The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1674 Monday, 2 July 2001
Date: Sunday, 1 Jul 2001 02:47:55 EDT
Subject: All may be well.
Claudius, after beating himself to spiritual death, closes his soliloquy
(Act III, Scene III) on a note of hope (All may be well). What gave him
reason to hope?
He opens the soliloquy by comparing his crime to that of Cain. He
explores the possibility of being granted mercy (that is, after all,
what mercy is for), and the utility of prayer. But he concludes that
mercy is not for him and that prayer will avail him nothing because he
still retains his crime-begotten gains (his crown and his queen), and
his ambition, which got him into his present predicament
He never suggests the possibility of giving up those gains in exchange
He acknowledges that he may very well get home safely "in this world"
because justice, which he wishes fervently to evade, is less than
perfect, but "there" , justice will look him in the eye and he will have
to "give in evidence" (did a lawyer write that line?)
He thinks that repentance might help him, but, he cannot repent.
All in all, he recognizes that he is in a very bad way, and calls for
angelic assistance (which contradicts his prior assertion that no prayer
could help him anyway.
Suddenly, his mood changes, and he feels that "all may (yet) be well".
What could have happened to have changed his appraisal of his boxed-in
position? In his very next line, he tells us that his thoughts are very
much on earth and will not go to heaven, so what does he mean by "all
may be well"?
What did the author intend to convey with that line?
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