Claudius as Evil in Hamlet by William Shakespeare Essay

Claudius as Evil in Hamlet by William Shakespeare Essay

Length: 992 words (2.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Strong Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Claudius as Evil in Hamlet by William Shakespeare


The abstract concept of evil has vastly transformed throughout human history, ranging for the supernatural and mystical to the very humans amongst whom we live. In modern times, evil has become an entirely ambiguous term. Who is evil? What is evil? Men like Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein have been garnered with the term ‘evil’ for their atrocities against fellow humans. Now it seems evil has a solely human significance; when a person violates the individual rights of others on a massive scale, he/she is evil. In Shakespeare’s time – the Elizabethan era – evil had a similar, but somewhat altered connotation in the human mind. Evil was an entity that violated the English Christian monarchial tradition. Therefore, a man such as Claudius, from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, a cold-blooded murderer and a ruthless manipulator, who uses “rank” deeds to usurp the thrown is in direct violation with the Elizabethan societal norms, and hence he is an evil character.

     In the Elizabethan era, the royal crown was viewed as divinely touched and hence any action against the crown was an action against God. Claudius dismisses God’s right to control the crown by committing a “murder most foul” (I.v.27), yet he concedes that “there’s such divinity doth hedge a king” (IV.v.121). Claudius admits that God influences the monarchy and yet he chooses to violate the divine monarchial progression. Hamlet recognizes Claudius’ evil nature beyond simply the murder of his father; Hamlet sees that Claudius is corrupting all of Denmark. Claudius’ reign is compared to “an unweeded garden/That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature/Possess it merely” (I.ii.135-7), his influence causing the destruction of a previously beautiful environment. Claudius’ infectious evil must be eliminated, and Hamlet feels he is the only man who can do anything; he pulls out all the stops and in the end accomplishes his goal.

     King Hamlet’s “foul and most unnatural murder” (I.v.25) tops Claudius’ list of egregious sins, but most of his offenses are psychological rather than physical. Using his mastery of manipulation, Claudius, the “incestuous” and “adulterate beast” managed to win “to his shameful lust the will” of the virtuous queen, Gertrude (I.v.42-6). Gertrude could not be persuaded to switch husbands without a little verbal tricker...


... middle of paper ...


...er it be through direct divine action or controlled action of another; hence, Hamlet crusades against Claudius and eventually triumphs. A trail of bodies lines Hamlet’s path towards vengeance, but Claudius is revealed, the “yet unknowing world” is told:

               How these things came about…
               Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts;
               Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause;
               And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
               Fall’n on th’ inventors’ heads.
                                   (V.ii.359-64)
          
Claudius’ true nature is exposed; his treachery and heresy is fully recounted, and presumably he is sentenced to eternal damnation for his moral infractions. God’s will prevails in a fundamentally Christian tale of murder in the name of self-interest and revenge in the name of justice and morality.

Works Cited:

Joseph, Bertram. “The Theme.” Conscience and the King. London: Chatto & Windus, Ltd., 1953. 130-51.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Cyrus Hoy. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.

Spencer, Theodore. “Hamlet and the Nature of Reality.” Journal of English Literary History (December, 1938): 253-77.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

William Shakespeare 's Hamlet - Claudius Essay

- Claudius Driving Story-line “Rightly to be great/ Is not to stir without great argument, But greatly to find quarrel in a straw/ When honour 's at the stake”- Hamlet, Hamlet Hamlet, a play filled with action, words, revenge, recognition, focus and hate. Even though we may see the play Hamlet as a story about Hamlet himself, some may also argue it is a play about Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius. Taking into consideration the aspects that make a character a protagonist, it is shown that Hamlet may not be who we thought he was....   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet]

Strong Essays
1569 words (4.5 pages)

Claudius as Evil in Hamlet by William Shakespeare Essay

- Claudius as Evil in Hamlet by William Shakespeare The abstract concept of evil has vastly transformed throughout human history, ranging for the supernatural and mystical to the very humans amongst whom we live. In modern times, evil has become an entirely ambiguous term. Who is evil. What is evil. Men like Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein have been garnered with the term ‘evil’ for their atrocities against fellow humans. Now it seems evil has a solely human significance; when a person violates the individual rights of others on a massive scale, he/she is evil....   [tags: William Shakespeare Hamlet Essays]

Strong Essays
992 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on William Shakespeare 's Hamlet : King Claudius

- The book Hamlet focuses on Prince Hamlet who is depressed. He was told to go home to Denmark from his school in Germany to be present at his father 's funeral but was shocked to find his mother Gertrude already remarried to his Uncle Claudius, the dead king 's brother. To Hamlet, the marriage is "foul incest." Worse still, Claudius has had himself crowned King despite the fact that Hamlet was his father 's heir to the throne. Various major characters such as Ophelia, King Claudius, Polonius, Prince Hamlet, Laertes, Horatio, and Gertrude, Ghost of Hamlet’s father, Fortinbras, Yorick, Guildenstern, and Rosencrants featured in the book but in this essay, I would be critically analyzing just on...   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Gertrude]

Strong Essays
995 words (2.8 pages)

Essay on William Shakespeare 's Hamlet - King Claudius

- Throughout the story of Hamlet, some stayed true to themselves whereas many did not. When someone is true to himself or herself that’s part of their personality. Nobody wants to have someone around that is fake to themselves and those around them. The point is, those that are true to themselves gain the most respect from their peers. Also, everyone wants somebody around that is respectful to themselves. In the story of Hamlet, King Claudius is his true self throughout the entire book. King Claudius has the personality of a King but he definitely wasn’t meant to be the King of Denmark....   [tags: Hamlet, Characters in Hamlet, Gertrude, Polonius]

Strong Essays
1290 words (3.7 pages)

King Claudius: The Villain In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Essay

- In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, revenge is a common theme throughout the play. Almost every major male character in the play, whether it is Prince Hamlet, Laertes, the Ghost of King Hamlet, or King Fortinbras of Norway, is acting with purpose to avenge a death. The obvious exception to this trend in the play is Claudius, King of Denmark and brother of King Hamlet. Instead of possessing a noble or vengeful purpose throughout the play, Claudius is instead motivated by more evil qualities like his greed and deceptive natures....   [tags: Hamlet Essays]

Strong Essays
684 words (2 pages)

Essay on Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

- Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet Ans. 'Hamlet, Prince of Denmark' is perhaps Shakespeare's best tragedy. It was written between the years, 1600-1601. Hamlet's character in the play is one of introspection and reflection. He is a person who thinks too much before he acts and also expresses a lot of his feelings before actually doing something. All of Shakespeare's tragedies concerned people in high positions in a country and his fall would affect every one in the country too....   [tags: Papers]

Strong Essays
2007 words (5.7 pages)

King Claudius in William Shakespeare´s Hamlet Essay

- King Claudius William Shakespeare brought to life an interesting character in King Claudius. On one side you see a kind and affectionate man toward the Queen. Yet on the other side you see a character that Shakespeare would have you believe is truly diabolic and will kill to get what he wants. I believe Claudius is not the bad person that most critiques would have you believe; rather he was a man who loved his country deeply enough to kill his own brother King Hamlet for it. We enter King Claudius’s life with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of Hamlet’s friends and very quickly we see how the King shows his compassionate side....   [tags: Murder, Manipulation]

Strong Essays
1531 words (4.4 pages)

Shakespeare's Presentation Of Claudius In Hamlet Essay

- Shakespeare's Presentation Of Claudius In Hamlet 'Hamlet' opens with the death of Old King Hamlet, Father of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The new king, Claudius, brother of the previous king has married Gertrude, the dead man's widow and has taken the throne. Shakespeare presents Claudius as the plays 'damned smiley villain' although he does allow him some redeeming features; leading an audience to view him as a complex and contradictory figure within the play. After Old King Hamlet dies Claudius is crowned king of Denmark and talks to the people as though he has sympathy and is saddened by his brother's death 'and that it is us befitted to bear out hearts in gri...   [tags: William Shakespeare Tragedy of Hamlet]

Strong Essays
1666 words (4.8 pages)

Hamlet and Claudius’ Power Struggle Essay

- One main theme that arises in the Hamlet is the power struggle between Hamlet and Claudius. The main problem is between Hamlet and Claudius; they are in an ongoing battle throughout the play to see who will rise with the power of the throne. Claudius is the antagonist in the story and has multiple people under him that follow his every rule (Innes). He is a manipulative character who seeks revenge on Hamlet through other people he knows. On the other hand, Hamlet is the protagonist of the story, he is very unhappy after finding out the news of how his father had been killed (Innes)....   [tags: denmark, old hamlet, william shakespeare]

Strong Essays
1838 words (5.3 pages)

Character Analysis of Claudius from the Play Hamlet by Shakespeare Essay

- Character Analysis of Claudius from the Play Hamlet by Shakespeare In the play, "Hamlet", Shakespeare needed to devize an evil character, a villain that is ambitious, and has the ability to scheme to get what he wants. The character would also have to contain some good qualities, such as kindness and contriteness. These good qualities make the character seem more human and thus, more believable. Claudius is this character. Shakespeare uses Claudius in his revenge theme in this play. Without the acts of Claudius, this theme just would not be....   [tags: Hamlet William Shakespeare Plays Essays]

Strong Essays
1251 words (3.6 pages)