What happens in the "play-within-a-play"?  How do the speeches and actions reflect on events in the kingdom of Denmark?  How does the king respond?Act 3



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Hamlet rewrites portions of the play-within-a-play, wherein he wants to present a visual of poison being poured into a sleeping king's ear, hoping that this will rouse Claudius and cause a reaction that will be evidence of Claudius' murder of King Hamlet. "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king," he says (II.ii.581-2). In the play-within, the murderer then courts the queen, who gradually succumbs to his advances. Hamlet writes into the play things that only Claudius would know, using the information provided to him by the ghost of his father.

His plan seems to work, because Claudius rises from his seat and cries for the lights (torches) to be lit. To Hamlet, Claudius' strong reaction to the scene is indicative of his guilt.


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