I am afeard you make a wanton of me.

If Laertes has gotten in trouble for messing around with loose ladies in France and both his father and sister have suggested this might be the case, then this line might be getting a little personal and pointed.

Are Laertes’ missteps in this department known to the entire Danish court or just his family? Does Hamlet know?

Is he saying – “Don’t use me like you use one of your French girls.” – Is he TRYING to get Laertes’ goat or he is just being coy – like – flirting a little bit.

It would seem a little flirting in the middle of a fight might be par for the course. Flirting and fighting create a similar kind of tension, certainly.

The question in performance would become whether Hamlet is goading Laertes on purpose or by accident.

And also – is Laertes actually goaded or does he just use this moment as an excuse to get in there and start poisoning?

The questions become who is making a wanton of who here. Is there any wantonness happening?

I pray you, pass with your best violence.

This has got to be some of the nerdiest trash talking in the history of violence. I mean, first, it’s all done with the formal “you” and second, it sounds like someone who has never done a lick of fighting.

He might as well push up his tape-repaired glasses after this one.

Good sir, I would like to kindly rquest that you insert the tip of your sword into the integrity of my flesh, thereby creating a wound. And I would like to suggest, as any gentleman might, that your mother is not beautiful, your father dishonorable and  your sister a common stale.

And furthermore, your mother is so fat that when she sit-eth around the house she really sit-eth around the house.

You do but dally.

Apparently, dally began as a word that meant the opposite of its current meaning . It was once to have an intimate, serious conversation, and it seems to have moved from there to amusing one’s self, to playing or toying with. I wonder how this happened. If the word’s evolution were a relationship, it will have begun with intense late night conversations where secrets were shared and meaningful words were exchanged – then when these two lost touch and feelings were hurt, those conversations began to be reframed as flirtatious and then finally to meaningless games.

Come, for the third, Laertes.

Is his adrenaline firing up this moment? Is Hamlet, having refused the wine and there having been a little pause in the proceedings, worried that he will lose the momentum he’s gained?

Is he simply tired of standing around jawin’? He’s not someone who seems to like standing around in silence. I picture him all limbered up, bouncing around, ready to get into it, man, before this energy fades away.

Good madam!

The note on Genius suggests that this line is evidence that Hamlet knows the drink is poisoned.

I don’t see it.

I see how it COULD be possible.

But it is certainly not evidence.

For one thing, this line is as open as the most open scene. It could be a way to say, “What the heck, mom!”

He could be responding to his mother drinking and given that we know how Hamlet feels about Claudius’ drinking, it’s possibly not positive.

Or it could be a way to accept the toast. It could be a cheers, or a response to the cheers. It could be a salute.

It could be a way to accept the toast. It could be a cheers, or a response to the cheers. It could be a salute.

It could be punctuated as

Good, madam.

Like. Good.

The exclamation point that some editor put here might lead one toward an expression of alarm – but still…

I feel that if Hamlet really thought the cup was poisoned and he really wanted to prevent his mother from drinking it, he’d do more than say “Good madam.” There’s a lot more effective ways to prevent someone from drinking a glass of wine.

Also – the notion that Gertrude knows it’s poisoned, too, and drinks it, is equally bonkers. Again, I see how it COULD be pushed in that direction but it lacks a clear motivation. Why not just spill it if she’s trying to keep Hamlet from drinking? What reason could she have for killing herself?

I mean, you could invent some, sure – she is stuck between a rock and a hard place with her husband and her son – but killing herself doesn’t SOLVE that – it just gets her out of it. I feel like we’d need a whole lot more back story to buy a Gertrude who drinks poison on purpose.

What say you?

After the last point was contested, Hamlet takes the question directly to Laertes first. He could have continued to ask for judgement from the outside authority but he goes to Laertes first. It’s a nice move, really. Or at least interpersonally sharp. Better to get the point from Laertes himself – keep the fight between them, rather than the outside authorities.

Ultimately none of it REALLY matters – they’re all gong to to die in a few moments – but at least – if, in death, we have to watch our last moments over and over, Hamlet won’t have to do a lot of wincing about his behavior.


Hamlet begins the round/bout every time. It’s not until Laertes decides to go ahead and just kill him that he initiates any fighting and his “Have at you now!” is hardly an official beginning of a round. It’s not an invitation to play or an announcement or even, really, directed to Hamlet. It feels more like words used to power his own sword.

But Hamlet’s beginnings, like this one, are invitations, are starts to the bouts, each time.

Set it by awhile.

This is something that is perfectly reasonable to do with a glass of wine. There is no reason to hurry to drink it. It’s not like ice cream. It’s not going to melt. And unless it’s like, champagne or a white that really needs chilling, which seems unlikely in Denmark in this period before refrigeration or iceboxes, it can only be made better by sitting for a bit. Claudius trying to insist on Hamlet having a drink in the middle of an athletic event could be seen as suspicious by anyone looking for it. I mean – we know why Claudius wants Hamlet to drink that wine and it IS suspicious. Wine is for spectators not athletes.

I’ll play this bout first.

A bout is related to about which comes from the sense of a roundabout. The circularity is in all of them. A bout is also called a round. I think this is to do with it completing a circuit in each section.

About isn’t always round – sometimes if someone is, say, skipping about, they’re traveling all over the place, not necessarily a circle.

And when we ask what a story is about, we’re not necessarily thinking of a summary as a circle. There is a great deal more circularity under our language than I realized.