A Short Analysis of Claudius’ ‘My offence is rank, it smells to heaven’ soliloquy

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Hamlet is not the only character in Shakespeare’s play who offers us a soliloquy. Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and the murderer of Hamlet’s father (Claudius’ own brother), also gives us a detailed insight into his thoughts, for the first time, in this private moment as he goes to pray in Act III Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s play. ‘O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven’ definitively confirms Claudius’ guilt for the first time in Hamlet.

For this reason, among several others, it’s worth stopping to analyse ‘O, my offence is rank’ in terms of its language and meaning. We’ll offer an analysis by summarising the soliloquy line-by-line, glossing any words that require it.

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