Hamlet ~~ Act III Scene III
Claudius concludes that Hamlet is too dangerous to be allowed to remain in Denmark and employs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to assist with his removal to England. Polonius offers to observe Hamlet in his mother’s chambers and, upon his exit, we are treated to a lamenting regret from Claudius that is an insightful commentary on his crime. He wants forgiveness, wants to be able to continue free from guilt, but his crime lives on, attached to what he has gained from it. Is forgiveness and purification even within his grasp? Hamlet comes upon Claudius during his prayers and contemplates murder. His father had no time to confess his sins before his death, yet here is Claudius confessing his, a perfect time to kill him. But Hamlet decides to wait until he finds Claudius in the grip of sin and then he’ll despatch him to hell.
|La reine sans Hamlet (1895)
Edwin Austin Abbey
At least Claudius is not so malevolent as to try to bring about Hamlet’s death; at this point he is only prepared to banish him.
I hadn’t realized before how repulsive were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s sycophantic actions. They claim to be Hamlet’s friends, yet how quick they are to work against him.
What is becoming more clear to me in this play is the theme of thought vs. action (or perhaps inaction vs. action). Hamlet has been thinking and agonizing, perhaps overmuch, and bemoans his insufficient action, yet in this scene Claudius perhaps feels that his action (the murder of the king) was done with much force of will, yet little thought and is now regretting his precipitous behaviour. They are both experiencing guilt but from two different, and really opposite, causes.
I was a little confused at Hamlet’s reasoning for not revenging himself on Claudius; because Claudius was at prayer, he’d go to heaven, but if Hamlet could catch him sinning and murder him then, he’d go to hell. Is this more prevaricating by Hamlet? Or is it influenced by a Catholic understanding of faith?
|Claudius at prayer (1844)
source Wikimedia Commons
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