Claudius finds himself unable to pray because he is not willing to give up the spoils of his crimes: his crown, ambiton, his queen. We rightly judge Claudius for his lack of real remorse, but few leaders have reached their positions without some morally questionable decisions that elevated their status. Choose a leader from history and write a letter to him/her, outlining their "crimes"; say what would be required for real absolution.
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This is a great assignment. I think I'll use it when I teach Julius Caesar next fall and have the students choose one of the senators to write a letter to. The leader I would write to would probably be Henry VIII:
How many women are you willing to kill in your desire for a son? You've bedded four wives (lucky Anne of Cleves and Katherine Parr escaped that!) and several mistresses, and you've managed to produce one legitimate and one illegitimate son. Have you even had the thought that maybe there is something wrong with you?
You must beg God to forgive you. First, you must recognize that your daughters, especially Elizabeth, are your finest accomplishments. Perhaps your greatest sin is the effect your behavior has had on them. Mary will have a hysterical pregnancy, and Elizabeth will never marry because of the fear of losing her own rights. You owe them love and attention and the knowledge that they are worthy in themselves.
God save the king.
Chancellor, Fuhrer, Murderer of Millions;
You swept into Germany like a savior to the economy of the country and took the region by storm with your hatred and your mercilessness. You rose in the ranks and trained with you many men to execute your work, your mission, millions of innocent men, women, and children. While you hand may not have committed every murder, your soul will answer for every life taken and every hand you forced. You murdered 11 million people, six million of whom were Jews, five million of whom refused to support your cause. You tortured, you broke spirits, you extinguished faith.
There is no absolution for what was done. Your only hope would have been to pray that God have mercy on you because had you not so cowardly committed suicide not a soul on this Earth would have shown you mercy. Perhaps you are getting a taste of your own medicine in the furnace of Hades where you will forever feel the weight of what you have done.
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