Act 2, Scene 2

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Claudius and Gertrude fret over Hamlet’s behavior, while Hamlet launches a plot to prove Claudius’s guilt.

Summary

Claudius and Gertrude are worried about Hamlet, who’s been acting crazy in court, so they dispatch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on him. Polonius arrives with the ambassador Voltemand in tow, both bearing good news. Voltemand tells Claudius that the King of Norway has put a stop to Prince Fortinbras’ threats, and Fortinbras has vowed not to attack Denmark. Polonius then tells Gertrude and Claudius that he thinks Hamlet’s behavior is due to his feelings for Ophelia. They hatch a plan to figure out what’s really going on: Polonius will send Ophelia to talk to the mad Hamlet and prove once and for all that he’s crazy with love. Hamlet then enters, mad as ever. Quickly realizing that Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern are all secretly spying on him, he mocks them without their knowledge. Finally, some traveling players arrive and put on an impromptu performance. Watching the lead actor deliver a compelling monologue, Hamlet becomes sad that he, unlike the talented actor, can’t seem to summon any courage or passion when it comes to avenging his father’s death. He then hatches a plan: he’ll have the actors stage a play with a plot similar to the king’s murder. He’ll watch Claudius’s reaction to see if he seems guilty. Then Hamlet will know he can act.

 

Character Interview: Hamlet, Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern

myShakespeare | Hamlet 2.2 Interview: Hamlet, Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern