Another short scene! Don't these make you feel productive? "What did you do today?" "Read a scene from Hamlet." No one needs to know it was only a page and a half long!
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern accost Hamlet and try to get him to tell them where he's hidden Polonius' body. Hamlet resumes his antic ways, verbally sparring with them, playing with words, and not being at all cooperative. He ends with "Hide fox, and all after," whereon most productions have him run away and them chase him, like grown men playing tag.
Remember in the post for Act III, Scene 2 that I mentioned I'd just learned that "thing" and "nothing" were used in Shakespeare's day as euphemism's for men and women's "naughty bits" (to toss in a Monty Python euphemism). As soon as I learned that, I immediately thought of the end of this scene, when Hamlet says, "The King is a thing" (24). I don't know enough about slang in Shakespeare's day to know if this is true or not, and this is totally my own reading/idea here, but might Hamlet be using the word "thing" here the same way we would say "jerk," or several other less-savory modern euphemisms that people today use to describe people who are being jerks? And then saying he's "of nothing" would seem to be a reference to Claudius' seduction of Gertrude to secure the throne, perhaps? I don't know, it just makes this passage make more sense in a way, because "the King is a thing" is so random and pointless otherwise, and Hamlet's words, wild and whirling though they may be, are rarely pointless.
"A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear" (20).
Possible Discussion Questions:
Do you think Rosencrantz really didn't understand Hamlet calling him a sponge, or is he just angry and frustrated with this antic, deadly prince?
Can you think of a different reading of "the king is a thing" that also makes sense? Or is Hamlet just being super-random in his feigned madness there?