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Ministry of Education.

Worksheet 4: Claudius - guilty or not guilty, m'lud?

Claudius is the source of the corruption in the play and Act 3 scene 3 is a pivotal scene in assessing whether we feel he is truly corrupt.

  1. Why does he mistrust Hamlet?
  2. How does he plan to deal with him?
  3. "Never alone / Did the King sigh but with a general groan" - what is the meaning of this line? How might this be ironic in the light of the effect of his crime upon Elsinore?
  4. Why does his crime have the "primal eldest curse upon't"?
  5. What might he mean when he says that he stands "in pause"?
  6. What reasons does he give for wanting to "look up" and pray?
  7. Why is he unable to pray, however?
  8. Where and how do questions and exclamations convey his mood?
  9. What effect does the imagery have at the end of his speech?
  10. Claudius's final couplet: what might Shakespeare be suggesting about the true nature of Claudius' character?

Extension: why might this speech have overtones of Macbeth's murder of Duncan?

Published on: 08 Dec 2010