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In William Shakespeare’s ”Hamlet”, ”The Murder of Gonzago” is a play Hamlet has performed in order to determine his uncle’s innocence or guilt in the death of his father.

This lesson will discuss the significance of this play within a play.

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Introduction to Hamlet

After the sudden death of his father, Prince Hamlet, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s tragedy, returns home to Denmark. To his surprise, his mother has married his uncle and his uncle has been crowned King instead of Prince Hamlet. Hamlet is suspicious of his uncle and his mother’s motives and when he is visited by the ghost of his father, whose soul was said to be in purgatory, the ghost suggests he has been murdered by his brother, Hamlet’s uncle Claudius.

Hamlet becomes tormented by thoughts of his father’s murder and struggles with grief issues as well. Hamlet tries desperately to decide what to do about his father’s death. Hamlet decides the best way to determine his uncle’s guilt or innocence in the murder of his father is to have a play called The Murder of Gonzago performed.

Hamlet feels this will be the best way to determine his uncle’s guilt or innocence because he adds scenes describing his father’s murder into the plot of the story. He calls the play The Mousetrap.

Significance

Hamlet directs the play and asks the actors to behave naturally in their roles. He gets one of his friends, Horatio, to assist him in watching his uncle Claudius’ reaction during the play so that they can determine Claudius’ guilt together. Hamlet believes that the occurrences in the play should not bother anyone if their conscience is clear.

In the first scene of the play The Mousetrap, the Queen swears she will not remarry, even if her husband dies. During the play, Gertrude is bothered by this part of the play and Hamlet replies, ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’. When the King in the play takes a nap, poison is poured in his ear. At this part of the play, Claudius cannot breathe and leaves the room and Hamlet believes his guilt has been proven. Hamlet then decides he will murder his uncle in retaliation for the murder of his father.Hamlet is finally happy and he feels the play has finally given him the answers he needed. The play The Murder of Gonzago (aka The Mousetrap) is significant because it proves Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, murdered Hamlet’s father.

Lesson Summary

After the death of his father, prince and protagonist Hamlet, is conflicted about what he should do to punish the person responsible for his father’s death. Hamlet has reason to believe that his uncle is guilty but has no proof. The Murder of Gonzago, also known as The Mousetrap, is a play Hamlet has performed in order to unveil his uncle’s innocence or guilt in the death of his father. Hamlet adds scenes depicting his father’s death into the action of the play.

When those scenes are performed, Hamlet’s uncle and mother are uncomfortable. Hamlet feels this shows their guilt and he decides to murder his uncle.

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