Hamlet Act 4

Hamlet is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, marking one of his most iconic works.

In this post, I will provide a comprehensive plot summary of Hamlet Act 4, broken down by scene with corresponding questions and answers for each section.

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Hamlet Act 4

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 1

Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter. Claudius notices Gertrude’s distress and asks her to explain. She dismisses the two young men and tells Claudius about the recent tragic events in her chamber: Hamlet, in a fit of madness, has killed Polonius. Claudius regrets not taking better precautions and blames himself for not keeping Hamlet away, comparing his influence to a disease left unattended.

Gertrude reveals that Hamlet feels remorse for his actions and has gone to remove Polonius’ body, indicating his genuine madness. Claudius plans to send Hamlet away at dawn and asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find him and bring Polonius’ body to the chapel. He hopes to manage both incidents in a way that avoids any blame on himself.

Claudius and Gertrude plan to inform their trusted friends about Polonius’s fate and Hamlet’s departure, aiming to avert any negative feelings toward them. They leave the room, with Claudius feeling disturbed and filled with discord.

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 1

1. Who enters the scene at the beginning of this passage?

  • Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter the scene.

2. Whose distress does Claudius notice, and what does he ask Gertrude to explain?

  • Claudius notices Gertrude’s distress and asks her to explain the reason for her unease.

3. What tragic event does Gertrude inform Claudius about?

  • Gertrude informs Claudius about Hamlet’s killing of Polonius in a fit of madness.

4. What does Claudius blame himself for in the conversation with Gertrude?

  • Claudius blames himself for not taking better precautions and not keeping Hamlet away, comparing his influence on Hamlet to an unattended disease.

5. How does Gertrude describe Hamlet’s reaction after killing Polonius?

  • Gertrude indicates that Hamlet feels remorse for his actions and has gone to remove Polonius’ body, showcasing genuine madness.

6. What is Claudius’s plan regarding Hamlet after learning about Polonius’s death?

  • Claudius plans to send Hamlet away at dawn and asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find him and bring Polonius’s body to the chapel.

7. What does Claudius hope to achieve by managing the incidents involving Hamlet and Polonius?

  • He hopes to handle both incidents in a way that avoids blame falling on himself.

8. Whom do Claudius and Gertrude plan to inform about Polonius’s fate and Hamlet’s departure?

  • They plan to inform their trusted friends about Polonius’s fate and Hamlet’s departure, aiming to prevent negative feelings towards them.

9. How do Claudius and Gertrude leave the room at the end of the passage?

  • They leave the room together, with Claudius feeling disturbed and filled with discord.

10. What emotional state is Claudius left in as they exit the scene?

  • Claudius is left feeling disturbed and filled with discord as he leaves the room.

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 2

Hamlet enters after hiding Polonius’ body. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, asking for the corpse’s location, but Hamlet won’t reveal it, saying he’s blended it with dust. He calls Rosencrantz a “sponge” that absorbs the King’s favor, but when the King doesn’t need them, they’re left dry.

When asked again, Hamlet refuses to disclose the body’s whereabouts but agrees to go with them to the King, whom he considers insignificant. He then playfully dashes offstage, as if they’re playing a game of hide-and-seek, saying, “Hide and seek, follow me.”

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 2

1. Who enters after hiding Polonius’ body?

  • Hamlet enters after hiding Polonius’ body.

2. What do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask Hamlet about?

  • They ask Hamlet for the location of Polonius’ corpse.

3. How does Hamlet respond when asked about Polonius’ body?

  • Hamlet refuses to disclose the body’s location, claiming he has blended it with dust.

4. What playful action does Hamlet take as he interacts with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

  • He playfully dashes offstage, behaving as if they are engaging in a game of hide-and-seek.

5. What phrase does Hamlet use before dashing offstage in a playful manner?

  • Hamlet says, “Hide and seek, follow me,” as he playfully exits.

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 3

Claudius enters with some men, informing them about Hamlet’s deed of killing Polonius. He expresses concerns about Hamlet’s popularity among the people, stating that his punishment should be subtle due to the public’s narrow judgment of what they see rather than the actual offense committed.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive and inform Claudius that Hamlet won’t disclose Polonius’ location and is waiting outside. Claudius calls for Hamlet, who cryptically answers that Polonius is “At supper,” being eaten by worms, or possibly in heaven or hell. Eventually, Hamlet discloses that Polonius can be found at the stairs leading to the lobby, where he will remain until they come.

Claudius, for Hamlet’s safety, decides to send him to England immediately. Hamlet says goodbye, addressing Claudius as both his father and mother due to their marriage, and then leaves. Claudius orders the others to accompany Hamlet and ensure he boards the ship promptly, securing their plan.

 

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Alone, Claudius hopes that England will follow the letters carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, demanding Hamlet’s immediate death. He trusts England’s fear of Denmark and its past defeats will guarantee their compliance. He sees Hamlet as an affliction that must be cured for him to find happiness, no matter what else happens.

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 3

1. Who enters with some men and discusses Hamlet’s action of killing Polonius?

  • Claudius enters with some men and discusses Hamlet’s act of killing Polonius.

2. What concerns does Claudius express regarding Hamlet’s punishment?

  • He expresses concerns about Hamlet’s popularity among the people, believing that the punishment should be subtle due to the public’s narrow judgment.

3. What information do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern provide Claudius about Polonius’ location?

  • They inform Claudius that Hamlet won’t disclose Polonius’ location and is waiting outside.

4. How does Hamlet cryptically respond when asked about Polonius’ whereabouts?

  • Hamlet cryptically answers that Polonius is “At supper,” being eaten by worms, or possibly in heaven or hell.

5. Eventually, where does Hamlet reveal Polonius can be found?

  • Hamlet discloses that Polonius can be found at the stairs leading to the lobby.

6. Why does Claudius decide to send Hamlet to England immediately?

  • For Hamlet’s safety, Claudius decides to send him to England promptly.

7. How does Hamlet bid farewell to Claudius before leaving for England?

  • Hamlet addresses Claudius as both his father and mother due to their marriage, and then he leaves.

8. What are Claudius’s orders to ensure Hamlet’s departure to England?

  • Claudius orders the others to accompany Hamlet and make sure he boards the ship immediately.

9. When alone, what does Claudius hope for in terms of Hamlet’s fate in England?

  • Claudius hopes that England will follow the letters carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, demanding Hamlet’s immediate death.

10. What factor does Claudius believe will ensure England’s compliance with his demands regarding Hamlet’s fate?

  • He trusts England’s fear of Denmark and its past defeats will guarantee their compliance.

11. How does Claudius view Hamlet in the context of his own happiness?

  • Claudius sees Hamlet as an affliction that must be cured for him to find happiness, regardless of any other outcomes.

12. What decision does Claudius make concerning Hamlet’s departure for England?

  • Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England immediately for safety and to execute the plan set in motion.

13. How does Hamlet leave after bidding farewell to Claudius?

  • After bidding farewell to Claudius, Hamlet leaves the scene.

14. What is Claudius’s underlying motive for eliminating Hamlet in England?

  • Claudius sees the removal of Hamlet as essential for his own happiness, considering him an affliction that must be cured, regardless of the means.

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 4

Fortinbras sends his Captain to Claudius, seeking safe passage for his army through Denmark, offering to meet with the King personally. After the army leaves, Hamlet and Rosencrantz arrive. They learn from the Captain that the army is marching towards a small piece of land in Poland, of little value, yet it’s already guarded. Hamlet questions why a place of such little worth is defended with such force, noting it’s a result of having excess wealth and peace that leads to internal decay, like an abscess.

Alone, Hamlet contemplates how circumstances push him toward revenge. He wonders why he hesitates to act when he has the reason, will, and means to do so. He contrasts his own inaction with Fortinbras’ boldness, who risks much for honor’s sake. Hamlet feels frustrated that despite powerful reasons for revenge, he remains inactive, while Fortinbras goes to battle over a seemingly insignificant piece of land. Hamlet resolves to think more aggressively from now on.

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 4

1. Who sends a Captain to Claudius seeking safe passage for their army through Denmark?

  • Fortinbras sends the Captain seeking safe passage for their army through Denmark.

2. What information does the Captain provide to Hamlet and Rosencrantz about the army’s destination?

  • The Captain informs them that the army is marching towards a small piece of land in Poland, which is of little value and already guarded.

3. Why does Hamlet question the need to defend a place of little worth with significant force?

  • Hamlet questions this defense strategy, noting that excessive wealth and peace can lead to internal decay, similar to an abscess.

4. What internal contemplation does Hamlet engage in while alone?

  • He reflects on why he hesitates to act despite having the reason, will, and means for revenge.

5. Whose boldness does Hamlet contrast with his own inaction, and for what reason?

  • Hamlet contrasts his inaction with Fortinbras’ boldness, as Fortinbras risks much for honor’s sake.

6. Why does Hamlet feel frustrated despite having strong reasons for revenge?

  • He feels frustrated because, despite having powerful reasons for revenge, he remains inactive while Fortinbras engages in battle for what seems like an insignificant piece of land.

7. What resolution does Hamlet make towards the end of his contemplation?

  • He resolves to think more aggressively from now on, implying a change in his approach to his situation.

8. What request does Fortinbras make to Claudius through his Captain?

  • Fortinbras requests safe passage for his army through Denmark and offers to meet the King personally.

9. What specific piece of land is the army marching towards in Poland?

  • The army is marching towards a small piece of land in Poland, despite its low value.

10. How does Hamlet interpret the situation regarding Fortinbras’ military actions in comparison to his own hesitations?

  • Hamlet sees Fortinbras’ bold military action over a seemingly insignificant piece of land as a stark contrast to his own hesitation to act, despite having strong reasons for revenge.

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5

Horatio, Gertrude, and a Gentleman come in. At Horatio’s insistence, Gertrude finally agrees to speak with Ophelia, who is in a distressed state, speaking nonsensically about her deceased father. Ophelia enters, singing about death and a lost maidenhead. Claudius appears, observing Ophelia’s condition, and instructs Horatio to watch her closely. When alone with Gertrude, Claudius laments the terrible news from the court: Polonius’ murder and quick burial, Hamlet being sent away to England, unrest due to Polonius’ death, Ophelia’s madness, and Laertes’ return with suspicions about Claudius’s involvement in Polonius’ death. He compares these events to shrapnel from a cannon, hurting him in multiple ways.

A Messenger arrives, informing them that Laertes has gained support and is seen as a potential leader. Gertrude expresses her distress that people are mistaken in their assumptions. Laertes enters in fury, demanding to know the truth about his father. Gertrude tries to stop Laertes from accusing or harming Claudius, who asserts his divine right as King, shielded from accusations of treason, and deals calmly with Laertes’ anger.

Claudius swears he had no hand in Polonius’ death and expresses deep sorrow for his passing. Ophelia returns, singing about her father’s death and handing out imaginary flowers, clearly disturbed and unresponsive. This sight moves Laertes to seek revenge. Claudius implores Laertes to judge him in the presence of any of Laertes’ friends, promising to give up everything, even his life, if found guilty. They depart to discuss Polonius’ death and his hasty, improper burial.

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 5

1. Who insists on Gertrude speaking with Ophelia, who is in a distressed state?

  • Horatio insists that Gertrude speak with Ophelia.

2. How is Ophelia’s state described when she enters?

  • Ophelia is in a distressed state, speaking nonsensically about her deceased father.

3. What does Ophelia do when she enters the scene?

  • Ophelia enters singing about death and a lost maidenhead.

4. Whom does Claudius ask to watch Ophelia closely in her disturbed state?

  • Claudius instructs Horatio to watch Ophelia closely.

5. What lament does Claudius express to Gertrude when they are alone?

  • Claudius laments the multiple troubling events from the court, including Polonius’ murder, Hamlet being sent away, Ophelia’s madness, and unrest due to these events.

6. What comparison does Claudius make regarding the events happening in the court?

  • He compares these events to shrapnel from a cannon, causing damage in multiple ways.

7. Who arrives to inform about Laertes’ increased support and potential leadership?

  • A Messenger arrives to inform them about Laertes gaining support and being considered a potential leader.

8. What does Gertrude express distress about to Claudius regarding the court’s assumptions?

  • Gertrude expresses distress that people are mistaken in their assumptions about the court’s situation.

9. What demand does Laertes make when he enters the scene?

  • Laertes enters in fury, demanding to know the truth about his father’s death.

10. How does Claudius respond to Laertes’ accusations and demands?

  • Claudius asserts his divine right as King, shields himself from accusations of treason, and handles Laertes’ anger calmly.

11. What does Claudius swear about Polonius’ death and what does he promise?

  • Claudius swears he had no hand in Polonius’ death and expresses deep sorrow for his passing, promising to give up everything, even his life, if found guilty.

12. What does Ophelia do upon her return to the scene?

  • Ophelia returns, singing about her father’s death and handing out imaginary flowers, visibly disturbed and unresponsive.

13. How does Laertes react to Ophelia’s disturbed state?

  • Ophelia’s disturbed state moves Laertes to seek revenge.

14. How does Claudius respond to Laertes’ anger and desire for revenge?

  • Claudius implores Laertes to judge him in the presence of any of Laertes’ friends, promising to surrender everything if found guilty.

15. What is the content of the discussion Claudius and Laertes plan to have after the scene?

  • They plan to discuss Polonius’ death and his hasty, improper burial.

16. What task is assigned to Horatio regarding Ophelia’s condition?

  • Horatio is asked to watch Ophelia closely in her distressed state.

17. Whose increased support and potential leadership is informed by a Messenger in the scene?

  • Laertes’ increased support and potential leadership is informed by the Messenger.

18. What does Claudius promise if found guilty of any involvement in Polonius’ death?

  • He promises to give up everything, even his life, if found guilty of any involvement in Polonius’ death.

19. How does Claudius describe the impact of the ongoing events in the court?

  • He compares the events to shrapnel from a cannon, causing harm in multiple ways.

20. Who joins the discussion about Polonius’ death and burial towards the end of the scene?

  • Gertrude and Laertes join the discussion about Polonius’ death and improper burial towards the end of the scene.

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 6

Horatio and a few others are approached by Sailors bearing a letter from Hamlet to Horatio. The letter informs Horatio about Hamlet’s capture by pirates while at sea, describing how well they treated him. Hamlet instructs Horatio to deliver certain “letters I have sent” to the King and then join him immediately, guided by the same Sailors. Hamlet also mentions having a lot to share about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Horatio promises to reward the Sailors for delivering the messages.

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 6

1. Who delivers a letter from Hamlet to Horatio, and what does the letter inform Horatio about?

  • Sailors deliver a letter from Hamlet to Horatio, informing him about Hamlet’s capture by pirates while at sea and how well they treated him.

2. What does Hamlet instruct Horatio to do in the letter?

  • Hamlet instructs Horatio to deliver certain “letters I have sent” to the King and then join him immediately, guided by the same Sailors.

3. What does Hamlet mention about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the letter?

  • Hamlet mentions that he has much to share about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the letter.

4. What promise does Horatio make in response to Hamlet’s letter?

  • Horatio promises to reward the Sailors for delivering the messages sent by Hamlet.

5. How does the letter from Hamlet influence Horatio’s immediate actions?

  • The letter prompts Horatio to fulfill Hamlet’s instructions by delivering the messages to the King and then joining Hamlet immediately, guided by the Sailors.

Hamlet Act 4 Scene 7

Laertes questions Claudius about why he didn’t act against Hamlet, who Claudius accuses of threatening his life. Claudius explains two reasons. First, his deep love for Gertrude, who also loves Hamlet dearly, making it challenging for Claudius to oppose him. Second, the public’s fondness for Hamlet makes it difficult to reveal his faults without turning accusations back towards Claudius.

A Messenger arrives with letters from Hamlet, directed to Claudius and Gertrude. Hamlet explains that he has returned unexpectedly and requests to see Claudius the next day to discuss his sudden return in private. Claudius engages Laertes in a plan to kill Hamlet, making it look like an accident that even Gertrude will believe. He praises Laertes’ fencing skills and proposes a duel, where he will secretly poison both Laertes’ sword tip and a drink as extra insurance.

Gertrude comes in with the news that Ophelia has drowned while hanging flower garlands on willow branches. Laertes controls his emotions and leaves in distress. Claudius worries that this tragedy will distress Laertes further, and they both hurry after him.

Questions on Hamlet Act 4 Scene 7

1. What does Laertes question Claudius about?

  • Laertes questions Claudius about why he didn’t take action against Hamlet.

2. What does Claudius accuse Hamlet of in the conversation with Laertes?

  • Claudius accuses Hamlet of threatening his life.

3. What reasons does Claudius give for not acting against Hamlet?

  • Claudius explains that his deep love for Gertrude, who also loves Hamlet dearly, and the public’s fondness for Hamlet make it challenging for him to oppose Hamlet.

4. Who arrives with letters from Hamlet and who are they directed to?

  • A Messenger arrives with letters from Hamlet, directed to Claudius and Gertrude.

5. What does Hamlet request in the letters delivered to Claudius and Gertrude?

  • Hamlet requests to see Claudius the next day to discuss his sudden return in private.

6. What plan do Claudius and Laertes engage in regarding Hamlet’s death?

  • They devise a plan to kill Hamlet, making it look like an accident that even Gertrude will believe.

7. What method does Claudius propose to use in the plan to kill Hamlet?

  • Claudius proposes to poison both Laertes’ sword tip and a drink as an extra insurance in the plan to kill Hamlet.

8. What does Claudius praise Laertes for in the conversation?

  • Claudius praises Laertes for his fencing skills.

9. What tragic news does Gertrude bring while in conversation with Claudius and Laertes?

  • Gertrude informs them that Ophelia has drowned while hanging flower garlands on willow branches.

10. How does Laertes react upon hearing the news about Ophelia?

  • Laertes controls his emotions and leaves in distress after hearing about Ophelia’s death.

11. How does Claudius react to the news of Ophelia’s drowning?

  • Claudius worries that this tragedy will further distress Laertes, and they both hurry after him.

12. What major concern does Claudius express regarding the news of Ophelia’s death?

  • He is concerned about the impact of Ophelia’s death on Laertes’ emotional state.

13. What does Claudius worry about concerning Laertes after the news of Ophelia’s death?

  • He worries that the tragic news will further distress Laertes.

14. What plan does Claudius engage in with Laertes regarding Hamlet’s death?

  • Claudius and Laertes plan a deceptive duel to kill Hamlet and make his death seem like an accident.

15. What does Claudius decide to do following Gertrude’s news about Ophelia’s death?

  • Claudius decides to follow and assist Laertes after Ophelia’s tragic drowning.

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