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At the beginning of this scene, Claudius is speaking with Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. He tells them that he does not like Hamlet, and that he believes it unwise to have him around, free to cause trouble, as he has just done with the play. So he dispatches the two men to England with Hamlet, and a set of sealed orders. As he says when they depart the scene: "For we will fetters put upon this fear,/Which now goes too free-footed." The audience learns later in the play that the orders Claudius sends are to have Hamlet executed. Hamlet alters the orders to have Guildenstern and Rosencrantz executed in his stead. In any case, Claudius's decisive, scheming nature at the beginning of the scene is in stark contrast to his despondency before he, stricken with guilt, kneels to pray. This dramatic contrast, along with the fact that the audience knows that Hamlet is lurking in the background, thinking about killing Claudius then and there, makes this one of the most intense scenes in the play, and indeed in all of Shakespeare's tragedies.
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