O, My offense is rank…
This is Claudius’ first soliloquy. The soliloquy appears just before Claudius makes the final preparations to send Hamlet to England. When Claudius is left alone he begins the soliloquy. Hamlet, then on his way to see his mother finds Claudius praying and beginns “now might I do it” soliloquy. The soliloquy follows the “mouse trap” showing how profoundly the soliloquy has affected Claudius.
Here, light is shed on Claudius’ essential moral nature. He shows that he is authentically remorseful for his offense. However, we find that he is caught between two poles and he cannot decide which one to go to. Either he “retains the offense” or he gives up his “crown” his “ambition” and his “queen.” The devil has “limed his soul” and made his “bosom black as death” but in spite of this he is in such a desperate situation that he gets down on his knees and begs forgiveness anyway. First, however, it is interesting to note that he makes a preliminary and ironic prayer, before he actually gets down on his knees. “But O, what form of prayer Can serve my turn? “Forgive me my foul murder?” He finds that it has no effect and continues with the explanation . This shows how hesitant and confused he is about his predicament. It is also important to note Claudius’ objective approach to his problem. He is not egotistical but self-critical: “My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent.” “May one be pardoned and retain th’offence.” This self-critical and analytical approach characterizes Claudius as a skillful and judicious ruler.
The judiciousness is further developed through the smooth rythm. It is written mostly in flawless iambic pentameter. Shakespeare often used the iambic pentameter for the noble characters in his play. The smooth rythm shows how Claudius’ thoughts are organised despite his vexed state of mind. The notable frugal usage of hypens and exclamation marks compared to Hamlet’s disjointed soliloquies develops the disparity between the two. Claudius is seen as an older and wiser person who has the ability to maintain a sense of composure and rationality under pressure.
The imagery and allusions can be divided up into two main parts. There is the legal and religious imagery. Under legal we can place “business, justice, law, corrupt, action, evidence, guilded hand, state, and by” Claudius’ soliloquy is the most Christian passage in Hamlet. It is this because of the profusion of biblical allusions and imagery.
“Primal, eldest curse”, “heaven”, Rain (image of mercy), “mercy”, “prayer” “offense” “pardoned” “above” “soul” and “angels.” These two types of images are neatly interwoven to show how divine justice is ultimate and infallible.
It is because of this precise and effective imagery that the theme of guilt and rankness is brought out so effectively.O my offense is rank beginns this soliloquy. This evokes from the beginning the “unweeded garden that grows to seed”, “the rotteness in the state of Denmark,” and the Brutality of Pyrrhus. The religious theme is brought to light because of Claudius’ conflict with it. He finds himself planning yet another murder while he tries desperately to repent for his sins. In the forehead of his faults he has Hamlet’s murder planned for him as he has sent him to England. This is his impossible “double business” to come into terms with his religious conflict and to assert his position.