The Murder of Gonzago: Significance in Hamlet & Overview

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  • 0:02 Introduction to Hamlet
  • 0:57 Significance
  • 1:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shamekia Thomas

Shamekia has taught English at the secondary level and has her doctoral degree in clinical psychology.

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.

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.


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.

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