King Claudius, Rozencrantz & Guildenstern. Queen Gertrude comes in and asks to speak to the King alone. Rozencrantz and Guildenstern leave.
The Queen then tells Claudius what happened with Hamlet, that Hamlet is insane (mad as the sea and wind). She tells him what happened to Polonius. The King is horrified and worried about everyone's safety. He asks where he has gone and she says to take care of Polonius' body. The King calls Rozencrantz and Guildenstern back in and tell them what has happened, and ask them to locate Hamlet and bring Polonius' body back to the chapel.
Rozencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet and ask him what he has done with Polonius' body. Hamlet won't give them a straight answer. He then tells Rozencraft that he can't be ordered around by a damn sponge. Rozencraft questions that and Hamlet proceeds to tell him that he soaks up everything the king hands to him, just like a sponge (Ay, sir, that soaks up the king's countenance, his rewards, his authorities). They again ask Hamlet where he has put the body, but Hamlet goes on a rant, talking nonsense.
King Claudius is wondering what to do with Hamlet and realizes that he can't do much because the people love him. Rozencrantz comes in and tells the King that Hamlet won't tell where he has hidden Polonius' body. The King asks where Hamlet is. Rozencrantz tells him he is just outside under guard, awaiting to know what the King wants to do with him.
Gildenstern comes in with Hamlet. The King asks where is Polonius. Hamlet says he is at supper, which startles the King (At supper! Where?) Hamlet says he is not where he eats but where he is eaten (a certain convocation of politic worms are e'en at him).
[Damn this is getting good...]
Hamlet explains the icky process wherein a king may "progress through the guts of a beggar."
The King again asks where Polonius is and Hamlet tells him to look for him in heaven, but if he is not there to go look in hell, then tells the King that if he doesn't find Polonius soon then he'll soon be able to smell him as he goes up the stairs.
The King sends attendants to look for Polonius, and tells Hamlet he is being sent to England ASAP.
On a plain in Denmark, and army led by Prince Fortinbras of Norway is marching. Prince Fortinbras is sending his captain to ask King Claudius for permission to cross Denmark for an attack on Poland. The captain meets up with Hamlet, Rozencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet asks the captain if the army is marching against all of Poland or just a small part. The captain explains that it a very small and worthless part but that a fight if building over it. Everyone leaves except Hamlet, who goes on another lament about how so many people are willing to die for a small plot of land and there he stands, unable to revenge his father and his "stain'd" mother.
Meanwhile, back at the castle....
A man is talking to Queen Gertrude about Ophelia, saying she is to be pitied. The Queen allows Ophelia to enter and it soon becomes obvious that Ophelia has lost her mind. King Claudius enters and tries to reason with Ophelia, but as anyone who has ever had dealings with an insane person, we know how that works out.
Ophelia leaves and King Claudius says to his wife that when sorrows come they come in waves.
After a bit, a man comes in and tells King Claudius that Laertes (Ophelia's brother) has arrived and is stirring an uprising to take over the kingdom. Laertes arrives at the castle and makes his way to the room where the King and Queen are. He demands to know where his father is. Queen Gertrude tries to calm him down but he again demands to know where his father is. King Claudius tells him that he is dead. Laertes demands to know who is responsible for Polonius' death so he can be revenged. The King tells him, "It wasn't me!" Ophelia wanders back in singing and acting crazy and her brother witnesses her madness. King Claudius offers Laertes sympathies over what has happened. Laertes wants to know the circumstances of everything and King Claudius tells him he will know.
A sailor comes through looking for Horatio. He hands Horatio a letter and tells him it is from the ambassador that was bound for England. Sure enough, the letter is from Hamlet, telling Horatio that he has been kidnapped by The Dread Pirate Roberts (okay I made that part up, just to see if you were paying attention). Hamlet was kidnapped by pirates and that he has a lot to tell Horatio, and asks Horatio to come to where he is. Hamlet tells Horatio that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are still on their way to England and that he has a lot to tell Horatio about those two.
King Claudius is talking to Laertes about everything that had happened. He tells Laertes that he can't do anything to Hamlet because he is too well loved by the public and that anything he does would backfire. He tells Laertes that they loved Polonius.
A messenger comes with letters to the King and Queen. When the King opens the letter to him he sees it is from Hamlet, telling him that he was set naked on the coast and asking his pardon to come and explain what had happened and why he was back.
Laertes says he is looking forward to confronting Hamlet (That I shall live and tell him to his teeth, 'Thus didest thou').
King Claudius hatches a plot with Laertes so that Hamlet would be killed, but that it would look like an accident so that nobody will get the blame. Claudius asks Laertes how much he loved his father, did he love him enough to actually revenge his death, and what would Laertes do if he could. Laertes tells Claudius he would cut Hamlet's throat. Claudius tells Laertes that it can't be that obvious, and that they should set it up to look like sword practice. Laertes goes on to describe a poison, that if he put it on the edge of his sword that even a small cut would kill Hamlet. Claudius then says he will have a poisoned drink available for Hamlet, in case Laertes' poisoned sword doesn't cut Hamlet as planned.
Queen Gertrude enters and is very upset, telling Laertes that Ophelia has drowned. She tells him that she had gone to the brook to pick flowers, but that she fell in, and being crazy as she was didn't notice that she was about to die. Queen Gertrude tells Laertes that Ophelia chanted snatches of old tunes until her wet clothes dragged her under the water. Laertes storms out of the room.
King Claudius tells the Queen that it took him a long time to calm Laertes down, but now he is afraid that Ophelia's death will set him off again (the dirty rotten king).
End of Act 4
Next.... The Thrilling Conclusion