ENG 4U 2013: Of Soldiers and Sycophants

I am not here today. Sorry. To make sure you understand the basics of today’s scenes, we will approach them from a fairly old school perspective.

Today, we need to accomplish the following:

  • You will read scenes i to iv in Act IV (these are very short scenes). You may read them independently or in your groups.
  • For each of these scenes, you will complete a very small task. You may work in your groups to do so, but everyone must complete the work.
  • You will use any remaining time to plan your Hamlet assignments

Scene i

At the end of Act III, Hamlet kills Polonius while in his mother’s room. In Act IV Scene i, Gertrude runs to King Claudius to tell him of the murder.

In a few sentences, explain how the King responds to this news. Make sure your work includes his initial response (immediately after Oh heavy deed!) and what he decides to do.

Scene ii

In this scene, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hunt down Hamlet at the King’s request. Before we go any further, however, you must learn a new term:

A sycophant, pronounced sick-o-fant, means suck-up. The term suck-up, however, is wholly unremarkable. Next time you see someone sucking up to someone in authority, use the word sycophant instead. You are bound to impress somebody….which, of course, would be rather sycophantic of you. Think about it. You’ll get it.

In a few sentences, explain the metaphor that Hamlet uses to explain that  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern  are “sycophants”.

Scene iii

In this scene, Hamlet is brought before the king. This is a tense confrontation: Claudius is angry about Polonius’ death (and, especially after the Mousetrap, more than a little worried about Hamlet); Hamlet’s rage is boiling just below the surface, but his “madness” provides an excellent cover.

In 1-2 sentences each, explain the following:

  • Hamlet claims that Polonius is at supper. What does he mean?
  • In most productions, Claudius looks visibly angry when Hamlet invites Claudis to”seek him i’ the other place yourself.” Explain why.
  • Shakespeare doesn’t provide any blocking or notes for actors in his play. If you were Shakespeare, how would you ask the actor playing Claudius to say “Thy loving father, Hamlet”? Why?
  • What is Claudius’ plan for Hamlet in England?

Scene iv

This scene marks the first time we actually meet young Fortinbras, the son of Fortinbras, the former king of Norway who was killed in battle with Hamlet’s father. Before we go any further, consider this pattern in the play:

Father Son Person Who Kills Father Does the Son Seek Revenge?
 Hamlet Sr.  Hamlet  Claudius  Has been thinking of killing Claudius for most of the play
 Fortinbras Sr.  Fortinbras  Hamlet Sr.  Waging war just because of glory so, yes, he is probably willing to seek revenge
 Polonius  Laertes  Hamlet  hmmmm…I wonder….

In this scene, Hamlet is going to watch Fortinbras’ army marching for battle. Explain how this inspires Hamlet (remembering the Fortinbras means “strong arm” might be helpful).


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