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Claudius, the Bad Guy in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

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Claudius the Bad Guy in Hamlet  

    This essay will thoroughly delineate the character of King Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, show his place in the drama, and interpret his character -- with the assistance of literary critics.


Philip Burton in “Hamlet” discusses Claudius’ sudden rise to the Danish throne upon the death of King Hamlet I:


The fact that Claudius has become king is not really surprising. Only late in the play does Hamlet complain that his uncle had "popped in between the election and my hopes." The country had been in a nervous state expecting an invasion by young Fortinbras, at the head of a lawless band of adventurers, in revenge for his father’s death at the hands of King Hamlet. A strong new king was immediately needed; the election of Claudius, particularly in the absence of Hamlet, was inevitable. What is more, it was immediately justified, because Claudius manages to dispel the threat of invasion by appealing to the King of Norway to curb his nephew, Fortinbras; the ambitious young soldier was the more ready to cancel the projected invasion because the object of his revenge, Hamlet’s father, was now dead, and in return he received free passage through Denmark to fight against Poland (Burton).


The drama opens after Hamlet has just returned from Wittenberg, England, where he has been a student. What brought him home was the news of his father’s death and his uncle’s accession to the throne of Denmark. Hamlet has also learned the disturbing news of the new king’s “o’erhasty marriage” to Hamlet I’s wife less than two month’s after the funeral. It would seem initially that Gertrude, rather than Claudius, is to blame for the protagonist’s “violent emotions” (Smith 80); thus ...

... middle of paper ...


Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets. London : George Bell and Sons, 1904. p. 342-368.


Faucit, Helena (Lady Martin). On Some of Shakespeare's Female Characters. 6th ed. London:

William Blackwood and Sons, 1899.


Jorgensen, Paul A. “Hamlet.” William Shakespeare: the Tragedies. Boston: Twayne Publ., 1985. N. pag.


Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996.


Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. No line nos.


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