Claudius in Hamlet “Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.” - Nicolo Machiavelli, from The Prince Italian political theorist Nicolo Machiavelli speculated that the strongest leaders are ones who are able to carefully balance appearances to his benefit, strategically using them to strengthen his regime. If Machiavelli was indeed correct, then Claudius, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, starts off as an ideal Machiavellian prince. However, as the play develops, Claudius’ loses his previously immovable command and composure, largely due to his concern over the potential threat posed by his stepson, Hamlet.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare developed a character, an antagonist, which produces twists and turns throughout the play. Even though in the beginning of the play, Claudius seemed to be an intelligent man, who has excellent speaking skills that helped him take the leadership of his deceased brother’s kingdom, and marry his wife. But, combining both his intelligence and excellent speaking skills, shows Claudius’s true nature: an astute, lustful conspirator. Through the different settings and situations, Claudius’s character contributes to the overall understanding of the play through psychological, biblical and philosophical methods.
King Hamlet's "foul and most unnatural murder" (Shakespeare I.v.31) tops Claudius' list of egregious sins. Using his mastery of manipulation, Claudius, the “incestuous” and “adulterate beast” managed to win the honorable queen Gertrude by using the “shameful lust [of her] will” (I.v.49…52-53). Claudius had to use verbal trickery to influence Gertrude into switching husbands that quickly after her husband’s death, which shows his true skill: lying convincingly. Claudius manages to validate his ascent to the throne by diverting attention away from him and to the attack by the young Fortinbras of Norway (I.ii.1-38). The most horrible of Claudius’ crimes is his lack of emotion over his traitorous fratricide. Claudius does not even give his late brother a word of respect; instead the focus is upon the future of Denmark. Claudius goes so far as to chastise Hamlet for his “unmanly grief” (I.ii.98), emphasizing that for the benefit of Denmark; all those affected by the death of King Hamlet should keep a strong façade. Later in Hamlet, Claudius begins to openly express his remorse and recognizes the immorality of his actions when he says himself: “O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven;/ It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, / A brother’s murder. Pray cannot I” (III.iii.40-42). He expresses his grief and sin in private but keeps a façade in front of the rest of the kingdom. Claudius is
2. Both Claudius and Hamlet are similar in many ways. They both have trouble taking action and are very indecisive. This can be seen when Claudius wants to pray and repent for his sins but has trouble praying because he does not want to give up everything that he has gained from that sin. He refuses to let everyone know that it was in fact him that killed the king and deal with the consequences that would follow, like him losing the power and respect he gained from being king.
Claudius is a relatively straightforward villain. As opposed to Edmund, he is the clear primary villain in his play, and fits the role of a stereotypical villain well- shrewd, lustful and sinister. He is a strategist who is addicted to gaining power. The nature of his villainy focuses around deception and bending others to do his will. Although he is not as dynamic as Edmund, Claudius is not a static character either. Claudius, initially, is not seen as very villainous at all. He not only appears intelligent and capable, but also compassionate. His (albeit fake) concern for Hamlet is not discovered until later, and he even gives speeches to the court and to Denmark addressing political issues like any good ruler would. This, however, all supports the reality of his deceit and cunning because he realizes that civilians could rebel during governmental unrest, and so by feigning concern he could achieve his ultimate goal of absolute power. By juxtaposing his new power and the people’s loss (when king Hamlet dies), Claudius creates a sense of national solidarity. The reason he is such a successful villain is becaus...
Claudius is the antagonist in this play, in easier words, the villain. He is the brother of the now dead King of Denmark, Hamlet. Claudius murders his brother and does it in a way that it seems as though death had claimed him in a natural way. He is then quick to marry Queen Gertrude, as a favor to the state of Denmark. Claudius throughout the play is calculating, and will do anything to stay in power: including murdering the son of his current wife, his nephew, Hamlet. During the play, Hamlet becomes a threat to the crown and power in his possession. To overcome this, Claudius confides in Laertes that Hamlet was the cause of Polonius’s death. In an act of revenge Laertes plans his act “I will do ‘t. And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword. I bought an unction of a mounteback, so mortal that, but a dip a knife in it, where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare, collected from all simples that have virtue under the moon, can save the thing from death that is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point with this contagion, that if I gall him slightly it may be death” (4.7.139-148). This works wonderfully in Claudius’s favor. With Laertes plotting to avenge his father, Claudius won’t have to get his hands dirty again, and...
Another way that Hamlet and Claudius were foils to each other was concerning the throne and the essence of Hamlet’s character. Hamlet was a very straight forward man. He saw the worth of the crown to be less than the revenge of his father. Hamlet had no interest whatsoever in being the next King and was more worried about his passed father, corrupt uncle, and remorseless mother. In the meanwhile, Claudius was so obsessed with the thought of power
Hamlet 's deliberation in murdering Claudius results from the contradictory traits that quarrel within him. Henry MacKenzie notes contrasts in Hamlet 's personality, such as how he possesses the "strongest purposes of revenge" but is "irresolute and inactive," or how he holds the "gloom of the deepest melancholy" but is simultaneously "gay and jocular" (MacKenzie 150). This array of traits that
[4, 1, 40] These idiosyncrasies are observed in the play when Claudius becomes concerned he will lose power as King and the likelihood Hamlet will murder him to avenge his father’s death. This is apparent when Gertrude informs Claudius that Hamlet is, “Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend which is mightier”. [4,1,6] With these thoughts daunting Claudius, he approaches Laertes in a Machiavellian manner to convince him to murder Hamlet, for he knows Laertes is angry, deranged and “Vows to the blackest devil” [4,5,131] after the death of his father. In doing so, Claudius has the intent to use Machiavellian powers over Laertes who is currently mentally unstable, with the objective being that Laertes will murder Hamlet to avenge his own father’s (Polonius) death. Claudius is able to successfully persuade Laertes in a manipulative speech, especially with his snide comment, “Not that I think you did not love your father, but that I know love is begun by time, and that I see a passage of proof.” [4,7,96] Claudius’ malicious comment indicates he is using his power over Laertes, so that the burden and repercussions do not rest on him, so that he may retain his authority as King. By utilizing his power over Laertes, Claudius is successful, as Hamlet is slain, however, as reflected in Claudius’
... of treachery and, luckily, Hamlet realizes the king’s subterfuge, crushing the plot and flipping it back on him. Claudius remains steadfast in his efforts to remove Hamlet, going so far as to set up a false fencing competition and foolishly pushing the poisoned wine without considering the suspiciousness of the action. In his short-sighted and rash decision making, Claudius shows that he allows his inflated sense of regality and self-worth to cloud his judgment.