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Scenes 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3

Scene 4.1 - Within the Castle

Gertrude recounts Hamlet's madness and his murder of Polonius to a disturbed Claudius. The King, reiterating what a threat Hamlet poses to the country in his unstable state, confirms that Hamlet is to leave by ship the very next morning. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dispatched to find Hamlet and bear Polonius' body to the chapel. Claudius is gravely distressed by Hamlet's behavior, quite conscious that his betrayal and unmasking could be mere moments away.

Scene 4.2 - Within the Castle

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern confront the empty-handed Hamlet, asking where he has hauled Polonius' body. Hamlet doesn't answer, instead calling Rosencrantz a sponge - meaning he soaks up the King's favor and rewards, only to be squeezed dry when the King no longer has use of him - but Rosencrantz fails to understand. This brief scene closes with Hamlet infamously remarking, "The King is a thing - Of nothing," for he neither believes in kingship as an abstraction nor in Claudius' claim to the throne. Befuddled, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit with no idea where Polonius' body is hidden.

Scene 4.3 - Within the Castle

Under the pretense of Hamlet's threat to national security, Claudius justifies sending him immediately to England. Claudius concedes, however, that Hamlet is still adored by the masses and thus the King must be rather diplomatic in this act of relocation. Brought before the King to disclose the location of Polonius' body, Hamlet plays mind and word games with Claudius, once even claiming that Polonius' body is at supper: being eaten by worms! Not amused in the least, Claudius persists until Hamlet eventually reveals that the body is to be found in a staircase leading to the lobby. Then, out of a manufactured concern for Hamlet's safety at home, Claudius informs Hamlet that he must depart for England straight away. Hamlet does not protest. All save Claudius depart, leaving him on stage to impart his plans to the audience: the King of England will receive letters from Claudius (borne by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) calling for Hamlet's execution. And given England's present position of owing homage to Denmark, the King of England will undoubtedly honor Claudius' request and dutifully put Hamlet to death.

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Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Scene 1.1
Scene 1.2
Scenes 1.3 and 1.4
Scene 1.5
Scene 2.1
Scene 2.2
Scene 3.1
Scene 3.2
Scene 3.3
Scene 3.4
Scenes 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3
Scenes 4.4 and 4.5
Scenes 4.6 and 4.7
Scene 5.1
Scene 5.2


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