Essay Hamlet: the Theme of Having a Clear Conscience

753 Words Oct 15th, 1999 4 Pages
Hamlet: The Theme of Having A Clear Conscience

The most important line in Hamlet is, "The play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." (II, ii, 617). In the play, the issue of a clear conscience forms a key motif. When the conscience of the characters appears, it does so as a result of some action; as in the case of the aforementioned line, which follows Hamlet's conversation with the player. This line is of particular significance because it ties action and its effect on the conscience of the characters. The nature of Hamlet is conscience, and action plays an important role in creating the development of the plot.

No where is this development seen clearer than with Hamlet. The Prince's development comes as a
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In the soliloquy to end the act (whereupon the most important line is derived), Hamlet questions his passion for the plot he has planned, and his conversation has clearly affected this ambivlance. However, after mulling over his passion- or lack thereof-towards his plot, Hamlet ends the soliloquy determined to carry out the play. Hamlet is questioning his allegiance to the "pact" he made with his father in Act I, but by the end of the soliloquy, he has a clearer conscience and knows what action he is to take.

Claudius is prompted by the Murder of Gonzago to do penance for his sins. He does this to absolve himself of his guilty conscience, and it is the first time we see the king show any penitence towards the sins he committed, and it offers a different perspective towards Claudius. Although he is a man who is crafty and wicked in the play, and his actions following this confessional do little to offer anything to the contrary, it is possible to say that the penance is the action which follows a conscience mulling action by the king. At the beginning of Act III, Claudius states, "How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience." (III, i, 49-50). The remark is made in response to a statement by
Polonius speaking of "sugaring the devil", which Claudius alludes to himself.
By doing this, the king's conscience is brought up because this is the first time he confesses to

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