They did make love to this employment

So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to't.

Why, man, they did make love to this employment,
They are not near my conscience. Their defeat
Does by their own insinuation grow.
'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensèd points
Of mighty opposites.

Hamlet Act 5, scene 2, 56–62

King Claudius has been "hoist with his own petard" [see HOIST WITH HIS OWN PETARD], and his unwitting agents Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have suffered the fate the king had intended for Hamlet. While sailing to England, Hamlet discovered that a letter his two friends had brought along demanded—though they didn't know it—that Hamlet be executed. Hamlet sabotages the letter and, after a brief encounter with some pirates, sends Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and a letter commanding their execution off to England, while Hamlet returns to Denmark.

For this deadly trick Hamlet feels no remorse; his supposed "friends" had welcomed the opportunity to do King Claudius some service. By their own "insinuation" (their sneaky insertion into the King's favor), they brought doom upon themselves, even if they never understood their real roles in the king's plot. "They did make love to this employment," Hamlet announces, perhaps overemphasizing the passion with which they undertook their treachery. They were, he goes on, in over their heads; their "baser nature" (inferior quality and intelligence) could not withstand the "pass" (fencing thrust) and "fell" (fierce), incensed foil-point jabs of mighty "opposites" (opponents)—Claudius and Hamlet. The image—of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern haplessly trapped between two more powerful men engaged in a deadly fencing match—is pretty ironic. Hamlet himself, as well as almost everyone else of importance, will soon be felled by a poisoned point and poisoned pearls [see A HIT, A VERY PALPABLE HIT].

Themes: revenge, passion, deception

Speakers: Hamlet, Horatio

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