What does- it was almost a prayer mean? Does it mean that something you said was a sincere wish, when someone forgives themselves, when someone does good things, are those ways to pray too?
train gray 450What does- it was almost a prayer mean?

The best example is in a scene from Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Hamlet's father, the King, was murdered by his uncle Claudius. Then Claudius married Hamlet's mother. That way, he became King. It is a grievous sin to kill your brother and then marry the widow!

In Act 3, Scene 3, Claudius is alone on stage. He feels horribly guilty.

Here is his speech in contemporary English (edited to make it shorter)

Claudius: Oh, my crime stinks to high heaven, just like the first murder in the Bible, when Cain killed his brother Abel. I cannot pray, even though I have the desire and determination.

So what if my guilty hands are covered with my brother’s blood? Isn’t there enough rain from a forgiving heaven to wash them white as snow? What’s the point of mercy if not to correct wrongdoing?

And what’s the point of prayers if not these two things: to stop us from committing a sin in the first place, or to pardon us afterwards? So I’ll cheer up and look to heaven even though I’ve already committed a grave sin. But what form of prayer will serve my purpose – “God, forgive me for my foul murder”? That can’t work, since I still have all the things I gained from committing the murder: the crown, the power, and the queen. Can you be pardoned and still keep all the stuff you stole? In today’s corrupt world, rich people break the laws, often using the spoils from their crimes to bribe the justice system. But not so in Heaven.

In Heaven, no deception is allowed. There, our actions are in plain view for all to see, and we are compelled to come face to face with our offenses and to give evidence against ourselves. What else is there for me to do? I can try repentance. Can’t it fix everything? But it’s worthless if I can’t bring myself to repent. Oh, what a horrible state I’m in. My soul is like a bird caught in a trap – the more it struggles to get free, the more it becomes entangled. Help me pray, angels. I must try. Bend, you stubborn knees. And you my hardened heart, become as soft as a newborn baby’s.

Claudius knells to pray for forgiveness.

Hamlet comes in and sees an opportunity for revenge - he will kill Claudius with his sword:

Hamlet [Speaking to himself; Claudius is unaware of his presence]
Now’s my chance. Here he is praying, I’ll just kill him right now. [He draws his sword.] But then he would go to heaven – and that would be my revenge? Wait a minute. I need to think this through. This villain kills my father, and for that, I – the only one who can get justice – send him to heaven. That’s murder for hire, not revenge. My father died while living it up, before he had a chance to confess his sins and be absolved of them.

So, would I get revenge by killing Claudius just after he has confessed and been forgiven for his sins, allowing him a free passage to heaven? No!

[He replaces his sword back in its sheath.]
Not now, my sword. You must wait for a wicked occasion when Claudius is passed out drunk, behaving violently, having incestuous sex with my mother, gambling, swearing, or doing anything which has not the slightest hint of good moral behavior. Then I’ll kill him, and his feet will point toward heaven as he descends to a hell which is just as black as his soul.

[Hamlet sneaks off.]

But then is a great ironic moment. Claudius gets up and says:

I mouth the words, but without any real feeling of repentance, this prayer will never reach heaven.

Now Claudius' prayer is "almost a prayer". He says the words of the prayer, but is not sincere in his heart about them.


"Almost a prayer" is not an expression. It is a phrase written by someone. Its meaning seems to be literal, that whatever it was approximated a supplication to a deity.

 AlpheccaStars's reply was promoted to an answer.