Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In Claudius’s soliloquy that starts, “O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;…” Claudius is trying to pray. He states that he cannot pray because “…I am still possess’d / Of those effects for which I did the murder,…” What three motivations does Claudius give for killing his brother?

The three motivations that Claudius gives for killing his brother are his desire to win the crown of Denmark, marry Gertrude, and satisfy his own ambition. Claudius may be wracked with guilt over murdering his brother, but he doesn't want to give up his ill-gotten gains. This explains why he doesn't seek forgiveness from God.

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Claudius openly admits the three motivations for murdering his brother, old King Hamlet: crown, queen, and ambition. But it's notable that he only does this when he thinks there's no one around. As it happens, Hamlet is watching him from a distance, wondering whether he should take advantage of Claudius's prostration as he prays and strike him dead. In the event, Hamlet refrains from killing Claudius for now. He's...

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