Hamlet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Hamlet | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

In a passageway somewhere in Elsinore castle, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet. They insist he tell them where Polonius's body is so they can take it to the chapel, but he at once runs verbal circles around them and taunts them. When he won't tell them where the body is, they demand he go with them to the king. He agrees to go with them, and then sprints away, as if in a game of hide-and-seek.

Analysis

Act 4, Scene 2 is short; the action is fast-moving now and Shakespeare uses the short, quick scenes to keep the excitement rolling. Hamlet plays his madness to the frustration of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who have been directed to find Polonius's body.

Often, particularly in the later scenes of the play, Hamlet's fiery speech and behavior seem fueled as much by his disappointment in some of the people closest to him as by his feigned madness. And, although his path is not clear to him yet, Hamlet feels more confident in his thinking and decisions. In this scene, even as he runs off with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in pursuit, Hamlet is less about thought and more about action.

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