In her excellent white bosom, these, et cetera.

Et cetera!?! Now is this what Polonius actually says, or is this, perhaps an opportunity for a lazzo? It could easily just be the line. It’s logical for Polonius to skip through some of Hamlet’s letter to get to the juicy stuff – but there are a couple of other possibilities raised by this et cetera, as far as I’m concerned.
1) Depending on where it fell on the page (and I haven’t seen this page on either the folio or the Quarto recently) it could be as simple as the printers running out of space.
2) The printer/actors use et cetera as a placeholder while they try to remember the actual text.
3) Et cetera becomes a cue for Polonius to improvise. Polonius being essentially a Pantalone, could easily slip into the lazzo of reading a love letter. He could escalate the praise of his daughter until Gertrude stops him in the next line.
The improviser and comedian in me likes this last idea best – because I can imagine it bringing some exciting energy into the scene. The writer in me assumes Shakespeare meant exactly what he wrote. But because Shakespeare was also an actor, perhaps both parts lived side by side in him.


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