Why Does Claudius Send Hamlet to England?

In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” King Claudius sends his nephew Hamlet to England to be put to death. Ostensibly, Claudius sends Hamlet to England as an emissary to keep him safe in the wake of Hamlet’s murder of Polonius. However, Hamlet bears a sealed letter in which Claudius asks the English monarch to chop off his nephew’s head.

Claudius wants Hamlet dead because he knows that Hamlet knows that Claudius killed his brother, Hamlet’s father, to usurp the throne of Denmark. Claudius believes that his nephew is plotting against him, but he also knows that killing him outright is out of the question. Therefore, he outsources the murder to England, which Denmark has recently defeated in battle. However, Hamlet discovers the plot on the way to England. He writes another letter that purports to come from the King of Denmark asking that the two men bearing the letter, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, be killed without delay. Boarding a pirate ship that attacks his vessel, Hamlet makes his way back to Denmark, where he finally confronts Claudius, a long-delayed move that leads to the death of most of the major characters in the story. The story of these events was retold by Tom Stoppard from the perspective of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the 1966 play “Rosencrantz and Guidenstern Are Dead.”