If ‘a steal aought the whilst this play is playing, And ‘scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

So if he steals anything – i.e. glances, looks, composure – and Horatio misses it, he’ll make up for it somehow. How, though?
If he stole a watch under his watch, I can see that he would pay for the watch, or give his own watch to make up for it.
This metaphor, though, is not that clear.

Unless, of course, it’s one of those old sayings that is based on something literal and everyone understands the metaphor because it is a familiar trope.

Like, if “I will pay the theft” were a catch phrase or an idiom.
The riff on it would be “Whilst this play is playing” – which is a delightful bit of phrase –

I like that things go on whilst a play is playing. Certainly a lot goes on with theatre folk whilst a play is playing. But certainly, too, audiences have experiences while plays play. Things go on outside the theatre, too, while plays play.


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