How does Claudius manipulate Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the play?

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern first enter Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Act 2. Claudius has tasked them, as Hamlet’s childhood friends, with finding out why he is acting so strangely. Claudius initially manipulates them into reporting back to him by pretending he is worried about Hamlet. Playing the sympathetic father figure, one who is worried about his son/nephew’s well being, is enough to get Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on their friend.

It is clear from Act 1 that Horatio is Hamlet’s closest friend. Surely Claudius would not have been able to manipulate him in the way he toys with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The random appearance of friends he has not seen for a long time tips Hamlet off about their purpose. Hamlet acts strangely for them, and they have nothing to report back to Claudius. They try again, and Hamlet calls them “sponges” and warns them he will not be played like an instrument. They don’t seem to understand that by doing the king’s bidding, they are betraying...

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