Claudius's final speech in the "prayer scene" of "Hamlet" reveals what irony?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Claudius' final speech in Act III Scene III is as follows:

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


The main ironies in this scene come earlier, actually (Hamlet can't kill Claudius because he'd send him to heaven, Claudius and Hamlet have sort of changed positions as good guy/bad guy, etc.). The split here between words and thoughts express a specific and bitter irony: he is praying, but he knows he doesn't mean it. Therefore, even though he was doing the right thing and trying to ask forgiveness, Hamlet was wrong. Killing him wouldn't have sent Claudius to heaven.



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