Dead for a ducat, dead!

A friend and colleague was interested in making a puppet show based on Notes of a Ratcatcher – an historical text about the craft of ratcatching. In it, the Ratcatcher lays out many of the tricks of his trade as well as how much money he could make per rat or bag of rats. Depending on who was paying him, he might deliver the rats dead or alive. It is a fascinating document for a lot of reasons – not least for what it reveals about the historical period.
I don’t know if my friend ever developed this piece – he moved on to other things and moved back to his native land – but this line makes me think of that document. Like, Hamlet is assuming the role of a Ratcatcher here and killing a rat in the expectation of the ducat he might receive for doing it.
Because a dead rat was worth a lot more to the one trying to get rid of it than a live one.


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