How does Osric know this? Was this a scheduled visit? A previously arranged meet up? Was there a messenger that warned someone that these people were coming? Did that message get to Claudius? Was his plan to get Hamlet killed at 1pm and greet the visitors from Norway and England at 1:30? Would there be an advantage to getting Hamlet killed before their arrival?
Or did the message come to Osric in the midst of all the drama? Did he get it on the way between telling Hamlet about the fight and turning up to judge it? Did he have time to tell Claudius about it? I don’t think it’s a surprise visit. Obviously, Osric knows who it is before they arrive and why they’re making war sounds at each other. He didn’t get a text.
Would it be apparent from looking out a window? Where or how does Osric get his information?
The note on Genius suggests that this line is evidence of Osric’s allegiance with Laertes and the king and/or his complicity in the plot against Hamlet.
I’m not sure it is. It could be, sure. But it could be that Osric is showing concern for Laertes because no one else is. Hamlet has Horatio so perhaps Osric sees Laertes as without a friend.
In the end, it is important that he asks Laertes how he’s doing because Laertes starts to give up the goods in response to this question.
I see how this line might support a case against Osric in a conspiracy case but there are other possibilities. Different productions will have different Osrics with different motivations. These kind of possibilities contribute to the reasons these plays can be produced over and over with seemingly endless variations.
What IS Claudius doing in this moment?
Presumably, he’s near the queen and could call out for assistance before Osric. He has good reason not to draw anyone’s attention to the queen’s collapse but what is he doing? Caring for her? Standing frozen with terror that his whole scheme is crashing down around him?
Has he caught her? Is he trying to keep her quiet?
I mean – given what she ultimately says, he may be afraid she will out him. Would he try to cover her mouth, try to shhhhh hush her?
He could presumably try and keep her quiet for his own purposes and look as though he’s trying to quiet her for her health.
There’s a whole lot of talk about Osric being in on the king’s schemes but if he were fully in on it, would he be drawing everyone’s attention to the villainy in progress with the Queen? He might know some but he probably doesn’t know all.
It’s funny that Osric describes the hit as palpable – with its sense of touch, its tactile sense. I don’t THINK the hit is judged with touch. It is almost always reckoned by the eye in this scene. Though suddenly, I am very interested in Osric investigating the hit with his hands. To see him palpate Laertes wheresoever Hamlet hit would be a) possibly hilarious b) homoerotic c) a bit of surreal staging.
It might be that the hit causes a tear in clothing so it could, in fact, be palpable in a literal sense – not just a figurative one.
Osric is a classic yes man.
If Hamlet wanted an honest answer to this question, he could not be sure with a question like this. If Osric can answer “yes” he will.
“Are they all the same length? “ “Yes!” “Are these swords all different lengths?” “Yes!”
You’d have to ask “What are the lengths of these swords?” to get something besides yes.
One of things I learned from teaching is what kinds of questions are fruitful and which are dead ends. Questions that lead to Yes or No are not very useful in that, aside from motivations to agree or disagree with the asker, they tend to stop the conversation.
“Is Osric complicit in this plot?” is not as productive a question as “How might Osric be complicit in this plot?”
Then you get some goods. And then you can ask its opposite, “In what ways might Osric be innocent?”
This line makes me wonder if Osric might be on the autism spectrum. Or rather this description of Osric reminds me of what I’ve come to understand is a coping mechanism for neurodivergent people, particularly those on the spectrum. If you can’t quite read people or loud social encounters intuitively – then learning a few outward expressions is a great way to survive.
Does Osric think that Hamlet hasn’t understood the proposition? Is he genuinely trying to clarify the wager? Or is he just flustered by Hamlet’s refusal to play the game? Of course he doesn’t have an answer for what would happen if Hamlet answered “no” – finding a response to that question would require a much higher pay grade.
It’s like asking the most rule-following cultural-norm-fulfilling, rote society-participator what would happen if you broke the rules; he doesn’t know and cannot even begin to imagine a world where people don’t follow their expected roles.
It is kind of wild that this match happens with no notice at all for Hamlet. Like – what if the current Prince William of England were approached suddenly in the hall and told that he should join a boxing match immediately. No time to change his clothes, no time to stretch just – strap on your gloves and go.
I’m not sure what Shakespeare’s trying to tell us here with this. The numbers don’t necessarily add up. There are twelve rounds, I guess? And if Laertes is only three points ahead of Hamlet, Claudius still wins. Is this twelve to nine? That this is meant to be the final score? That he’s laying odds on the final score being Laertes = 12, Hamlet = 9? Or is it that the odds are that?
But if they only play twelve rounds, how could Laertes get 12 points and Hamlet 9? They’d have to play 21 rounds to get that score. Or – points would have to be worth more than one on occasion. Is a hit worth three points? So Hamlet gets three hits and Laertes four in order to win? Or maybe it’s twelve somethings?
The math is funny.
But maybe that’s on purpose. To make it obvious that this weird competition is a set up and Hamlet’s about to get screwed with a sword.
I just read Samuel Johnson’s note on this and it makes me like Samuel Johnson a lot. “This wager I do not understand” and “It is sufficient that there was a wager.”
I’d like to have a text-off with Samuel Johnson.
I mean, I know he’s dead.
His attack on the text- and by attack – I mean approach – is something I quite connect to. On Genius, the commenter has labeled Johnson’s comment as “cranky” and maybe that’s why I like it – though I don’t see it that way.
I likewise do not understand the terms of this wager. They are quite complicated and it is not clear how anyone wins or loses. It is sufficient that there was a wager.