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Hamlet | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Hamlet | Discussion Questions 51 - 60


In Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 2, what is Hamlet's response when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern demand to see Polonius's body?

When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern demand that Hamlet tell them where Polonius's body is, he verbally spars with them, as he has sparred throughout much of the play, and never tells them what they want to know. It is evident from Hamlet's use of language that he loves playing with words and has the intelligence to do so—much to the chagrin of many of the less-than-honorable people around him in the latter half of the play.

With regard to Act 4, Scene 3 of Hamlet, what do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern know about the documents that Claudius tells them to take to England?

From all indications in Act 4, Scene 3, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not know that the documents given to them by the king call for Hamlet's execution. They do know that they are betraying Hamlet in return for the king's favor as they have been from the start. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony regarding the original letter from Claudius and Hamlet's forged letter that gets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern turned over to England for execution instead (Act 5, Scene 2).

With regard to Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3, for what reason does Claudius tell Hamlet that he is sending him abroad?

Claudius tells Hamlet that he needs to go abroad for his own safety in light of having killed Polonius.

In Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 4, Hamlet spends a few moments inquiring about Fortinbras from one of the Norwegian captains. What impresses Hamlet from the discussion?

Hamlet is awed by the courage and doggedness of the Norwegian soldiers and their leader, Fortinbras. He hears from the captain that the piece of land over which they fight is worth very little. Said the captain: "We go to gain a little patch of ground/That hath in it no profit but the name" (Act 4, Scene 4, Lines 19–20). That kind of commitment to action has eluded Hamlet in the past. Hamlet does not realize how much he is changing, and that he and Fortinbras are now more alike than not.

In Act 4, Scene 5 of Hamlet, with whom do Gertrude and Claudius unwillingly have an audience and why?

Gertrude is told that Ophelia is distraught about her father's death and is asking to see her. When Gertrude refuses, she is told that Ophelia is saying nonsensical things to anyone who will listen, and that some listeners may see the girl's statements as damaging to Claudius and Gertrude. Horatio encourages Gertrude to see the girl, perhaps to calm her, and to minimize the chance of Ophelia implicating the royal couple in Polonius's death. Gertrude reluctantly agrees to see Ophelia. While she speaks with the girl, Claudius joins them, and they realize that she is indeed mad.

In Act 4, Scene 5 of Hamlet, who confronts the king and queen immediately after Ophelia leaves them?

No sooner has Ophelia left Gertrude and Claudius that Laertes, leading an angry mob, pushes his way into the room. As the king and queen attempt to calm Laertes, Ophelia returns, and all three witness the state to which her grief has pushed her. Like a child, she sings to all of them, handing out flowers as she goes.

In Act 4, Scene 6 of Hamlet, who approaches Horatio, and what does the individual have for him?

In this scene, a sailor approaches Horatio, bearing letters for him, Claudius, and Gertrude. The letters, from Hamlet, acquaint everyone with his unexpected return. In the case of Claudius, Hamlet's return is particularly unexpected, because he had sent instructions for the prince to be executed in England.

In Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 6, how does Hamlet end up back in Denmark?

The ship carrying Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern to England is intercepted by pirates. Only Hamlet is taken prisoner, and the pirates promise to return him to Denmark if he does a favor for them.

In Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 6, from what Hamlet says in the letter to Horatio, where are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

From what Hamlet says in his letter to Horatio, he anticipates that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are still en route to England. As the audience learns later when Hamlet and Horatio talk in person (Act 5, Scene 2), they now carry with them a revision of Claudius's original letter. Whereas the original letter from Claudius ordered Hamlet's execution, Hamlet managed to take the letter away from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, rewrite it asking for the execution of the bearers, reseal it with his father's insignia ring, and return it to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who were none the wiser.

In Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7, upon learning that Hamlet has returned, Claudius and Laertes come up with a plan for Laertes to take revenge. What is their plan?

Together, Claudius and Laertes devise a plan for a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, for which Laertes will use a poison-tipped foil (sword). As a backup, Claudius plans to have a poisoned cup of wine waiting on the sidelines for Hamlet to drink. If Laertes fails to strike Hamlet during the match, the poisoned drink will kill him.

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