Osric is a representative of the showy and fashionable courtier of Elizabeth's reign, rather than a type of Danish society. His wealth and territorial possessions secure him a position at
court, -- "he hath much land, and fertile" -- his slender intellectual equipment leads him to ape the latest fashion set by a few brilliant spirits, scholars, and litterati (Lyly and his fellow-Euphuists); but, like all imitators and converts, he goes farther than his models, whose purpose he misunderstands. He mistakes
extravagance and absurdity of diction for wit, ridiculous formality for true politeness and courtliness, and affectation for originality:
Thus has he (and many more of the same breed, that, I
know, the drossy age dotes on) only got the tune of the time,
and outward habit of encounter; a kind of yesty collection,
which carries them through and through the most fond and
winnowed opinions; and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out. -- V. ii. 198.
He is superficial and shallow, forward and insincere. He either
fails to see or pretends not to see that he is a mark for the contempt of Horatio and a butt for the satire and mimicry of Hamlet. From the dying words of Laertes we may infer that Osric
was a party to the final treachery against Hamlet,
Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric;
I am justly killed with mine own treachery. -- V. ii. 326,
a confession he receives without betraying any mark of astonishment.
How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Eds. F. A. Purcell and L. M. Somers. Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1916. Shakespeare Online. 2 Aug. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamlet/osric.html >.
Did You Know? ... "The poet was throughout his life greatly indebted to the patronage and support of royal and noble personages; his royal patrons were Queen Elizabeth and King James I, both of whom greatly loved the drama. The virgin queen devoted herself to the study of the ancient classical period; she also delighted in our own theatrical entertainments, and used her influence in the progress of the English drama, and fostered the inimitable genius of Shakespeare." Henry Brown. Read on...