- 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
What is Christian prayer?
To pray is to enter into a two-way conversation with God, sometimes using words, sometimes in silent thought. Prayers are often requests, but may also be in praise of God, saying sorry or meditations. Traditionally, Christians have kneeled to pray, since kneeling before one's ruler was a sign of respect. See Big ideas: Prayer
This is why, when Claudius tries to pray in Act III scene iii, he tells himself:
Seeing him kneeling, Hamlet is well aware what Claudius is doing (or trying to do):
However, as Claudius knows only too well, it is not just the saying of words that is involved when praying; the words must be meant, and felt in the heart. When he first attempts to pray for forgiveness, Claudius tells himself:
But when he finds he cannot repent, he sadly comments:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.'
The Prayer Book
In sixteenth century England, English became the language of worship in churches, replacing Latin. A new book of prayers and services of worship, which simplified and translated the Latin services, was drawn up by Archbishop Cranmer. (For further detail, see Social/political context: Protestant versus Catholic).
This Book of Common Prayer was used in all church services at the time Shakespeare was writing. It is a prayer book of this sort which Polonius gives Ophelia to carry in Act III scene i:
That show of such an exercise may colour
In other words, reading a prayer book would give a reason for Ophelia to be walking alone and meditating. Hamlet certainly thinks this is what she is doing when he comments: ‘Nymph, in thy orisons/ Be all my sins remembered,' as ‘orisons' are prayers.
Hamlet » Prayer
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.