- Shakespeare, William
- 1564 - 1582: William Shakespeare's Stratford Beginnings
- 1582 - 1592: William Shakespeare's Marriage, Parenthood and Early Occupation
- 1592 - 1594: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 1
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 2
- 1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3
- 1611 - 1616: William Shakespeare - Back to Stratford
- Walpole, Horace
- Social / political context
- Religious / philosophical context
- The Theatre
- Act I
- Act II
- Act III
- Act IV
- Act V
The word grace is closely associated with mercy, since one of its most significant meanings is the undeserved mercy of God given to sinners. Because of their frail and sinful human natures, people cannot deserve to be forgiven or earn forgiveness in any way: it is to this which Hamlet refers when he says to Polonius in Act II scene ii:
‘Grace' also has a wider meaning, signifying the blessing or favour of God.
- For example, Horatio asks the Ghost in Act I scene i,
‘If there be any good thing to be done, /That may to thee do ease and grace to me.'
- Polonius, saying farewell to Laertes in Act I scene iii comments that
‘A double blessing is a double grace.'
- Laertes, vowing revenge in Act IV scene v, consigns
‘vows to the blackest devil, conscience and grace to the profoundest pit!'
‘Grace' also came to be used as the term for a prayer of thanks to God before a meal. Claudius uses it to mean both this and ‘respect and favour' when, in response to Polonius' remark: ‘My news shall be the fruit to that great meal',
The meaning is extended further to mean ‘an attractive human quality', as when Claudius says that the people would see Hamlet's offences (he uses the word ‘gyves' — literally ‘fetters', ‘shackles') as ‘graces' (‘noble acts').
It is also used as a polite address to a person of noble birth, so that (ironically, given his evil deeds) Claudius is addressed as ‘your grace' by Hamlet in Act V scene ii at the start of the fencing match:
For further detail see Big ideas: Forgiveness, mercy and grace
Hamlet » Grace
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