Hamlet – Act IV Discussion Scene i & ii How do view Gertrude’s allegiances at this point? Is she on Team Claudius, Team Hamlet, both, neither…or perhaps simply Team Gertrude? What is Claudius’s first reaction when he hears of Polonius’s murder? What does this say about him? Claudius worries that he will be blamed for not controlling Hamlet and by extension the death of Polonius. What reason does he give for letting Hamlet go about as he has? Do you believe him to be sincere? Further, what reason does he give Gertrude for sending Hamlet away? Again, is he being sincere? Hamlet uses yet another metaphor as he calls Rosencrantz and Guildenstern the king's sponge. Explain the metaphor. Is it accurate in your opinion? Scene iii & iv When Claudius confronts Hamlet about the location of Polonius's body, Hamlet says, ''Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service--two dishes, but to one table. That's the end.'' What statement is Hamlet making about death? Describe Hamlet’s state of mind as Claudius confronts him. How does he speak about the murder he has just committed? What is his attitude toward the King himself? What is significant about Hamlet’s brief encounter with Fortinbras in Scene iv? Do you believe he has truly reached a turning point in character? Reread Hamlet’s final soliloquy of the scene (“How all occasions do inform against me,”) and summarize the main points. How accurate is Hamlet’s evaluation of his own character in your opinion? Scene v & vi What’s Gertrude got to be guilty about? The death of Polonius? Keeping Hamlet’s secret? Hamlet’s banishment? Ophelia’s madness? Being implicit in her first husband’s murder? What has driven Ophelia mad? Compare and contrast her ‘madness’ to Hamlet’s. The choice of Ophelia’s songs is clearly deliberate, as is her ‘presentation’ of certain flowers to the other characters. How should we interpret these in the larger context of the play? What parallels can we now draw between Laertes and Hamlet? They now have a similar dilemma: how does each’s approach to this differ? At this point in the play, who can we say has the moral high ground? What is the point of Scene vi? What new information do we learn? Hamlet writes Horatio that he has “words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb.” What do you suppose they are? Scene vii What reasons does Claudius give Laertes for burying Polonius secretly and not punishing Hamlet more severely? How legitimate are these in your view? Explain the full plot that Claudius and Laertes concoct to murder Hamlet. How does this scene establish Laertes as a foil for Hamlet? Based on what you know about Laertes in the first three acts, why would he join Claudius in the plot to kill Hamlet is such a treacherous and dishonorable way? What is the significance of his “To cut his throat i' th' church” comment? What do we learn has happened to Ophelia at the end of Act IV? Which of the play’s core themes are in play here? How does her madness, and her subsequent death symbolize the kingdom? BONUS: Why is Hamlet less present in this act than in the previous three? Sword fightin’ time!