Why does Hamlet kill Polonius through the arras even though he passed Claudius praying? 

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When Hamlet is summoned by his mother he doesn't know whether she had any involvement in his father's murder. She might have been an accessory before the fact or after the fact or completely ignorant of what Claudius was going to do or what he had done after it was done. She has good cause to think her son is insane. He knows he is not insane. He has also assured himself (and the audience) that he intends no harm to her. In Act 3, Scene 1, he tells himself:

Now to my mother.
O heart, lose not thy nature. Let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural.
I will speak...

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zumba96 | Student

He does not know who is behind that and believed it was a spy. He did not want others to hear about what was happening in the room and thus killed the person. But in truth, he had a feeling it could be Claudius and that is why he went straight ahead to kill him and rid him once and for all. At that time he is furious after talking with his mom and with anger/being alert he kills whoever is beyond the arras with no regrets. 

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alaska | Student

Hamlet did not kill Claudius for the simple reason Claudius was praying before he died (Hamlet did not want Claudius to be praying whilst he died, which would guarantee him a place in Heaven - whereas Hamlet clearly believes Claudius should go to Hell. 

He kills Polonius seemingly by mistake, as as soon as the Queen exclaims - "O, what a rash and bloody deed!", he asks - "is it the King?". He was not aware it was Polonius behind the arras, and was hoping it to be the King - however, he clearly shows no remorse for murdering Polonius - "what a rash...intruding fool." 

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