Here’s a funny bit of business. England owes Denmark tribute in this world? Is this a hangover from the days when the brutal Danes rampaged the land? What, exactly, is this tribute? It’s not like Greek mythological tribute is it? Seven youths on a ship to be fed to the minotaur sort of tribute? Probably it’s money or, like, jewels.
But it’s an interesting background politically for this play. The king is using this tribute as an excuse to send Hamlet away but underneath, he’s using that same obligation of tribute, perhaps to get England to do his bidding to kill Hamlet.
England owes Denmark tribute.
Norway has agreed to peace years ago.
There’s a sense of volatility to the political landscape. Was this still true as Shakespeare was writing this? Did England owe Denmark something at this point?
It’s funny, though, to send someone you think is going to explode with melancholic danger to go do a diplomatic mission. It’s a funny excuse. And you know, it makes perfect sense on a villainous level – get the dangerous guy out of there, the one who might threaten your empire and get him out of your hair once and for all.
But politically, I wouldn’t think it sounds great to send a madman to do your diplomacy.
Maybe, though, there’s no real need to justify this to anyone. Maybe Polonius is in on it. Maybe Polonius just does whatever his king asks him. Maybe Polonius would never question a diplomatic judgment.
This tribute, though, is news to me. And I’ve read this play dozens of times. It’s such fun to learn new things in new lines.