Claudius' Speech Essay examples

Claudius' Speech Essay examples

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William Shakespeare’s Hamlet revolves around Hamlet’s quest to avenge his father’s murder. Claudius’ first speech as King at the beginning of Scene 2, Act 1 introduces the themes of hierarchy, incest and appearance versus reality and plays the crucial role of revealing Claudius’ character as part of the exposition. The audience is left skeptical after Horatio’s questioning of King Hamlet’s ghost in the first scene of the play. By placing Claudius’ pompous speech immediately after the frightening appearance of Hamlet’s ghost, Shakespeare contrasts the mournful atmosphere in Denmark to the fanfare at the palace and makes a statement about Claudius’ hypocrisy. Through diction, doubling and figurative language, Shakespeare reveals Claudius to be a self centered, hypocritical, manipulative and commanding politician.

Claudius begins his speech with an acknowledgement of Hamlet’s death and his own marriage to Gertrude. Claudius claims that the “green” memory of his “dear brother’s death” “befitted” Denmark to contract into “one brow of woe” (1.2). Despite Claudius’ affectionate reference to Hamlet, his hypocrisy is transparent. The colour imagery reveals the freshness of Hamlet’s death. The metaphor used suggests the kingdom is expected to unite and share the grief over its loss but the diction in “befitted” hints Claudius disapproval of expected mourning rites, causing the audience to doubt his sincerity. Furthermore, Claudius adds that “discretion fought with nature” causing him to think of Hamlet together with a “remembrance of [himself]” (1.2). The metaphorical conflict between “discretion” and “nature” contrasts Claudius’ hasty marriage to the expected mourning after Hamlet’s death. Moreover, in Claudius’ statement, the dependen...


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...ns his messengers they had “no further personal power to business with the King” than his articles allowed (1.2). This limitation reveals Claudius’ rigid authoritativeness. Thus, Claudius’ flamboyant use of language and his diplomatic foreign policy reveal his strong leadership qualities.

Claudius’ first speech effectively reveals his character to the audience. Shakespeare’s use of diction and doubling suggests Claudius’ façade conceals his true intentions. Claudius’ artful yet manipulative use of language and his diplomatic foreign policy, prove him to be a commanding politician. This speech sets the stage for the rising action of the play. It plays a major role in revealing plot elements key to an understanding of the play and enables the audience to make an impression of Claudius and decide for themselves his possible role in King Hamlet’s death.

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