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The Swissers are Claudius's hired guards. Claudius speaks of them in Scene 16. (Scene 16#094)


Swisser in service in France, 1600

Historically, Swiss mercenaries were hired as guards by various monarchies, beginning with France in 1497. They were known for discipline and loyalty, and for practicing the best fighting tactics of their era.

We may take it that Claudius is following the French by hiring Swissers for his Danish court. It can be interpreted as a case of Denmark "keeping up with the Joneses."

Beyond that, we could see the employment of Swissers as a subtle sign that Claudius doesn't fully trust Danes to be his bodyguard because of how Claudius became King.

  • Costume - The Swissers should be in military gear, of course, and more flamboyant than the regular, Danish castle guards, and the Danish soldiers. Swissers had "showy" gear, historically.


The Swissers are anonymous. To be strictly correct in modern spelling, they should, perhaps, be called "Switzers," but there is really no overriding reason to depart from what Shakespeare wrote.


The Swissers have no dialogue.

Themes and Motifs

Those most immediately relevant to the Swissers:

Duty, also, Money, since they are hired men.

On Stage

Two Swissers should be onstage fairly close to Claudius whenever Claudius is engaged in official business in the Throne Room. Correct positioning would be one to each side of Claudius, a short distance behind him. They must not be present in Scene 16 since Claudius expressly questions where they are.

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