Hamlet, Analysis by N.K.,
Act III, Scene 3, lines # 39-61

KING CLAUDIUS

  Thanks, dear my lord.

[Exit POLONIUS]

  O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;

It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,

A brother's murder. 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. 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 two-fold force,

To be forestalled ere we come to fall,

Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;

My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer

Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murder'?

That cannot be; since I am still possess'd

Of those effects for which I did the murder,

My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.

May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?

In this particular soliloquy, he find Claudius actually revealing to the reader that he has killed his brother Hamlet. His guilt is strong and because of it he is confused. He turns to prayer as a means of salvation, but finding no use in it. Claudius knows he should repent, but his passion to be king and his passion for Gertrude seem to dominate his emotions.

His confession comes as a big surprise to the reader. First of all we are given concrete evidence that he actually did murder his brother, plus we are able to see a sharp alteration in his character. He goes from being the insensitive charlatan to a caring, sensitive, emotional, human being. At the same time, we can also see a parallel between Claudius's soliloquy and Hamlet's "To be or not to be...". Both characters display similar feelings of confusion, sadness, vulnerability, and look for divine support.

Look at analyses of other scenes from Hamlet

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