That I am guiltless of your father’s death, And am most sensible in grief for it, It shall as level to your judgment pierce As day does to your eye.

While I COULD buy that Claudius is upset about Polonius’ death, he doesn’t actually seem too bereaved. His principle response when he heard the news was to think of himself and how it might have been him. This is the first mention of any actual grief for the man – for this chief advisor. So while he MIGHT have felt some grief for Polonius’ death, this is the first we’re hearing about it – so this grief seems more like a performance of grief than any actual feelings.

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Why, now you speak Like a good child and a true gentleman.

It’s interesting that this line works on Laertes. There is a tiny hint of patronizing in it – calling Laertes a child really shouldn’t work. But I suppose in reminding Laertes of his status as the child of Polonius, the aspect of calling him a child gets subverted and Laertes has to accept the compliment of being a good child or deny being a gentleman. And this is how Claudius wins him over.

Good Laertes, If you desire to know the certainty Of your dear father’s death, is’t Writ in your revenge, That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe, Winner and loser?

Swoopstake! I know Claudius has said a lot of very important words here but they all fade into the background with a word like SWOOPSTAKE there in the middle. I mean…SWOOPSTAKE!
It’s like sweepstake but past tense? Or like sweepstake but with more movement?
My god English was exciting when it was in this uncodified stage! SWOOPSTAKE.
It is so much fun to say or to write or even just think!
Maybe I should get a cat and name it SWOOPSTAKE, then I could say it everyday.
“Come here, Swoopstake! Here’s your dinner, Swoopstake! Swoopstake, have you caught a mouse?”
Swoopstake, yeah.

Who shall stay you?

Oh ho. The king has switched from “thou” to “you.”
What has caused this shift from informal to formal language? Is this a signal of respect? Is the king, by calling Laertes “you” all of a sudden, signaling that he is treating Laertes’ potential threat of taking the crown seriously? Is this a leveling of the playing field? A status move? It is a good one. And it works.

Dead.

Of all the one word sentences there are, this has got to be one of the best.

One word lines remind me of Open Scenes…a series of scenes with dialogue without a clear meaning. They are often used in acting and directing classes as a training technique. Open scenes are often full sentences but one could easily have one made up entirely of one word lines. And this one would make an impact every single time. Mostly due to its meaning but the sound, too, has a nice stop in it.

Let him go, Gertrude.

Gertrude must be pretty strong. I mean to be able to hold back an incensed young man? And to continue to hold him back? Where did she get this strength? Did they train Queens in martial arts in Denmark? I’ve read that a lot of the Viking warriors were women. Maybe she’s got some Viking in her? I like a queen who can not only defend herself but also defend her husband when needed. A warrior queen.

In my current emotional state, I’d be very happy to have a warrior queen.

Tell me, Laertes, Why thou art thus incensed.

As obvious as it maybe, this is actually a pretty good strategy for talking with someone in this heightened state. Asking questions. Listening. Letting the incensed person say all the things they need to say. When a person comes ready to fight, they are not necessarily in a state of mind to explain their motives well. But the act of trying might, in fact, begin to flip the switch. Get a man talking, he’s less likely to do damage with his blade.