Methought I lay Worse than the mutines in the bilboes.

And I bet mutineers in shackles don’t sleep so good either. What I love about this sentence is that it has the flavor of nonsense. Like it sounds a little bit like the jabberwocky. Soley based on sound, the mutines in the bilboes could easily be in the Jabberwock’s forest.

I wonder if this was a common phrase of the time – an idiomatic but commonly recognized image – or one that Shakespeare invented. If he invented it, it is a funny moment for this series of sounds. I know the image makes sense – especially since Hamlet is talking about his experience on a boat – but the sounds have a silly quality. I don’t object to silliness one bit. In fact, I applaud it mightily.

But if it is silliness, what is it trying to accomplish? I suspect it’s Hamlet embroidering the story for Horatio – performing it, really.


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