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Hamlet Essay Research Paper Hearing the queen

Hearing the queen’s sighs and moans of grief, Claudius immediately

comes to her. Hamlet, she tells him, is “mad as the sea and wind”

during a storm, and has killed the “good old man” Polonius. “O heavy

deed!” the king exclaims, adding instantly, “It had been so with us,

had we been there [he uses the royal “we,” meaning “I”].” Claudius

worries that he will be blamed for Polonius’ death since he should

have kept “this mad young man” under restraint. The king calls

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and orders them to find the prince so

he can be shipped away to England that morning. In the meantime he

will call a council meeting, so that any slanderous rumors coming from

the murder will “miss our name / And hit the woundless air.”

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NOTE: This short and succinct scene is one of the best for observing

Claudius as a character. His decisiveness and his ability to see all

sides of a situation- everything that makes him a good politician- are

in evidence here. You can argue forcefully that he is a hypocrite

whose only strong feelings are for himself. Notice, for instance, that

he shows no concern for Polonius and his family. (If you want to see

what he really thinks, compare a formal scene like Act I, Scene ii,

lines 44-64 with this one.) On the other hand, Claudius has not

until this moment spoken of killing Hamlet and you can argue that

the King truly believes that Hamlet is mad and poses a threat to

Denmark.

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ACT IV, SCENE II

Hamlet has just hidden Polonius’ corpse when he hears Rosencrantz

and Guildenstern calling him. They come in, followed by guards, and

demand to know where the body is. He answers arrogantly that a

king’s son does not need to reply to the demands of “a sponge.” When

Rosencrantz reacts, Hamlet describes the way a servile courtier is

like a sponge, and is greeted with a hostile, “I understand you not,

my lord.” “I am glad of it,” says Hamlet, “a knavish speech sleeps

in a foolish ear.” After more repartee about the body, during which

Hamlet shocks Guildenstern by asserting that “the King is a thing,”

Hamlet seems to allow them to take him prisoner, but then suddenly

dashes off in the opposite direction, shouting “Hide fox, and all

after,” the beginning of a children’s game similar to hide and seek.

ACT IV, SCENE III

Claudius discusses the problem of Hamlet with his advisers. Hamlet

must be restrained, but he is so popular with “the distracted

multitude” that the matter must be handled delicately. His trip to

England must appear like a project that has been planned for a long

time.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive with the news that they have

caught Hamlet but that he will not tell them where the corpse is.

Hamlet is led in under guard and interrogated by the king. His usual

jesting replies have, since he killed Polonius, been more and more

focused on death. After discreetly suggesting that the king can go

to hell, Hamlet gives a clue to where the corpse is and the king sends

his attendants to search for the body. Hamlet tells them cheerfully,

“He will stay till you come.”

The king now informs Hamlet that he is being sent to England.

Hamlet, with a show of mock innocence, agrees to go. He salutes the

king as “dear mother,” a title he proves by absurd logic to be

correct. After Hamlet leaves, the king orders his men to make

preparations at top speed. When they depart, Clauddius rhetorically

begs England to carry out his orders and kill Hamlet, as otherwise

Claudius will know no peace. He compares Hamlet to a disease in his

blood, of which he must be purged.

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