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The Sailors, who are really pirates, bring letters to Horatio in Scene 17.


a French mariner in 1550-1600

By the pattern of Cornelius and Voltemand, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, there are two Sailors. The dialogue also indicates that. Horatio says "too" where it can be taken as a pun.

As to how they look and behave, well, they're pirates. However, they're trying to look like honest sailors while they're inside Elsinore Castle, with all its guards and soldiers around them. They're cautious, and jumpy. That's why they have the Gentleman approach Horatio first, instead of walking right up to him, themselves, after they're told who he is. They're taking as few chances as possible.

The Sailors/pirates got into the Castle simply by mingling with Laertes's rabble, and losing themselves in the crowd.

  • Costume - They should look the part, although they're trying to look like ordinary sailors, as they've entered Elsinore Castle with all its guards and soldiers around them. They should be in the garb of an ordinary sailor, but not very clean or neat.

The illustration is that of a French mariner in the time period of 1550-1600. He is, stereotypically, socializing with the fairer sex. Why he has the rope, I don't know. It's symbolic of his occupation, I suppose.


They're anonymous. I do not find a way to deduce their names from the dialogue.


Their significant lines are, none to speak of. They have only four lines, between them.

Themes and Motifs

Most immediate for the Sailors:

Putting on a Show and Fortune

The pirates are doing their best to put on a show that they're merely ordinary sailors, nobody the guards would be interested in. Then, it's pure luck that events turn out in a way to bring them inside Elsinore Castle.

On Stage

The Sailors appear in Scene 17 only.

© 2014 Jeffrey Paul Jordan

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