"The play is the thing, to catch the conscience of the king"
It's a tense moment in Act 3, Scene 2, Hamlet has told the players to reenact his father's murder before the king, his murderer. The show begins, and just before shadows of recognition fall across the visage
of the king, Hamlet speaks. More to himself than anyone else, he utters:
This statement merely seems to play at Hamlet's madness. But it cleverly precapitulates
the effect of the play on the king.
wood herb is a vermifuge
, when taken internally, it causes parasitic worms
to leave one's body, usually through the rectum. The players performance is thus a vermufige, causing the vile worms of the kings guilt to squirm out of him, to overwhelm him, such that he calls out in his strife
"Give me some light: away!"