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. But O, 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'offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’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. What then? What rests?
So what if my cursed hand is covered with my brother’s blood? Isn’t there enough rain in heaven to clean it as pure as snow? Isn’t God’s purpose to be merciful? Surely praying provides two things - to stop us from sinning and to bring us forgiveness when we have sinned. I’ll pray then because I’ve already committed my sin. But what kind of prayer can help me? 'Forgive me for murdering my brother?'
I won’t receive forgiveness for that. Besides, I still have all the rewards for committing this act. I’m now the king and I’ve married Gertrude. Can someone be pardoned and still keep the rewards they got for committing the crime?
Claudius talks about what happens among corrupt people and how they by-pass justice. Do you think Claudius feels this is right or wrong? Does he really want to be forgiven?
Claudius asks what else he can do and what there is left to do. He doesn’t seem to think there is anything else he can do to atone for his sins. Hamlet and Ophelia are often talked about as being ‘mad’ but are there any signs Claudius might be mad?
(Text edited for rehearsals by Simon Godwin)