You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will not more willingly part withal – except my life, except my life, except my life.

We don’t do nearly enough leave taking these days. I can’t think of a single instance in which I have ever said or had occasion to say, “I take my leave.”

And unfortunately, this lack of discussion of leave taking means this joke can fall a little flat on contemporary ears. If I can call it a joke – it’s more a witticism and a boldly rude thing to say, I guess. Anyway – it all leads to this little lemon drop at the end of this sentence and points to just the kind of mad Hamlet is hoping Polonius will think he is.

Why particularly does Hamlet want Polonius to think that he’s suicidal? What advantage does he gain? Or does he genuinely feel this way? Before he meets the ghost, he’s definitely got suicide on the brain, he wishes the everlasting had not fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter and does not set the price of his life above a pin’s fee – but after the ghost, he’s a little giddy, more energetic, not so morose. One would think he becomes more intent on murder and less intent on self-slaughter and maybe this whole “except my life,” “grave,” and “to be or not be” stuff is a smoke-screen, to help throw the politicians off his trail, to seem as if nothing has changed when everything has changed.

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