Hamlet Act 4, Scene 6 Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Katherine Garner

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

This lesson consists of a summary of Act 4 Scene 6 of William Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet as well as an analysis of some of the most significant quotes from the scene.

Horatio Receives a Letter

Act 4 Scene 6 of Hamlet is an extremely short scene that mostly consists of Horatio reading a letter out loud. When the scene opens, a servant brings several sailors to see Horatio, saying that they have some letters to deliver to him. He sees that one of the letters is from Hamlet to him, and he reads the contents of the letter out loud.


In the letter, Hamlet instructs Horatio to allow the sailors to deliver some other letters to Claudius and then goes on to tell him about the strange turn of events his trip has taken. He writes, '' Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple I boarded them.'' In other words, Hamlet's ship encountered a pirate ship less than two days after they set sail. After being forced to fight with them, Hamlet found himself aboard the pirate's ship as their prisoner. He says they treated him fairly well considering the fact that they were thieves. This is because they wanted him to do them a favor. Hamlet does not reveal in his letter what this favor is. He is clearly relieved that his run-in with the pirates saved him from being killed upon his arrival in England, which was Claudius's plan for him.

News, News, News

Hamlet again tells Horatio to make sure the king gets the other letters that were delivered to the castle. Hamlet wants to see Horatio as soon as possible because he has, '' words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb, yet are they much too light for the bore of the matter.'' With another reference to ears, Hamlet reminds Horatio that he has things to tell him that will astonish him, and that is only part of the story. He tells him that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are on their way to England and that he has a lot to say about them.

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