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Hamlet

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Claudius States His Guilt

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Before sending Ophelia into Hamlet’s path, Polonius remarks that:

“With devotion's visage
And pious action we do sugar o'er
The devil himself”

In an aside, Claudius responds:

“O, 'tis too true!
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot's cheek, beautied with plastering art,
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
O heavy burden!”

What is the key significance of this statement from Claudius?

A

It illustrates that Claudius feels crushing guilt over his marriage to Gertrude and recognizes the perversity of their union.

B

It is the first acknowledgement of guilt from Claudius in the play, and therefore the first validation of the ghost’s tale for the audience.

C

It is an admission of guilt that foreshadows a heartfelt apology to Hamlet for murdering his father and usurping the throne of Denmark.

D

It sheds a more sympathetic light on Claudius, making him a more relatable and less threatening character.

E

It initiates a sudden turnaround from Claudius in which he confesses his crimes and offers himself up for the consequences.