Hamlet Act 4, Scene 1 Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson provides a summary of Act IV, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's tragedy ''Hamlet,'' as well as some examples of significant quotes from the scene.

Gertrude Tells Claudius About Her Meeting with Hamlet

This very short scene opens in a room in the castle with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern talking with Claudius. Claudius knows that Hamlet and his behavior needs to be taken seriously and says that it is important that they translate and understand his ''Sighs'' and ''profound heaves.'' Gertrude enters, coming from her chamber. She is clearly distressed. They dismiss Rosencrantz and Guildenstern so they can have privacy while Gertrude tells Claudius what happened with Hamlet in the previous scene. She tells him that his anger is scary and intense, or ''mad as the sea and wind, when both contend which is mightier;''his temper is like a storm.

She goes on to explain that Hamlet killed Polonius through the arras, or curtain-like tapestry, hoping that it was Claudius. Hamlet's rash act shows that he is behaving impulsively, is serious about coming after Claudius, and that Claudius's life is clearly in danger if he and Hamlet remain under the same roof.

Claudius's Fear Heightens

Claudius is alarmed and distraught; he is not sure how to deal with his nephew, who is a threat to his life, while keeping control over Denmark and maintaining his image as king. He vows to send Hamlet to England before the sun touches the mountains, or that very night. Claudius is also concerned about public image; they need to find a way to explain Polonius's murder to the people of Denmark. He summons Guildenstern back into the room and both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reappear.

He tells them to go find Hamlet, who has killed Polonius and dragged him away. He instructs them to bring more people to help and to bring Polonius's body to the chapel as soon as possible.

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