Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.

My students are often baffled by the notion of putting up one’s sword. They usually take it literally and take it mean that one should raise the sword, ready to fight. But it’s more like being asked to put up your toys when you’re done playing.

I was baffled by “hent” myself. I’d always assume it was a location for a sword – like a hole or target – like the thing you’d stick the blade in. But it’s mostly a verb – meaning to seize or catch hold of. Which is similar to what I thought.

As a noun, though, as it’s used here – it reportedly means “way” – which, while not as disgustingly visceral, does make a whole lot more sense. Because he is looking for a more horrid way to kill Claudius – not necessarily a different place to put the sword. He’ll kill him in the same place, regardless, one would think. This is why it pays to look up words even when you think you know.


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