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The ‘play within a play’ in Hamlet was just the sort of dramatic caprice that attracted the Romantics to Shakespeare. Hamlet, prince of Denmark, arranges for strolling players to re-enact the murder of his father, the king, by his brother, Claudius; Claudius had succeeded to the throne. The ghost of Hamlet’s father had revealed the murder at the beginning of the play.Maclise shows the performance taking place in the hall of Elsinore Castle. Claudius is about to leap to his feet, and in doing so reveal his guilt.

May 2007