What do Claudius' actions reveal about his character in Act III, scene 3 of Hamlet?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Claudius sends Hamlet to England as a precaution because he fears Hamlet’s madness. Claudius is not yet on to Hamlet’s plot of revenge, but he supposes that Hamlet might mean him harm. Claudius also shows signs of guilt in this scene. He compares his crime to the story of Cain and Abel. In this scene, Claudius prays more out of fear of eternal damnation than out of genuine guilt. It seems that Claudius is either not sincere in his prayers or he actually feels that he is not worthy of mercy. Whichever is the case, Claudius doesn’t think his prayers will be answered. This is ironic because Hamlet postpones killing Claudius since killing a man in prayer will send him to heaven.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.

Words without thoughts never to heaven go.