Now, why has Claudius sent Osric, of all people, to get this message to Hamlet? Did he look at his cadre of assistants and nobles, messengers and lords, servants and ministers and think, “Ah, yes, Osric. He is sure to annoy the hell out of Hamlet as he delivers this message. Maybe Hamlet will be so distracted by his water-fly behavior, he will not have time to get suspicious – thus increasing my likelihood of killing him. Or rather, having him killed.”
Is that why?
Or did Osric volunteer for the message?
I’m thinking the former. Claudius is a crafty bastard.
I have become concerned with what the actual temperature is in this scene. I mean, I understand that Hamlet is messing with Osric and getting him to agree to whatever he says. But there is also an objective temperature – and one statement or the other is in conflict with that.
I suspect it is actually very hot. This sentence is supporting my sense of the earlier line wherein Osric seems to be disinclined to put his hat on, due to the heat.
In fact, it is Osric who brings up the temperature. He is the first to declare it is hot – which leads me to believe that it is, in fact, hot. This line has a sense of relief to it – yes, it is. Hot. Very hot. We’re back on to solid ground here and Osric can fan himself with his hat if he wants to if he cannot tell how hot it is.
What’s funny to me about this is that I have never paid the slightest attention to what the actual circumstances were in this scene, temperature-wise. It always was just Hamlet messing about with a sycophant.
All these years into my life with Shakespeare and I never really examined “complexion” before. I thought of it how we mean “complexion” today – that is the color or state of one’s face/skin. Which – apparently it could also mean at the time of this play’s writing – but –
complexion originally meant one’s temperament and its relationship to the four humors. It only meant FACE as it related to how one’s personality or temperament was reflected there.
I feel like I want to go back in time and play Viola in 12th Night again. I’m not sure it would have come through but the line about loving someone of Orsino’s complexion would have meant a lot more to me if it had been about his temperament instead of his FACE coloring. I mean – it always struck me as so shallow and racially uncomfortable to have characters be so obsessed with their love interests’ complexions – that is, the hue of their faces. But it wasn’t about that at all, I learn now from a cursory etymological search.
It’s hot for Hamlet’s “complexion” – not because of his skin tone – but because of his temperament – his humors. I know a scholar who has done a bunch of research on the humors and I remember that she identified which of the humors Hamlet seemed to be – I want to say wetness was involved? And darkness? And also that the humors were associated with geography as well. Spain is hot and dry. Denmark is cold and moist. Is this right? Anyway. A sultry and hot bit of weather would not suit Hamlet’s humors. His complexion, that is, his face, would not be a factor.
This line would be much funnier if Osric were sweating profusely as he said it. If sweat were pouring off him, if he had pit stains and circles of sweat at his back and then declared that it was indifferent cold…
In my citified life, I never have cause to think about the direction of the wind. I notice which way it blows my skirt – ahead of, or behind me- but which direction it comes from never enters my mind. I expect, in more open climates, the direction from which it comes is quite a bit more significant. Maybe you can feel the chill coming in from Canada or the heat from the rains down in Africa.
Here in NYC, I’d have to consciously think through which way the wind was coming from to know if it were Northerly.
I know Osric is a tool and a suck up and a water-fly. But I also think Hamlet is being kind of a dick. Like – who has more power – a prince or a landowner? I mean. Hamlet is abusing his authority a bit just because he’s not a fan of this guy. But he’s punching down, really.
It helps if Osric is played by someone who we want to see taken down a peg. It helps if we want to see Hamlet put him in his place.
On paper, though, I find myself sympathetic to him. He has no other recourse but to suck up to authority. He doesn’t really have any.
Does Osric comply with Hamlet’s directive?
In a general way, I always thought so – but now that I look at it more closely, I wonder. If it is hot – why would he put his hat on? Unless it’s a sun hat? But if it’s any other kind of hat, putting it on will only make Osric hotter, so this thanking of his lordship and stating the weather, might, in fact, be a kind of resistance.
Thinking of him that way makes me like him more.
I mean – here is Hamlet, essentially abusing his authority by insisting this guy take his hat on and off – it’s not particularly kind.
If Osric wasn’t here to send Hamlet to his death, I might be inclined to feel bad for him.
What a funny sentence!
First – a bonnet to my mind, is a hat for a lady, which Osric is not.
But that’s not the funny part really.
The funny part is the peculiar anthropomorphization of the bonnet. It’s not “its right use.” It’s “his right use.” His.
The bonnet has a gender and it’s male.
And that’s kinda funny.
Having just been offered a “thing” from “his majesty,” Hamlet responds with as much polite snark as might be allowable under the circumstances.
Certainly no diligence of spirit is required for a message but a “thing”? Maybe.
It’s remarkable how affected this speech is without actually having any vocabulary or intelligence. The most rarified word is “impart” but what he’s imparting is “a thing.” I mean..there are a million words for message (OK, maybe not a MILLION!) but this guy can only come up with “thing”.
Also his repletion of “lord” in the first bit is pretty sycophantic. Which is definitely a word that Osric wouldn’t know.
Here in 2018, Osric’s speech really reminds me of someone whose face and voice and words are never out of the public eye.