Polonius suspects that his son Laertes is living an immoral lifestyle and
sends an envoy, Reynaldo, to Paris in order to spy on him. Ophelia arrives,
bewildered by Hamlets recent behavior. He came to her, pale and shaking,
his clothing in disarray, and did nothing but hold her by the arms and stare
at her for a long time, without saying a word. Polonius is sure that Hamlets
behavior is due to Ophelias coldness towards him, and decides to speak
of it to the king.
Act Two, Scene Two
Claudius asks Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, childhood friends of Hamlet,
to sound him out as to the reasons for the strange changes in his behavior.
Polonius enters and announces the return from Norway of the ambassadors, with
the news that the King of Norway has persuaded Fortinbras to invade Poland
instead of Denmark. He also states his belief that the cause of Hamlets
madness is unrequited love, Ophelia having spurned his advances. This reason
scarcely persuades the king and queen. The queen thinks it is her hasty marriage
which has caused her son to lose his mind.
Hamlet enters feigning madness, which allows him to mock and deride the remarks
made by Polonius, who leaves. Hamlet soon discovers that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
have been sent by the king to spy on him and the conversation turns instead
to the arrival of a troupe of actor comedians, to theater and to the fact
that principal roles are more and more often played by children and adolescents.
Hamlet welcomes the comedians and they recite lines concerning the death of
King Priam of Troy and the grief borne by his wife, Hecuba. Polonius leads
the actors away. The principal actor remains with Hamlet, who asks him to
perform The Murder of Gonzago before the court and to add a few lines Hamlet
himself is to write.
Left alone Hamlet marvels at the suggestive power of the theater and agonizes
over his inactivity. He decides to stage the murder of his father by his uncle,
and to observe the latters reactions to the play, before unmasking him
and avenging his father. (Second soliloquy: "O, what a rogue and peasant
slave am I."