Say you so?

There is talk of Laertes being goaded into this third round of the duel. It is as if he has been successfully trash talked and Hamlet has made him mad. Mad enough to kill him. But “say you so” is not especially fraught. It is not necessarily an angry response. It could be said that way, for sure.

To me, it is equivalent to saying, “Oh yeah?”
Which could be a furious response to an insult or just an indication that we’re both playing the game.

And in this round – nothing happens. Laertes doesn’t hit Hamlet. Hamlet makes no contact with Laertes. This round is a bust.

The kill blow happens after the round is over.

I wonder if this round gives Laertes time to think. Is he still trying to decide what to do as he plays this round?

I feel like I’ve mostly seen it with an enraged Laertes, playing too aggressively to win because he’s trying so hard to kill Hamlet.

It’s a pretty standard way to play Laertes. But a thoughtful Laertes is also possible. Say you so? I say so.

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.

And yet ‘tis almost ‘gainst my conscience.

It’s the almost that gets him.

It is ALMOST against his conscience.
If it were ACTUALLY against his conscience, he’d switch out his poisoned bated sword and forget the whole plan.

But it is only ALMOST against his conscience. He’s hedging. He’s close to making the switch. But he’s also not listening. Claudius has said “I do not think’t.” He has an out. His king is (possibly) expressing a hesitation which would give him leave to extract himself, from this mess. But instead he has this ALMOST moment, ALMOST a conscience, ALMOST a moral question.

I do not think’t.

This is a peculiar line. It suggests to me that Claudius isn’t entirely sure what to do anymore. His plans are unraveling and he can’t be as directive as he usually is. He’s hesitating, I think. He doesn’t think Laertes should hit him now? He doesn’t think it, he says.  It might not even be a full sentence. I do not think’t – but Laertes is off, already talking to himself, revealing that they are both beginning to question this plan.

If Claudius wanted Laertes to definitely not hit Hamlet, he could say, “No. Abort. Abort.” Or something to that effect. He’s a king; he knows how to give orders. He’s done this sort of thing in public before. He could have them give o’er the game and call for lights. But he just manages to get out, “I do not think’t” – which Laertes either does not hear or interprets to mean “Yes, he should stick Hamlet with a sword now.”

My lord, I’ll hit him now.

Has Laertes realized that the shit is about to hit the fan? Did he clock that Gertrude has just drunk poison?  Does he know what’s about to happen to her or was he somehow busy with between round adjustments? He knows Claudius was going to poison Hamlet’s drink so theoretically he knows that chaos is about to break out. If he wants to kill Hamlet, it has to happen quickly. He needs to get it done before he loses the chance. It explains why he steps out of the bounds of the game to do it. Perhaps questioning his conscience makes him all the fiercer and more determined.

Come, let me wipe thy face.

Such a mama, such a mom, such a mother moment. Here’s Hamlet, sweaty from the fight – she’s given him her “napkin” already but still, he has not wiped his face to her satisfaction.

Some Hamlets will acquiesce to this moment easily, even eagerly – happy to receive an affectionate face wipe from his mother. Others will resist – just the way almost every teen squirms under the moist thumb of his mother.

What happens here depends a lot on the Hamlet and a lot on the Gertrude and whatever relationship they have forged through the rest of the play.