After the story of Priam's slaughter, what does Hamlet ask the actors to do and why?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When the players first arrive, Hamlet talks with them and asks them to reenact a scene from a play that he saw them do once before.  The story of Priam's slaughter echoes some of the same themes that Hamlet himself is dealing with, and this play inspires Hamlet.  He remembers another play, The Murder of Gonzago, and asks the players if they know the play.  When they reply that they do, Hamlet states that he would like to change about a dozen lines of the play and have them enact the play for the court the following night.  At first the audience might be puzzled about what Hamlet plans, but in the following soliloquy he reveals that it is with this play that he hopes to "catch the conscience of the king."  He plans to use this play to reenact Claudius's murder of King Hamlet.  He plans to change enough of the original story so that it more closely matches the exact circumstances of Claudius's actions.  Hamlet is hoping that when Claudius sees the play that he reveals his guilt in some outward way so that then Hamlet can be assured that the ghost was, in fact, a true ghost who was telling the truth and not a devil in disguise trying to damn Hamlet's soul by tempting him into evil action against Claudius.  Hamlet is slow to act to because he wants to be sure he is justified in his revenge against Claudius.  In Act 3, the "play-within-the-play" is completed and Claudius is so upset that he leaves the room in a hurry, thus proving the plan to be a success!

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team