During "The Mousetrap" Shakespeare has two plays going at once. The outer play which has an animated Hamlet doing his best to hold in his excitement and the inner play of clueless actors. The inner play containing its own tensions, is the impetus for much of the tension in the outer play. From earlier in this scene Hamlet expressed his dislike of Dumb-shows. And yet the players open the Mousetrap with a dumb-show that threatens to spring the trap. After the dumb-show we are left with the question of whether the king did or didn’t note the “argument of the play.”
Aside from the dumb show the inner play is really two plays in one. The first we might properly call “The Mousetrap”. Observe later in Gertrude’s closet where Hamlet suggests the pet name of “mouse” for Gertrude. The Mousetrap’s focus is on Gertrude. The bearing of souls between the Player Queen and the Player King is Hamlet’s attempt to catch the conscience of Gertrude. Did she have any hand at all in the plotting and killing of King Hamlet? All we get from Gertrude is that the lady protests too much.
On to scene two the “Murder of Gonzago”. This is directed at Claudius and where both Shakespeare and Hamlet ratchet up the tensions. Hamlet’s earlier admonishment that the players will “tell all” would be better observed by Hamlet at this point. Hamlet is the one who should guard his words. As Ophelia tells him, “You are as good as a chorus....” Hamlet’s first slip “poison in jest,” unduly calls attention to the dumb-show poisoning. His next slip is identifying Lucianus as “nephew to the king.” It is not pertinent to the story but it does make Claudius and others aware of a parallel between Hamlet and Lucianus. So when Claudius does exit the play is it his guilt, or the overt threat of a nephew killing the king that does so? Or perhaps it is seen as a tasteless prank.
The result is that Hamlet is convinced that the king is guilty. This brings about the death of Polonius and sets in motion the Laertes revenge subplot. As for Claudius, he sees Hamlet as a danger and doubles his efforts to be rid of him.
In 1594, Shakespeare returned to the theater and became a charter member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men - a group of actors who changed their name to the King's Men when James I ascended the throne. By 1598, Shakespeare had been appointed the "principal comedian" for the troupe; by 1603, he was "principal tragedian." He remained associated with the organization until his death. Although acting and playwriting were not considered noble professions at the time, successful and prosperous actors were relatively well respected. Shakespeare’s success left him with a fair amount of money, which he invested in Stratford real estate. In 1597, he purchased the second largest house in Stratford - the New Place - for his parents. In 1596, Shakespeare applied for a coat of arms for his family, in effect making himself a gentleman. Consequently, his daughters made “good matches,” and married wealthy men.