Hamlet King Claudius
The Shakespearian play, Hamlet, includes a soliloquy by King Claudius in Act 3, scene 3 that shows him in prayer and trying to repent for his sins. This scene occurs just after the play within the play, which is used to confirm the fact that Claudius is guilty of the former King’s murder in Hamlet’s eyes. This play presents enough evidence to confirm the guilt of King Claudius to Hamlet and therefore condemn him, finally allowing Hamlet to put his plan into action.
During the King’s prayer, it is made obvious to the audience that he truly did murder his brother. As soon as he is alone, the king immediately confesses and expresses his guilt over the death. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony, while maintaining a strong meaning within the context of the soliloquy. This allows the audience to have a deeper understanding of the King’s personality and predicament. The literary techniques are rife with Shakespeare’s language proving to be highly effective in conveying his ideas.
Shakespeare uses dramatic irony within this soliloquy, as Hamlet’s main intent within the entire play is to kill the King and avenge his father. However, Hamlet wants it to be the perfect time so that Claudius will be sent into purgatory or worse, so when he finds the King vulnerable but in apparent prayer, he refrains from killing him. The dramatic irony of this scene lies in the fact that the King was not actually praying and cleansing his soul. Claudius asks himself, “May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense?
” thus admitting that he was not willing to give back his profits from the crime of murdering his brother. Consequently, it would have been the perfect time for Hamlet to kill his uncle so that he would not have been sent to heaven. Yet this soliloquy also follows the play’s theme of appearance versus reality with Claudius’ false indication of asking for forgiveness and he deceives Hamlet while he admits that he cannot pray while he is not truly repenting. The soliloquy begins with a palpable sense of despair.
It commences with a loud wailing tone as Claudius is lost with no idea how to be cleansed of his sin yet his emotion changes from despair to one of self pitying and also self loathing. The king tries to negotiate and find a way around his now cursed soul. He tries to overcome this internal dilemma but discovers he can find no way out while he moans and begs the angels to help him out of such a mess. This soliloquy not only provides us with information about the King but also gives us knowledge about Hamlet’s personality.
It is apparent through Shakespeare’s use of the words “I am still possess’d of those effects for which I did the murder” shows that Claudius does not truly regret what he has done and would still rather his brother dead and live with the guilt than to not be king or have his queen. Claudius does truly mourn over his brother’s death and is clearly stricken with guilt and a troubled heart shown through the words, “O bosom black as death! ” because he cannot escape his sin and feels that he cannot be forgiven by God while he still maintains the benefits of his brother’s death.
It ascertains the King’s greed, yet also positions the audience to feel slightly sorry for him as his soul is now forever cursed and he cannot escape what he has done. Shakespeare uses the words, “double business bound” to create an oxymoron as they indicate that the King is obliged to undertake these two things but he cannot, due to their incompatibility. While the king speaks this soliloquy, it also provides the audience with a basis to develop the question of Hamlet’s sanity.
Hamlet overhears this soliloquy and we can tell that he uses clear logic in his decision not to kill the king and is still very sane. (How do we know this? Maybe develop this idea further if you can) Shakespeare’s use of the word “rank” in describing the King’s crime creates olfactory imagery evoking thoughts of disgust and an offensive, foul-smelling odour, suitably matching the abhorrent sin. Fittingly, being a scene of prayer and hopeful forgiveness, Shakespeare uses a biblical reference within this soliloquy.
The “primal eldest curse” alludes to the first murder in Judaeo-Christian tradition where God curses Cain for murdering his brother Abel. This tells us that Claudius is admitting to murdering his brother and it portrays his immense feeling of guilt through Shakespeare’s indication towards such a horrific biblical scene. Secondly, the words “wash it white with snow” refers to Claudius’ hand, signifying three different proverbial sayings. “To wash one’s hands of a thing”, “All the water in the sea cannot wash out this stain” and “As white as snow”.
These each signify different things, revealing that he hopes to cleanse himself of this sin, while also acknowledging the fact that he cannot escape what he has done and lastly, wishing that he could be a pure as clean snow. Instead Shakespeare follows the recurring symbolic idea of Denmark being an unweeded garden and Claudius being a weed causing havoc as an unwanted and tainted character. Shakespeare’s metaphorical language such as, “teeth and forehead” picks up the previous idea of “confronting the visage of offence” with bared teeth and a frowning forehead seen as expressing defiance or anger.
Again, Shakespeare communicates his ideas with the metaphor “O bosom black as death! ” being emblematic of Claudius’ heart, which is as black as death due to his guilt for his brother’s mortality but his immense desire to remain king and keep his queen. The king’s “limed” soul is symbolic of it being trapped like a bird with birdlime, which is a sticky substance spread on the branches of trees. The repetition of rhetorical questions by Shakespeare also demonstrates the king’s moral dilemma and his obvious struggle and imprisonment with his want to be cleansed of this sin yet remain in his current position.
To conclude then, the soliloquy of King Claudius praying is used by Shakespeare to convey the King’s insecurity and fear of what beholds him after his death. We discover that he wants to be forgiven by the Lord but he is tormented by the fact that he still desires the benefits of the crown and the Queen, which he achieved through the murder of his brother. It is used to demonstrate the extent of Hamlet’s sanity, present the dramatic irony of the play and continue the theme of appearance verses reality.
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The Shakespearian play, Hamlet, includes a soliloquy by King Claudius in Act 3, scene 3 that shows him in prayer and trying to repent for his sins. This scene occurs […]