It hath the primal eldest curse upon it, A brother’s murder.

It’s probably not an accident that the first murder in the Bible is a brother’s killing a brother. While definitely not a good idea, fratricide doesn’t have the stamp of horror that murdering your mother or father or child might have. In a way, it’s primal in the sense of it going down deep – that we are perhaps, at our core, fundamentally at odds with our siblings – that murdering that person with whom you’re compelled to share so much – might just come naturally.

But this is really a Biblical reference, not just “primal” – it’s the “primal eldest” – that is Cain. Cain killed Abel…and presumably Claudius is the younger brother (by virtue of not having been King at first) so here the Danish Cain gets killed by Danish Abel.

It’s funny, too, that the offense has a curse upon it. Not, I don’t know, the man himself? It’s like Claudius is disassociating himself from his crime. It’s his offense that has the primal eldest curse upon’t. He didn’t do it so much as he’s in possession of the things that did. He doesn’t say, “I am rank. I did a terrible thing. I really screwed up and now I feel guilty.”

No, he does not. This is as close to a confession as he gets until the end of the speech – when he says, “I did the murder.” Of course, even in that context the sentence structure is such that the murder is an afterthought. It’s just a description of the things he got (i.e. he got them because he did the murder.) It all feels as though Claudius just can’t take responsibility for his own actions, even in his confession.


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