Hamlet

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 3 Scene 3

page Act 3 Scene 3 Page 2

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ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN

We will haste us.

ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN

We’ll hurry.
Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit.
Enter POLONIUS
POLONIUS enters.

POLONIUS

My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet.
Behind the arras I’ll convey myself
30To hear the process. I’ll warrant she’ll tax him home.
And, as you said (and wisely was it said)
'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother—
Since nature makes them partial—should o'erhear
The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege.
35I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed
And tell you what I know.

POLONIUS

My lord, Hamlet’s going to his mother’s room. I’ll hide behind the tapestry to hear what they say. I bet she’ll chew him out. And as you said (and you said it wisely), it’s good to have someone other than a mother listening in on them, since she can be too partial to him. Goodbye, my lord. I’ll stop by before you go to bed, and tell you what I’ve heard.

CLAUDIUS

    Thanks, dear my lord.

CLAUDIUS

Thanks, my dear lord.
Exit POLONIUS
POLONIUS exits.
Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven.
It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,
A brother’s murder. Pray can I not.
40Though 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 cursèd hand
45Were 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,
50To be forestallèd ere we come to fall
Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up.
My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder”?
Oh, my crime is so rotten it stinks all the way to heaven. It has the mark of

Cain

In the Bible, Cain was the first murderer, killing his brother in Genesis 4:10-12.

Cain
on it, a brother’s murder. I can’t pray, though I want to desperately. My guilt is stronger even than my intentions. And like a person with two opposite things to do at once, I stand paralyzed and neglect them both. So what if this cursed hand of mine is coated with my brother’s blood? Isn’t there enough rain in heaven to wash it clean as snow? Isn’t that what God’s mercy is for? And doesn’t prayer serve these two purposes—to keep us from sinning and to bring us forgiveness when we have sinned? So I’ll pray. I’ve already committed my sin. But, oh, what kind of prayer is there for me? “Dear Lord, forgive me for my horrible murder”?