Cousin Hamlet, you know the wager?

Oh, now that there are plans in place for his death you’re calling him cousin? He’s family now that he’s got a death sentence hanging over him?

And he’s not calling him family in that creepy stepdad way of calling him son. Cousin is actually accurate in the sense that it was used then. It’s family. It’s relative. It’s familial and familiar. Unlike calling him “son” – it is not combative. Claudius is finally learning how to be a better stepdad moments before he’s due to lose the job.

Give them the foils, young Osric.

It does rather feel like Claudius might be concerned Hamlet and Laertes might start fighting in an unorganized way if he doesn’t intervene. And he definitely doesn’t want a fist fight because a fist fight will make it a lot harder for Laertes to “accidentally” kill Hamlet with a poisoned sword.

It feels a bit like Claudius is trying to defuse this back and forth so they can get to the business of killing Hamlet.

No, by this hand.

We need more body based swears. An oath like this just has a natural gesture. It begs to be performed by the body. You cannot say “by this hand” without displaying the hand somehow. We have crossing one’s heart. But no one swears by their leg or their hair or their pelvis or their belly or their sternum.

But it would be kind of beautiful silly dance if they did.

You mock me, sir.

I think that Hamlet is trying to pay Laertes a compliment here. If he is making a joke with a little word play, Laertes isn’t the target. But when you have a mocker’s reputation and then you try to pay a compliment, it is often the case that the complimentees will be suspicious of the compliment, especially if there’s a joke built into it that’s not exactly crystal clear.

In mine ignorance Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night, Stick fiery off indeed.

I think there’s a level of wordplay that I am missing here. I can see the metaphor easily – Laertes will be so much better at this than Hamlet, he’ll shine brightly like a star in the dark. And stars are made of fire and they are in the distance – so that all makes sense.

But the stick sticks.

Because a stick can be like a cut – or a hit in this dueling game.

And given what’s about to happen here – the stick feels like an obvious reference. But why is the STAR sticking far off?

Like, it’s so far off from Hamlet’s?

Like Hamlet’s skill is so earthbound and Laertes is WAAAY off in the heavens, stuck and fiery?

I feel like I’m missing a step.

Come, one for me.

Just one – you know – one of these foils – not any foil in particular – definitely not this one that I’ve had sharpened into a deadly weapon – that will also, conveniently obscure a little poison hidden in it. You know, just one of these, you know. Like this one, right here.

Come on.

So often in these plays, there seems to be no superfluous language – no sentence that doesn’t pack in meaning or purpose. This one, though – feels almost like it’s here just for rhythm. I doubt there’s a real NEED for the “come on.” Except maybe, maybe – to project an air of enthusiasm about this whole duel – an enthusiasm that, likely, Hamlet does not really feel. So – yes, I’ve talked myself into the importance of this line after all. It’s not just rhythm – it’s a projection of confidence and manufactured enthusiasm.

Give us the foils.

All of a sudden it’s foils?

Laertes’ weapons are rapier and dagger but here we have foils?

What is the sub-narrative here with these weapons?

Is it that Laertes prefers to fight with rapier and dagger but he’s given over to foils for this friendly duel?

I mean, certainly foils are a less threatening weapon. But they’re also less exciting. Is the fight really going to be with broad swords but Hamlet’s making a joke, calling them foils?

There’s a whole story below of weaponry and I’m missing a lot if it. I’d wager most of us are.