Your grace hath laid the odds o’ the weaker side.

It is curious that Shakespeare takes such pains to tell us that Laertes is a better fighter. Osric tells us. Horatio tells us. Hamlet tells us here. The king is about to tell us in this next bit and has told us in the way he’s built the wager. The numbers of ways we are told that Hamlet is bound to lose this fight are MANY – and from Hamlet himself, too – though he has made it clear that he thinks he has a shot due to his continual practice since Laertes went to France.

But…it is interesting that Shakespeare has taken so many pains to make sure we know who is favored to win this duel. I suspect it’s so that it’s clear that the hit that Hamlet gets is a surprise to all of them. And it makes Hamlet the underdog in the fight, which always makes people root for him even harder than they might anyway. It’s an early sports movie motif, I guess. With more exciting language.

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