And what’s in prayer but this twofold force, To be forestalled ere we come to fall Or pardoned being down?

What’s interesting about this line is that it takes us back to the possibility of Claudius deciding not to murder his brother. It would seem to reference the idea that prayer might have prevented his crime. To be considering a reality in which the crime was prevented, is to express a kind of regret. To be thinking: “Maybe if I’d prayed BEFORE I murdered, I might not have murdered” – but, of course, the other face of this line is the wish for pardon after the fact.

The desire for pardon makes good sense for someone who is currently facing the circumstances of having committed a crime.
But to think, for a minute about forestalling it – preventing it – by calling his fratricide a fall. . .well, it gives some weight to this pardon he wants.

A lot of pardons are of the “I wish I didn’t have to endure the consequences” school, rather than the “I wish I hadn’t done it” school.
You see these sorts of pardons requested in schools round about grading time.


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