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Please analyze/comment on this quote in Act 4, Scene 2 from Hamlet.ROSENCRANTZ: You...

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pure | Student, Undergraduate

Posted January 14, 2010 at 10:59 PM via web

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Please analyze/comment on this quote in Act 4, Scene 2 from Hamlet.

ROSENCRANTZ:

You take me for a sponge, my lord?

 

HAMLET:

Ay, sir; that soaks up the King's countenance, his
rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the King best
service in the end. He keeps them, like an ape, in the corner
of his jaw; first mouth'd, to be last swallowed. When he
needs what you have glean'd, it is but squeezing you and,(20)
sponge, you shall be dry again

 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 14, 2010 at 11:09 PM (Answer #1)

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To me, this quote shows Hamlet denouncing Rosencrantz and, perhaps, hinting at Rosencrantz's later fate in this play.

Although Rosencrantz was once a friend of Hamlet, Hamlet no longer trusts him.  This is what he is telling Rosencrantz here.  He is saying that Rosencrantz is nothing more than a tool for the king.  He is a sponge meant to soak up information (which is why Hamlet doesn't want to tell him anything) which he will them bring back to the king.  Hamlet points out to him that the king doesn't really care about Rosencrantz -- he will just use him until he gets what he needs.

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted January 14, 2010 at 11:12 PM (Answer #2)

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Rosencrantz is Hamlet's childhood friend, but in reality, a spy for the king. Hamlet is not fooled, and with Hamlet's characteristic acerbic wit, he tells Rosencrantz that the king is using him. The metaphor is that once a sponge is "squeezed," it becomes dry again. So when Claudius wrings Rosencrantz out, and gets what he wants from him, Rosencrantz will be dry again. There is a simile in the quote as well, comparing the king to an ape. The king keeps his minions in the "corner of his jaw" like an ape does with food, swallowing the food in the end.

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