How did Hamlet figure out that Claudius killed his father?

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Before the play even begins, Hamlet (as he tells us) despises and suspects his uncle of nefarious deeds ("O, my prophetic soul!"). These suspicions are confirmed by the Ghost, but Hamlet, influenced by Horatio 's cautions that the Ghost may actually be an evil spirit, decides that he...

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Before the play even begins, Hamlet (as he tells us) despises and suspects his uncle of nefarious deeds ("O, my prophetic soul!"). These suspicions are confirmed by the Ghost, but Hamlet, influenced by Horatio's cautions that the Ghost may actually be an evil spirit, decides that he must have more direct evidence.

When the players arrive, he realizes that by using an existing script (The Murder of Gonzago) and then inserting other, more specific references into it ("You could, for a need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines, which I would set down and insert in 't, could you not?"), he likely could "catch the conscience of the king."

This, of course, works. Claudius recognizes the action of the play as being far too similar to what happened in real life, interrupts the performance, and abruptly leaves. Hamlet is now sure ("I'll take the ghost's word for a thousand pounds"), although he famously does not act upon his knowledge until much later—not until the end of the play.

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Hamlet is initially told by the ghost of his father that Claudius assassinated him by pouring poison in his ear while he was sleeping in an orchard. Hamlet initially questions the reliability of the ghost and decides to have performers reenact King Hamlet's murder in front of Claudius and Gertrude, hoping that the new king's reaction to the scene will reveal his guilt. During the play The Murder of Gonzago, Hamlet and Horatio watch King Claudius's reaction to "The Mousetrap" scene, which is when the performers reenact King Hamlet's murder. Claudius watches as one of the actors pours poison into another actor's ear on stage, and Claudius immediately rises out of his seat. King Claudius refuses to watch the rest of the play and exits the theater. Claudius's reaction in "The Mousetrap" scene reveals his guilt, and Hamlet knows for sure that Claudius assassinated his father. However, Hamlet continues to hesitate and does not kill Claudius when he gets the chance.

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