What do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to Claudius regarding their conversation with Hamlet?

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Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most important plays. It follows the story of a prince named Hamlet who is summoned home to Denmark in order to attend his father's funeral. While home, a ghost claiming to be his late father appears to Hamlet. The ghost claims that Hamlet's dad was...

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Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most important plays. It follows the story of a prince named Hamlet who is summoned home to Denmark in order to attend his father's funeral. While home, a ghost claiming to be his late father appears to Hamlet. The ghost claims that Hamlet's dad was murdered by his uncle, Claudius, who has assumed the throne after marrying Hamlet's mother.

The section of the text you're referring to takes place in act 3, scene 1. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are questioned by Claudius, the King, about the deteriorating mental state of Hamlet. However, they don't have much to say. They tell Claudius that they were unable to discover the root of Hamlet's issues. Guildenstern describes Hamlet's state as a "crafty madness".

The pair does tell Claudius that Hamlet is excited that a troupe of actors is coming to perform at the castle. Claudius is happy to hear that something has piqued Hamlet's interest. We get the sense that Claudius hopes this could be the beginning of the end of Hamlet's mental condition.

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In act 3, scene 1, after Hamlet has gotten Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to admit that they were sent for by the king (Hamlet's uncle), they are forced to tell Claudius,

He does confess he feels himself distracted.
But from what cause he will be no means speak. (3.1.5–6)

In other words, Rosencrantz says that Hamlet has admitted openly to them that he feels somewhat confused within himself, but he will not tell them what is causing his confusion. Guildenstern adds,

Nor do we find him forward to be sounded.
But with a crafty madness keeps aloof
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state. (3.1.7–10)

He says that Hamlet is not responding well to their attempts to question him about himself; instead, he refuses to be forthright and answer their questions sincerely whenever they do try to ask him about his feelings. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern also feel that Hamlet had to force himself to be nice to them, not even asking them questions about themselves. Claudius leaves them, requesting that they continue to try to learn more about Hamlet's thoughts by encouraging him to interact with the actors who have come to Elsinore.

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In Act 3, Scene 1, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report back to King Claudius after their conversation with Hamlet in Act 2, Scene 2. They have very little to tell the King, who opens the scene by asking,

"And can you, by no drift of conference,

Get from him why he puts on this confusion,

Grating so harshly all his days of quiet

With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?"

Rosencrantz says,

"He does confess he feels himself distracted,

But from what cause he will by no means speak."

And Guildenstern adds,

"Nor do we find him forward to be sounded,

But with a crafty madness keeps aloof

When we would bring him on to some confession

Of his true state."

The only good news they have for the King is that Hamlet was greatly cheered to hear about the arrival of the traveling players and that he ordered them to put on a performance.

Claudius is very pleased to hear about this show of interest on the part of his melancholy stepson. He says,

"...it doth content me

To hear him so inclined.

Good gentlemen, give him a further edge

And drive his purpose into these delights."

That concludes the King's interview with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Nothing much is accomplished except to establish that the King and Queen will be attending the play Hamlet has ordered the players to perform.

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