Act 2 Sc. 2, Lines 384–415

Sc. 2, Lines 384–415: Notice that, although no one else knows about Hamlet’s plan to feign madness, what Hamlet says in lines 384–385 gives him away to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. How does Hamlet change when Polonius enters? What does the audience realize about the conversation that Polonius does not? Give an example that illustrates this lack of realization on the part of Polonius.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter, surprising their friend Hamlet. The three friends banter philosophically for a good while before Hamlet asks the two why they have come to Elsinore. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to dodge this question, declaring that they have come for no other reason than to visit him. Hamlet, though, won’t let them off the hook, and makes them admit that the king and queen sent for them. When they admit it, Hamlet also tells them why they were sent for – because he has been deeply melancholy, and has foregone his accustomed behavior. He sinks deeply into a speech detailing this misery.

When Polonius rushes back into the scene, Hamlet resumes his banter with Polonius in the same mocking vein he'd used with his friends.