Why does Claudius make the statement “My words fly up but my thoughts remain below.


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This is because he knows he has sinned and really does not feel sorry for it. He prays to God but God knows what is in his heart. His words mean nothing.

Thake a look at some of Claudius's soliloquy,

But oh, what form of prayer

Can serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder”?

That cannot be, since I am still possessed

Of those effects for which I did the murder:

My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.

May one be pardoned and retain th' offense?

Claudius asks an eternal question. Can one be truly sorry yet retain what they have stolen. It is here that Claudius knows he is not truly repentant and that God is not fooled by his prayers.

Jewish Law provides an interesting insight into this question. When one becomes ritually impure through contact with a "creeping creature" (Heb: sheretz) one has to go to a ritual bath (mikveh) to purify oneself. The Talmud (Taanit 16a) points out that immersion in a mikveh while holding on to a source of impurity does not purify at all. You have to let go of the source of the problem before you can begin to set the problem right.

In Claudius' case, 'his crown, his own ambition and his queen' are what are making him spiritually impure. As long as he holds on to them, he will never be able to repent. In his case, since he's guilty of murder as well, which is something he can't let go of so easily (since he can't bring Hamlet, Sr. back to life), his repentance will not fully atone. For some sins, only death atones, provided the sinner has gone as far as he can with his own repentance (Yoma 86a).

I think this is a lesson we can all apply to ourselves with but a little thought.

Bob Rabinoff

Erev Yom Kippur 5773