Act IV – Scene.i
Claudius joins Gertrude, who exclaims that she has just
witnessed a horror. Her son has gone completely mad like a storm at sea, and has killed Polonius. Claudius realizes that it could have been him hiding behind the tapestry and deplores Hamlet’s violence.
He is worried about what to tell the court concerning Polonius’ death, and resolves that Hamlet must be banished and calls to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to escort Hamlet out of Denmark.
Again these actions make Gertrude more ambiguous.
Is she protecting her son by saying that he has gone completely mad in killing Polonius and is therefore, not responsible for his actions, or does she realize Claudius’ guilt regarding the death of King Hamlet and
is protecting herself? If she were truly wishing to protect her son, she would ask the King not to exile him with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as keepers.
Shakespeare is being deliberately ambiguous here. He wishes to keep
the audience’s attention.
Claudius is concerned about his rule being undermined and it is interesting
to note this quotation ‘His (Hamlet’s) liberty is full of threats to all’.
This statement clearly ties Gertrude to him. If he falls, so will she. However, he still cannot have Hamlet harmed in Denmark, and exile is the only alternative. At least now he has an excuse to punish Hamlet in that he has murdered Polonius.