Act4 Summary - Summary and Analysis of Act 4 Summary Scene...

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Summary and Analysis of Act 4 Summary Scene 1 Immediately after Hamlet exits, dragging Polonius ’ body, we see Claudius asking Gertrude to explain what has happened. She tells him of Hamlet’s accidental killing of Polonius and Claudius realizes that he could have just as easily been slain. Claudius asks where Hamlet has gone and Gertrude says that he has taken the body away. The king orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Hamlet and discover where he has taken Polonius’ corpse. Scene 2 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern question Hamlet about Polonius’ whereabouts. Hamlet evades their questions playfully, accusing his former friends of sycophancy to the king and leading them on a wild goose chase. Scene 3 Claudius is greatly distracted by the death of Polonius and the attempt to find the body. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter with Hamlet. Claudius questions Hamlet as to where he has taken Polonius. After some morbidly humorous replies, Hamlet reveals that he hid Polonius “up the stairs into the lobby.” The king sends attendants to find the body. Claudius then tells Hamlet that he is to depart immediately for England, as planned. Hamlet mockingly departs, leaving Claudius to reflect on his plans for Hamlet. He has prepared letters asking the English king, whom Denmark has recently defeated in war, to kill Hamlet as part of the duties owed by right of conquest. Scene 4 Next we see Fortinbras ’ Norwegian army. They are at the borders of Denmark. Fortinbras sends one of his captains to the court of Claudius to ask permission to cross Denmark in the course of their march to Poland. The captain travels on and Fortinbras and the rest of the army exit. The captain meets with Hamlet, who is being conveyed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to the ship to England. Hamlet asks the captain about his army and his purpose in going to Poland. The captain says that in Poland there is “a little patch of ground” which Norway claims as her own. He describes this land as perfectly worthless and small. Hamlet suggests that the Poles will not likely defend such a piece of land, but the captain sets him straight, saying that Poland is already garrisoned and ready for their dispute. Hamlet wraps up his conversation with the captain. He hangs back from the others marching to the ship and delivers a long soliloquy on the irony of this occasion – these men are off to risk their lives for a worthless piece of land, while he, who has every reason to risk his life in the cause of revenge, delays and fails to act. Hamlet resolves to recast his mind to bloody thoughts. Ironically, however, just after making this resolution he continues on toward England, leaving Denmark behind him. Scene 5 Back in the court of Denmark, we see Gertrude speaking with a gentleman who explains that Ophelia has gone mad. She is rambling nonsensically about her father and insisting on seeing Gertrude. The queen reluctantly admits Ophelia, who proceeds to sing a number of simple and haunting songs, some of them quite bawdy. The king enters and witnesses her madness. Ophelia then speaks openly of her
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