Hamlet Act 4 Short Scene by Scene Summary & Analysis

Scene I

Gertrude informs Claudius about the murder of Polonius by Hamlet. Polonius expresses his regrets for not containing Hamlet in his madness earlier. The king then reveals this to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and asks Gertrude for meeting wisest of their friends and decide what to do about this.

Scene II

Hamlet openly reveals to Rosencrantz of his knowledge about their spying service to the king. Both of them ask him regarding the whereabout of the body of Polonius.

Scene III

The king sends a few other men to look for the dead body. Hamlet meets him. The king after knowing about the body asks him to leave for England for which everything has been prepared.

He asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany him with a sealed letter which has his request to the king of England to execute Hamlet on his arrival.

Scene IV

In Denmark, Hamlet meets the forces of Norway and their captain. He contemplates on the nature of death and decides to be bloody in his thoughts henceforth.

Scene V

A gentleman implores the queen to meet Ophelia who enters in a distracted mood, mourning for her father in an erratic manner. King asks Horatio to keep a watch on her disintegration.

Laertes returns after getting the news of his father’s death and it has enraged him beyond control. He witnesses Ophelia’s madness. The king consoles him and asks him to come with him.

Scene VI

Horatio is with a gentleman and a sailor enters with a letter from Hamlet. 

Scene VII

The king tries convincing Laertes about the complete indulgence of Hamlet in murdering his father. Laertes asks why his crime is still unpunished. Claudius says that it’s because he can’t act against Gertrude whom he loves so much nothing which may hurt her can be done by him and the second reason is because of how much the common people love him.

Claudius receives a letter from Hamlet regarding his return to Denmark. The king convinces Laertes to fight with Hamlet. He arranges a foil covered with fierce poison to be used during the fight and in case it fails, he asks him to use the poisoned wine to congratulate Hamlet on his victory which will kill him nevertheless.

The queen enters the scene and informs them of the drowning of Ophelia. It devastates Laertes and strengthens the composure of his rage and they leave with Gertrude.