:

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Hamlet, who happens to be Prince of Denmark
Prince Hamlet of Denmark

and so on.

What I got back for the most part said, “If he is the only prince, i.e. he has no siblings, then it is his title and titles are capitalized. So, always Prince.”

Until this morning when a professional copy editor checked in and said, “Nope, titles in general are not capitalized.  Prince Hamlet yes, but Hamlet prince of Denmark is just a description so no.”

Let the bloodshed begin.  Which is it?  Cite your references.

6 thoughts on “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Hamlet

  1. "Hamlet prince of Denmark"

    It may be 'proper' according to today's standards, but is a little clunky to me, since one is indicating 'whom' in speaking about this particular individual. "Hamlet ['the' or a comma in its place] prince of Denmark". When the punctuation is removed as in the example:
    "We sought audience with Hamlet prince of Denmark." it becomes a run-on.
    Also, because in any case we're speaking of a particular individual who holds the title, it seems, as written, to automatically become a title: Hamlet Prince of Denmark or
    "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark"

    President of the United States or president of the United States in a sentence? "So and so became President of the United States." Just works better for me, though I know it's probably 'wrong'.

    I don't, of course, have any idea what I'm 'technically' trying to "prove". And btw, I have no "source" but mine eyes and ears.

    Folio has it: Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. But that's a title *with* a title in it– like 'President of…but… so is 'Prince of… Denmarke".

    I always write it like I please anyway–like Shakespeare did.
    I'll shut up now…

  2. P.S.
    I know I should have used "as" instead of "like" in some of what I wrote. I do it to piss off the "professional copy editors"

  3. Professional copy editors and middle school grammar students will both leap down your throat every time you misplace a comma or forget to capitalize a word.

    Since my audience is the latter, I've taken the position that whatever rule they are currently being taught, I should follow, else suffer their wrath.

  4. My instinct would be to capitalize "…my friend Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" but not "…my friend Hamlet, the prince of Denmark."

    For another example I would write, "Someday Macbeth will be King!" Or I would write, "Someday Macbeth will be the king!"

    Does that have any basis in real grammar rules or does it only make sense in my head?

  5. I personally prefer "Prince Hamlet", but then "Hamlet, prince of Denmark". I wrote a paper on hamlet a while ago, but I'd have to dig it up again for the sources.

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