Claudius' Soliloquy

3.3.36-72 by Caryssa Razionale

It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t, A brother’s murder.

In this quote, an allusion to the biblical story of Cain and Abel is made, in which Cain kills his brother Abel out of jealousy Claudius compares his act of murder to that of Cain's, as he murdered his brother, old Hamlet, with the intention of stealing the throne and becoming king of Denmark, as well as taking Gertrude to be his wife. In saying this, Claudius is in a way admitting that he was jealous of all that King Hamlet had, so he murdered him for his own selfish gain.

What if this cursèd hand Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood? Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens To wash it white as snow?

I chose an image of bloody hands because Claudius admits that his hands are still covered in blood and in that, essentially admits that he fully understands how terrible his sin was. Blood is a symbol of guilt, and the guilt he feels for murdering his brother will not go away or "wash off his hands". This guilt he feels also stems from the consequences that he knows he will face in the afterlife for committing such a sin. He turns to God in hopes that he can be freed from this, and in a way expects God to free him of this guilt, as shown when he says "Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens to wash it white as snow?" (3.3.46-47)

Pray can I not. Though inclination be as sharp as will

I chose this image because Claudius is attempting to pray and ask God for forgiveness but he knows he cannot after he committed such a terrible sin and feels only little remorse. He contemplates praying. Here, the theme of religion is present as he turns to God to relieve him of his sins. Claudius says "And what’s in prayer but this twofold force, To be forestallèd ere we come to fall Or pardoned being down?" (3.3.49-50) showing that he believes praying should bring forgiveness even when one has sinned.

O bosom black as death!

He accepts his actions. He knows what he has done is wrong but for some reason that even he cannot understand, he is unable to feel full regret. This also directly correlates with the theme of corruption, as he is essentially corrupted.

What then? What rests? Try what repentance can. What can it not?

I chose a picture of a man who is very confused because in this soliloquy, it is seen how confused Claudius is with himself. He genuinely wants to feel remorse for what he did but he does not. He wants to be forgiven for his sin so that he can clear his conscience and free himself, but he is still reaping the benefits of his brothers murder. He is the king of Denmark and is married to the queen, and he is not willing to give these things up. He feels guilty, but he cannot understand why he doesn't have regret.

Help, angels. Make assay

At this point in his soliloquy Claudius has become desperate because he wants to clear his conscience and be free of his sin, however he knows that's not possible, for he does not feel fully guilty. He directly begs angels in heaven to help him truly feel sorry for what he has done so that he can pray and be forgiven. **Claudius is showing vulnerability.