Ivory Hands

Tim Shamirzayev

English 20-1AP


Ivory Hands

Discuss the ideas developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the ways in which individuals struggle to restore honour and certainty to their lives.


When an individual in a position of power commits a heinous act of evil they will do all that is in their power to mask that flaw, but when their sins are uncovered by another, they will seek forgiveness through themselves and others, finally restoring what little honour and certainty they believed they once had. Blessed with beauty, enchantment, and an addicting nature like snow he was cursed with euphoria, greed, and lavish riches like ivory; Claudius. Like a drug, he would do anything to keep his honour and certainty; therefore, he would suffer without it, thus causing him to do anything for another dose of this all too intoxicating curse. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the restoration of honour and certainty is explored through the prideful, yet immensely pitiful King Claudius who has committed the Primal Eldest Curse by killing his brother to attain the throne; but at the cost of Hamlet being aware of his crimes, he can only pray to himself and others that his honour and certainty to rule be kept for as long as he lives.. Authority is earned through another’s perception of an honourable and certain individual. If they were to ever have their honour and certainty questioned, they will resort to the most desperate of ways to restore it, and keep it forever. Therefore, when honourable and certain leaders have such characteristics questioned, they are forced to either beg for forgiveness, or give up their place for the rightful person to claim it.

Reality is unforgiving, yet the king believes they are far superior to it, thus an attempt is often made to make half-hearted apologies or tell lies to restore their own honour and certainty. In the state of Denmark, an audience, with the king himself, gather to witness ‘The Murder of Gonzago’, a play arranged by Hamlet that very closely resembles the moment Claudius poured poison into his brother’s ear to claim his title as King of Denmark. Within time, Claudius fears his reign being alluded to in this all too familiar story, and stows away into a room to pray for redemption, saying:Pray can I not.Though inclination be as sharp as will, my stronger guilt defeats my strong intent…” (3.3, 2). Claudius is far too convinced that someone knows the truth of his rule, and this reignites a new fear within him that he thought to be suppressed. The audience is thusly exposed to Claudius for the very first time; not his facade, but the soul that he kept hidden away since the day he claimed his place of king. He fears the allusion of the play knows all too well of his sin. By a means of poison through the ear, his brother dropped lifeless, and a proud Claudius took the crown upon himself from the lifeless body that was once his brother. Claudius, realizing his sins, seeks to restore his honour and certainty through lies. Claudius tells himself that his actions are unforgivable, yet proceeds to pray as if his actions were forgivable. Truthfully, the only person that could possibly forgive his heinous acts is himself, and he knows this all too well. Pity is alive within every being, and when they commit a sin, they are always the first person to forgive themselves.Humans seek comfort within their skewed self-perception, because they know no one else will.They tell themselves they are fools for committing such sins, then proceed to reassure  that everything will be okay. They are addicted to the thought of reassurance, as it is a place of paradise for minds to wander to after a sin has been committed. Therefore, restoring honour and certainty within himself, giving strength to continue his rule as king.

Once an individual has restored honour and certainty within themselves , they must then struggle to find a way to regain the respect of others, as a leader is nothing without their people, thus they must pray now to their followers. Towards the end of the king’s plea, he decides to say one last prayer to Him to fully restore what he believes he has lost. “Then I’ll look up. My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer can serve my turn, ‘Forgive me my foul murder’?” (3.3, 2).Claudius breaks his word in this moments and decides to say a prayer of forgiveness despite the cardinal sin he committed. He has his doubts of the effectiveness of his plea, but he is committed to restoring his honour and certainty as king. Meaning Claudius’ countenance may be one of guilt and remorse for the sins he has committed. Individuals with great sin upon their hands will seek others for forgiveness, because when they cannot forgive themselves, they can only pray that others will. Desperate leaders are nothing more than honourless and uncertain beings without the respect of others, instilling a long forgotten fear that now resonates passionately in their heart.

A sinful and lavish lifestyle can have the harmful side effects of a state of psychosis and delirium towards your perception of what is and is not true, skewing the a self-perception that is vital in restoring honour and certainty, as an individual lacking understanding in how they are perceived, may never attain what they so desperately desire. We can see the symptoms of Claudius’ psychosis before ‘The Murder of Gonzago’ is played. We see it when Hamlet openly mourns for the loss of his father, and Claudius, with his immense arrogance, reassures Hamlet stating “’Tis unmanly grief. It shows a will most incorrect to heaven, A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, An understanding simple and unschooled. For what we know must be and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense, Why should we in our peevish opposition Take it to heart? Fie! ‘Tis a fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature…” (1.2, 4). Claudius understands that the loss of Hamlet’s father is difficult for him, but he continues to state that by overdoing his grief, he is committing a crime against Heaven itself, that his sadness is a sin against all elements in life. The irony within this statement is the foreshadowing of the sins Claudius commits on his own against all elements in life. Hamlet is yet to discover that his very own uncle has committed the Primal Eldest Curse. A curse alluding to the very first murder of Abel who was killed by his own brother.  He paints himself in this image of innocence, not believing himself a sinner. That is the hallucinogenic effect his lifestyle has given him. He sees not the truth, but an illusion that he made to keep his honour and certainty. His self-perception is shattered through his actions. Humans are guilty of this reality above all laws of nature. More often than not, we question whether we are speaking to a facade or the true reality of an individual. The reality is that the souls of humans are impure, and are never devoid of sin. To maintain honour and certainty, we mask these imperfections in a facade of imperfect apologies and pity. Illusion. This illusion makes it difficult to truly  restore honour and certainty within leaders, as their perception of their status and their souls are so skewered that is is nearly impossible to restore what was once lost, and that is the way humanity struggles to restore honour and certainty.

His hands were covered in a cursed ivory blood that he attempted to clean with an elegant snow. He never knew that the snow he washed his very hands with to remove sin only added to it, but they did make his hands beautiful, yet forever numb to anguish. Claudius was a king because of his people, and when he lost to the unknown playwright, he was nothing. It was that moment he lost his honour and certainty. He struggled to restore it for the longest time; first masking himself with the façade of fearlessness, then pleading to himself and the heavens that were the first to bestow him nobility. Humans fear what takes away their honour and certainty, because they, in an existential perspective, know they are nothing without it. They would beg for forgiveness and lie to themselves and others, as opposed to lose themselves. That is the addictive nature in which humans go to restore honour and certainty.

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