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Transcript of Claudius Soliloquy
It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,
A brother’s murder."(3.3.37-39) Section #2 “Pray can I not.
Though inclination be as sharp as will,
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect.”(3.3.39-44) “But oh, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder”?
That cannot be, since I am still possessed
Of those effects for which I did the murder:
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.”
May one be pardoned and retain th' offense?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above.
There is no shuffling. There the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compelled,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence"(3.3.52-65) What then? What rests?
Try what repentance can. What can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limèd soul that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels. Make assay.
Bow, stubborn knees, and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe.
All may be well. (3.3.65-73) In my opinion this soliloquy is highly significant to the outcome of the play, and steered the direction of the play following it. There are two main parts of the soliloquy, the first being that through this soliloquy we finally learned that Claudius actually killed his brother. Previous to this soliloquy, we as an audience were left in the dark of whether or not Claudius actually killed his brother and we could only speculate if he did or didn’t. Although you are led to believe that he did commit the crime, only through this soliloquy did we definitively learn of his guilt. This is important because we now know that Hamlet is justified in his vengeful actions and that the ghost told the truth. The second main part of the soliloquy, which in my opinion is the most significant, is that by reading this soliloquy Claudius changed the course of the entire play.
When Claudius was reading this soliloquy Hamlet had come to kill him but when Hamlet heard Claudius he thought he was praying and so decided to stay his hand and kill him at a time when he was sinning instead of doing good. This is ironic because Hamlet did not want to kill Claudius while he was doing good and praying however Claudius was doing the exact opposite and saying how he couldn't feel guilt for his crimes. The irony is that Hamlet didn't want to kill Claudius while he was praying but Claudius was actually sinning. If Claudius was not saying his soliloquy about his guilt at that moment Hamlet would have killed him. Instead however since Hamlet did not take revenge when he had the chance, the whole course of the play was altered and all the events following this soliloquy were directly affected. If Hamlet had just killed Claudius when he had the chance he would have never killed Polonius, and in turn be sent to England, and Ophelia wouldn’t have gone insane and so forth. Claudius opens his soliloquy by admitting his guilt for the murder of his brother. He says that his sin is so foul that they could “smell” it up in heaven. He says it has the "primal eldest curse upon ’t". When he says this, he's talking about the mark of Cain which is an allusion to the biblical story of the brothers Cain and Abel, where the first murder in history happened, with Cain killing Abel. This section is very important because we are no longer speculating whether Claudius actually killed his brother but actually know it. Section #1 In this section Claudius is expressing how, although he wants to, he can’t pray for forgiveness for his crime. He says he feels paralyzed because his guilt and his bad intentions, which he doesn’t completely regret, are both tugging at him, and he doesn’t know which one to give in to. “What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood?
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what’s in prayer but this twofold force,
To be forestalled ere we come to fall
Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up.
My fault is past.”(3.3.44-52) In this section Claudius demonstrates that he isn't truly remorseful about killing his brother, because he thinks if he prays than he’ll be forgiven. He says prayer is used either to prevent sinning or to give sinners forgiveness, and since he’s already sinned he says he’ll pray, thinking that he will be forgiven. In this section there is a big change from the previous. In the last section Claudius was trying to justify his actions and to rationalize with himself, but in this section reality dawns upon him, and he realizes that he can't simply pray away his guilt. He wonders what kind of prayer there is for a murderer to say, and realizes that his prayers won’t even mean anything because he is still reaping the rewards of his crime, which is to say his wife and crown. He says that in this physical world criminals can easily buy off the law and be fine, but in heaven people are confronted with true judgment. This fear of the afterlife was what Hamlet was talking about in one of his soliloquies, where he says that the reason people don’t just kill themselves is because they fear the unknown. Claudius is a perfect example of this, as he fears judgment in the afterlife so is trying to repent now, but he is not repenting because he is genuinely regretful. He is trying to use prayer as a tool to get out of his punishment. In this section Claudius grasps for a solution to his problem. He offers up the idea of repentance but realizes that it probably wouldn’t help coming from him. He says how his soul is trying to escape but is bound to sin. He implores the angels to have mercy and help him so that perhaps his problems might be resolved, and that everything will be alright. An Analysis by Adam Sanders Act 3.3 Citations Crowther, John, ed. “No Fear Hamlet.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2005. Web. 11 Jan. 2013. William, Shakespeare. Hamlet. Toronto: Coles, 2006. Print. THE END