How does Claudius react to Hamlet's play?

Initially, King Claudius is worried about Hamlet when he learns about his behavior, believing him mad and hoping he can be cured. As the play continues, though, Claudius finds Hamlet to be a threat, whether his madness is true or feigned, and he no longer cares for Hamlet's well-being.

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In act three, scene two, Hamlet has the players reenact his father's assassination during the play The Murder of Gonzago in order to unveil Claudius's innocence or guilt in the death of his father. Before the scene is performed, Hamlet instructs Horatio to carefully watch Claudius's reaction and see if the king begins to act strange or suspicious. At this point in the play, Hamlet does not fully trust his father's ghost and wants confirmation that Claudius committed regicide in order to follow through with the Ghost's bloody instructions.

During the Mousetrap scene, the players reenact King Hamlet's assassination. The actor playing the king lays down on a bed of flowers while another player pours poison into his ear. Upon witnessing the performance, King Claudius immediately rises and says,

Give me some light, away! (Shakespeare, 3.2.254).

Claudius then leaves the room and Hamlet and Horatio discuss the king's strange reaction. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern then inform Hamlet that Claudius is extremely upset and that his mother requests to have a word with him in her chamber.

Following the performance and Claudius's quick exit, Hamlet is assured that the Ghost is telling the truth about Claudius's role in his father's death. Claudius also recognizes that Hamlet is aware of his evil deed and views him as a considerable threat. Although Hamlet has proof that Claudius assassinated his father, he continues to hesitate and refrains from murdering the king in the next scene while Claudius is attempting to ask forgiveness for his sin.

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Claudius is overcome during the play and leaves the room.

While the actors perform the play that mimics the death of King Hamlet, Hamlet is watching Claudius closely to see how he reacts. Horatio, too, is watching Claudius. 

The king in the play is poisoned by another in the same manner that Hamlet believes Claudius killed King Hamlet—with poison in his ear. Then the murderer woos the dead king's wife. As soon as Lucianus poisons Gonzago, Claudius stands up. Polonius orders them to stop the play and Claudius says, "Give me some light, away!" He needs light to guide his way out of the room. 

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern join Hamlet and tell him that Claudius is in a bad temper and that he's angry. They also tell Hamlet that his mother wants to speak to him. 

Claudius is upset at the play because it looks just like the murder of his brother at his own hands. He killed King Hamlet, married Gertrude, and took the throne for himself. In the next scene, Claudius prays but says he can't be forgiven because he still has all the things he committed the murder to gain. 

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In act III Scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the protagonist Hamlet devises a plan to find out if Claudius is actually guilty of murdering his father, the king of Denmark. Hamlet feels he should not take the story of the ghost for real without finding evidence for it. To do this, he directs...

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a play similar to how the king Hamlet was murdered according to the ghost. He believes that Claudius’ reaction to the play will reveal the truth.

In Hamlet’s play, Gonzago, the Duke of Vienna is murdered by his own nephew Lucianus, who pours poison in his ear while he is sleeping. This scene approximates the alleged murder of King Hamlet by Claudius. Moreover, in the play, Baptista, the wife of the king, agrees to marry the nephew of the king who is the murderer, shortly after the king's death. Hamlet names the play "The Mouse Trap", and comments that the play will not affect anyone who has a clean soul and conscience.

But Claudius gets restless and anxious just after watching this. He stands up in the middle of the play, asks to turn on the lights, and angrily leaves.

KING: Give me some light. Away!

After Claudius says this, Hamlet’s play gets halted abruptly and everyone else, except Hamlet and Horatio, also leaves the place.

Later Guildenstern informs Hamlet that Claudius was exceedingly upset after watching the play.

GUILDENSTERN: Is in his retirement, marvellous distempered.

Claudius’ reaction adds weight to the ghost’s story and makes Hamlet believe that he is, in fact, guilty of murdering the king Hamlet.

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Claudius stands up during the performance and asks for light so that he can see well enough to leave the court performance.  The death of Gonzago has been so very close the Claudius' alleged murder of King Hamlet that Claudius cannot bear to watch this.  This moment gives Hamlet reason to believe that Claudius did in fact murder King Hamlet, and it gives Claudius good reason to be very suspicious of what Hamlet knows and how he knows it, so it is a critical moment in the play.  Within the next pages of the script, Hamlet will mistakenly kill Polonius who he thinks is Claudius, and Claudius will be making secret arrangements with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to exile Hamlet to England. 

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Describe Claudius's reaction when he learns about Hamlet's behavior.

King Claudius’s knowledge of Hamlet’s “madness” is introduced in act 2, scene 2, when he speaks with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of Hamlet’s childhood friends. Claudius is confused by Hamlet’s actions, saying that neither the “exterior nor the inward man resembles what it was.” Claudius acknowledges that perhaps the death of Hamlet’s father could be part of the cause, yet he is sure that there is more to it. He invites Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to stay awhile and keep Hamlet’s company.

He implores them to make Hamlet pleasurable again, and if possible, see what “to us unknown, afflicts him thus, that, open’d, lies within our remedy.” The ending statement, that finding out what caused Hamlet’s madness will provide the solution to it, shows that Claudius has genuine concern for his nephew. He not only wants to know what is wrong with him, but he wants to help fix it. The scene continues with King Claudius discussing possible causes of Hamlet’s madness with various people. This is further indication that Claudius has deep concern for Hamlet and that he seeks all the help he can get in order to aid Hamlet.

By the beginning of act 3, though, Claudius’s soft approach has begun to harden. The first lines of the scene include him asking Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about Hamlet’s condition, but he now refers to it as “turbulent and dangerous lunacy.” At first, he cared only about cause and cure, but Claudius now finds Hamlet to be upsetting and dangerous. He still seems to care about Hamlet, but the focus has shifted to that of not causing him problems personally rather than Hamlet’s health.

Claudius makes a complete transformation from caring about Hamlet to himself alone by act 3, scene 3. This takes place immediately after the famed “play within a play” scene, wherein Hamlet has the actors portray a scene much like the one of Claudius murdering his father. Claudius is clearly upset by the play and likely is suspicious that Hamlet knows what he has done. Therefore, he commands Hamlet be sent to England so that “our estate may not endure hazard so dangerous.” Claudius cares not for Hamlet at all anymore, only that he is removed from his presence so he may no longer be inconvenienced by him.

For the rest of the play Claudius is seen as still showing concern for Hamlet, but only in public, and only to those who love Hamlet. He focuses solely on Hamlet being dangerous as a way to convince everyone else that Hamlet is truly insane and must not be allowed to stay with them. Though he claims to be full of “discord and dismay!” he likely is only afraid of being revealed as a murderer, rather than worried about his nephew’s perceived madness.

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