How does the king show his power over Hamlet in Act 4, scene 1 line 34?

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jseligmann's profile pic

jseligmann | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Thinking it was an eavesdropping King Claudius, Hamlet stabs through a curtain and kills, instead, Polonius. The King knows that he was the indented victim and senses his imminent danger. He assures his wife Gertrude, who witnessed the killing, that he will ship Hamlet off to England, post haste. He implies to Gertrude that Hamlet will be safe in England, but he really has plans to have Hamlet killed on the way there, and he has given Rosencrantz and Guildenstern written instructions to that effect:

KING:

O Gertrude, come away!

The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch(30)

But we will ship him hence; and this vile deed

We must with all our majesty and skill

Both countenance and excuse. Ho, Guildenstern!

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Friends both, go join you with some further aid.

Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,(35)

And from his mother's closet hath he dragg'd him.

Go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body

Into the chapel. I pray you haste in this.

[Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.]

Come, Gertrude, we'll call up our wisest friends

And let them know both what we mean to do(40)

And what's untimely done. So haply slander

Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,

As level as the cannon to his blank,

Transports his poisoned shot, may miss our name

And hit the woundless air.—O, come away!(45)

My soul is full of discord and dismay.

Being the King, Claudius can do just about anything he wants; he can have Hamlet shipped out, and he can pay to have him secretly killed. In comparison to the King, especially now after the killing of Polonius, Hamlet is left with few options.

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Claudius says in Act IV:i, line 34:

Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,...

The line actually just states information.  I'm not sure why you isolate this line to ask about.  The passage as a whole demonstrates Claudius' power over Hamlet, though. 

Friends both, go join you with some further aid.

Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,

And from his mother's closet hath he dragged him.

Go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body

Into the chapel.  I pray you haste in this.

Claudius is sending Ros. and Guil. to talk to Hamlet and get the body from him.  Claudius is, in effect, sending the two to spy on Hamlet.  He is king and all are under his command, including the two would-be spies.

In actuality, though, Hamlet guesses what is going on and Claudius does not find out the location of the body until Hamlet decides to reveal it to him face to face.

 

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