Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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What is the importance of the prayer scene in "Hamlet"?

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After the Mousetrap play, during which Claudius clearly reveals his guilt to Hamlet, Hamlet comes across him praying. Hamlet realizes this is the perfect opportunity to kill his foe. He knows Claudius is guilty of murdering his father, so he no longer has to worry about the ghost being an agent of Satan sent to lure him into killing an innocent man.

It is significant, however, that Hamlet once again hesitates. He once again rationalizes himself out of the murder. Hamlet reasons that it won't be true revenge if he kills him now, because Claudius, obviously at prayer confessing to his sins and praying for forgiveness, would go to heaven and not have to wander the earth as a ghost like his father, who died outside of a state of grace. This rationalizing further reinforces the idea that Hamlet, at heart, has a problem with the revenge killing ethic of his society: he just doesn't want to do it.

More importantly, however, we as the audience become privy to information Hamlet doesn't have. When the...

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