This a great example of a line that might make more sense through the lens of
original pronunciation. It may even be a line that helped those who have been
working out what original pronunciation was used to figure it. I mean “was”
just has to have been pronounced in such that it might rhyme with “ass.”
Horatio indicates that Hamlet has avoided the rhyme here. There is some expectation
– some sense that “peacock” is the substitute for something else and it just has to be “ass” doesn’t it? In order for the joke to work.
Because it really doesn’t work as it stands.
I’m not hugely interested in OP (original pronunciation) as a performance technique.
As an American, I am skeptical of any codification of how l should speak the text.
I’m interested in the wide variety of accents that one could use. The wider the better.
But THIS is the area where I find it very useful to consider – when it can explain a mysterious text problem – then it becomes VERY interesting to me.
My English friends are much enamored of OP, which I didn’t understand at first.
Not until one of them explained how it liberated the text from RP (received pronunciation,) how it took Shakespeare down off of an upper class pedestal he’d gotten put up on, did the attraction start to make sense to me.
The class distinctions are less of an issue here in the states where speech isn’t so codified. Many people are still fighting for the idea that one doesn’t need to use an English accent when reading Shakespeare – to shift to now needing to use one, is a little bit repugnant.
However- if this new OP allows us to understand things, well, that’s a very useful tool and one I won’t be turning my nose up at –
not without thoroughly investigation it first.