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Free MonkeyNotes-Hamlet by William Shakespeare-Free Book Notes Summary
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ACT IV, SCENE 3

Summary

Claudius is discussing the recent "mad" behavior of Hamlet with the members of the court. He points out the necessity of restraining Hamlet, who has become dangerous. Claudius knows Hamlet cannot be punished in a court of law, since the "distracted multitude" of people in the court love Hamlet and will avoid punishing him. At this point, Rosencrantz enters and tells the King that Hamlet refuses to reveal where he has hidden Polonius' body. Hamlet is then brought in.

In answer to the King's questions, Hamlet replies that Polonius is at supper. He qualifies this answer by explaining that the worms are feeding on Polonius. Claudius persists in questioning Hamlet regarding the whereabouts of Polonius' corpse. Hamlet satirically answers that Claudius' messengers should go to Heaven in search of Polonius; he says if he is not found there, perhaps Claudius can look for him in Hell.


The King then tells Hamlet that he must at once proceed to England for his own good. Hamlet calmly accepts this news and leaves. The King then orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to follow Hamlet and make sure he boards the ship. Alone, the King voices the details of his scheme to dispose of Hamlet. He has written a letter to the English rulers to make sure Hamlet does not leave England alive.

Notes

It is obvious that Hamlet is still in control of his mental faculties as he taunts the king and teases about the corpse of Polonius; however, it is also obvious that he is not in control of the situation any longer. He seems preoccupied with death and morbidity; indeed, it almost seems he verges on real madness. He must know why it is that Claudius wants to send him away, yet he readily acquiesces.

The purpose of the scene is primarily to advance the plot and reveal Claudius' overt plans to protect himself. In a well-placed soliloquy after gaining the upper hand, Claudius speaks aloud about the murder he has planned for his nephew.


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