William Shakespeare

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Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 2 Summary & Analysis

Read our modern English translation of this scene.
After hiding Polonius’s body, Hamlet returns to the castle and runs into Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They ask him what he’s done with the body, and Hamlet replies that he has “compounded it with dust.” Rosencrantz asks Hamlet again where the body is, and Hamlet shouts that he’d never allow such a “sponge” to get the answer out of him. Rosencrantz angrily asks why Hamlet thinks he is a sponge. Hamlet replies that Rosencrantz—and Guildenstern, too—“soak up the king’s countenance,” doing his dirty work only to allow Claudius to wring them dry again and again. Rosencrantz asks, a final time, where the body is. Hamlet replies that it is with the king, though “the king is not with the body.” He hurries out of the hall, bidding Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to try to catch him.
Hamlet has nothing but contempt for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and continues to taunt and mock them for doing the king’s bidding so blindly. Hamlet doesn’t try to get them to switch allegiances—he doesn’t want men of such low moral character on his side anyway.
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