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Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Note to Hamlet, 5.2.165: "a dozen passes"


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Hamlet,
Act 5, Scene 2, line 165
The plan for the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes is that there are going to be twelve rounds ("passes") and the king will win his bet if, as Osric tells Hamlet, "in a dozen passes between yourself and [Laertes], he shall not exceed you three hits." In other words if the score is no more than 7-5 in Laertes's favor, the king will have won his bet.

The assumption is that Laertes is a better fencer than Hamlet. As it turns out, this assumption is wrong; Hamlet is actually a much better fencer than Laertes, who is able to wound Hamlet only by ambushing him just after a round is over.