Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on A compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded Them:

You know things are bad on the boat you’re on when climbing on board a pirate ship seems like a good solution. I mean, pirates are not known for their fair and just treatment of stowaways. Or guys with swords who got on their ship to fight them? We don’t really know the circumstances.
But we do know that Hamlet is on a trip to England he doesn’t want to make with his “friends” who he knows are delivering his death warrant. There aren’t a whole lot of ways out of this situation. Jumping on a pirate ship seems rather reasonable in that case.

However, I find I am suspicious of these pirates who just happen to turn up and just happen to take only Hamlet prisoner. I mean. Hamlet’s crafty. He could have sent a message to the pirates that he’d give them a hefty bounty if they attacked his ship. I wouldn’t put it past him to set up this fortunate circumstance.


Ere we were two days old At sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us Chase.

A pirate? Not a pirate ship.
Or SOME pirates. But A PIRATE.
We know, though, that it’s not just one – because he later calls them THEY. So.

What if it were nongendered pirate?! How awesome would that be? A non gender binary pirate in war-like gear? A fierce bad-ass non-gender conforming pirate?
I know that there is a fun and exciting history of female pirates. Many women I know have found great inspiration and strength in the knowledge of their existence. It would be a pretty sweet bonus if there were also an ungendered pirate and they got a shout out in one of the great works in Western literature.

They have letters for him.

Why more than one letter? We know that one of them is from Hamlet – in which he declares he is set naked in the kingdom. But who would the other be from? One of the pirates? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? One of the sailors with a crush on the King?
Now – I recognize that letters may be standing in for a letter. Or perhaps they’re referring to the letters in the words. In the end, there’s a letter for the king and a letter for the queen that gets given to him as well. Perhaps I am needlessly generating a mystery. But…in the end the sailors seem to have A LETTER for the King. Not letters…

Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked This, give these fellows some means to the King:

I know Horatio has to read this out loud for the benefit of the audience. We need to hear it to understand what happened to Hamlet. But the sailors don’t need to hear it. So it’s funny that he reads this aloud to them, especially since he probably suspects that it is from Hamlet and a level of secrecy is likely required. But he reads this to sailors who aren’t even sure of his name. It is an odd choice if you take the theatre factor out.

If your name be Horatio as I am let to know it is.

There are those who are sticklers for grammatical rules of thumb, for rules that mustn’t be broken. I don’t know though. The sailor who says “as I am let to know that it is” is suggesting the mystery behind his line. It’s a way to say something about Hamlet without saying it. If he were trying to follow the writing rules, he’d say, “I’ve heard your name is Horatio” which would be more efficient but less interesting.

It comes from the ambassador that was Bound for England.

It’s funny how looking at a line out of context can sometimes obscure it. In this case, I looked at it and thought, “Who is the ambassador to England? Was there someone else with Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Who survived the pirate attack?” But, of course, the ambassador is Hamlet himself. The sailor is obscuring his identity a tiny bit, probably as a safety precaution.

I mean this whole scene is a bit of cloak and dagger in the middle of a revenge story. There’s no reason, if Hamlet is already returned to Elsinore, that he shouldn’t come talk to Horatio himself – or if showing up where Horatio is is too risky – to have Horatio appear at Hamlet’s hiding place. But this scene creates an atmosphere of secrecy and layers of obfuscation that actually heightens the drama. Many contemporary rules of drama would suggest that hearing this information directly from Hamlet would be more dramatic. But it’s a great deal more of a spy story with this scene.

There’s a letter for you, sir;

While I miss the days of letters, I somehow rarely manage to channel that missing into writing letters. I have one dear friend with whom I exchange letters. But months pass between them. I started my letter to M in November and it is now February. A world has transformed since then. But that is the beauty of letters. They are communications but also objects. They exist in this double space of ethereal communication and permanent object.

One thing I noticed in receiving letters from M is that I treat them very differently than receiving an email. Emails, I skim. Letters, I save until the right moment wherein I can sit quietly in a comfortable place and read and savor – even the bad news. I remember not just the letter but the spot where I read it, the quality of the light and the feel of the air. Now letters are such a rarity – such an event.
But I remember a time when letters were more ubiquitous. My best friend in 7th grade moved to a town an hour away and we would write every few days.
When we went out of town, we’d send letters and postcards home. I wrote letters with the boys I liked…sending them from near and far. But even though there were more letters then, I still think they were special. I have memories, some 30 years past, of reading letters on my bed or in the garden. The letter was an event, an object and a message.

Let him bless thee too.

Status Point of Interest! The sailors use “You” to address Horatio but he uses “Thee” to address them. Does this suggest that Horatio is some kind of recognizable gentleman? And are sailors just automatically people you talk down to?

Horatio is a little bit mysterious in his way. We don’t know much about him. We know he’s someone (not from Denmark) who Hamlet trusts. He’s also someone the guards at the top of the play trust. But beyond that, we have only a handful of facts.

So, WEIRDLY, this little bit of information about how sailors talk to him and he talks to sailors manages to reveal a tiny bit more.