These are some complicated rules. Hamlet’s gotta get a hit in quickly in order to score, sure, that makes sense. And if he does, Claudius is going to celebrate big time. I mean – cannons? That’s a rather big reaction to a small tap with a sword. The quitting in answer of the third exchange is a little harder to make sense of. So basically – if Hamlet doesn’t get the first or second point, he can make up for it in the third round.
But what I’m not entirely clear on is HOW he does that in round three.
Part of the problem is that it’s not entirely clear what the word “quit” is doing here. It’s definitely not being used the way we use it today. Claudius is not going to sound the cannons if Hamlet gives up in round three.
Quit here is likely much more connected to acquit – and most likely to the idea of acquitting oneself.
So, practically, if he’s caught up to Laertes by round three, the king will still sound the cannons.
Claudius really wants to shoot off those cannons. And by shooting off the cannons, I mean he wants to put that poison pearl in Hamlet’s wine and kill him. So…the game is rigged so that Hamlet will have to win it in some way or another so he can get killed.
But really – aren’t the cannons on the battlements a little bit extra, as the kids would say?