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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 171

much later, he has contrived Hamlet's death in England, he has still no suspicion that he need not hope for happiness:

                          'till I know 'tis done,
Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun.

Nay, his very last words show that he goes to death unchanged:

Oh yet defend me, friends, I am but hurt [ = wounded],

he cries, although in half a minute he is dead. That his crime has failed, and that it could do nothing else, never once comes home to him. He thinks he can over-reach heaven. When he is praying for pardon, he is all the while perfectly determined to keep his crown; and he knows it. More -- it is one of the grimmest things in Shakespeare, but he puts such things so quietly that we are apt to miss them -- when the King is praying for pardon for his first murder he has just made his final arrangements for a second, the murder of Hamlet. But he does not allude to that fact in his prayer. If Hamlet had really wished to kill him at a moment that had no relish of salvation in it, he had no need to wait.1 So we are inclined to say; and yet it was not so. For this was the crisis for Claudius as well as Hamlet. He had better have died at once, before he had added to his guilt a share in the responsibility for all the woe and death that followed. And so, we may allow ourselves to say, here also Hamlet's indiscretion served him well. The power that shaped his end shaped the King's no less.

     For -- to return in conclusion to the action of the play -- in all that happens or is done we seem to apprehend some vaster power. We do not define

   1This also is quietly indicated. Hamlet spares the King, he says, because if the King is killed praying he will go to heaven. On Hamlet's departure, the King rises from his knees, and mutters:

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

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