English IV Claudius in Hamlet In William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Claudius, the new King, is striving for absolute power and strength over everyone and would stop at nothing to get it. His actions seem to be overlooked by some of the other characters and their actions. Claudius’s actions resulted in many deaths. He ordered others to do all of his dirty work, he was selfish and thought only about how to gain more power, and he was a master manipulator.
His selfish ways led to the tragic ending of Hamlet. Claudius starts off in Hamlet by taking the key role of mourner as he is mourning the death of his brother.
This quickly shifts though as the ghost enters and says, “…that incestuous, that adulterate beast” (1. 5. 42). This is stating to the audience that Claudius has in fact done something that is frowned upon, and that it is just a matter of who knows about what happened and why. We soon learn exactly what he has done.
King Claudius has killed his very own brother and taken his brother’s wife as his own. This becomes clear when we hear about what “is rotten in the state of Denmark” and how he has taken the Queen with “the witchcraft of his wit” (1. 5. 47).
We soon learn that Claudius cannot be the one doing everything for himself. Hamlet knows that Claudius is the one who has killed his father and it soon becomes obvious that they both feel the need to kill each other before the truth comes out to everyone else. Claudius does many things that could very well make him a better person in Hamlet rather than the villain, but the one thing that makes him the villain is that Hamlet is right and Claudius is wrong. Claudius is a sneak who murdered and lied about the death of his own brother, and then went and mourned his brother’s death and acted as if he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Hamlet commits his murders in the open and suffers the pangs of his own conscience while Claudius subverts his conscience and refuses to ask for forgiveness because he doesn’t want to give up his wife or his power as King. Hamlet seeks contrition and rids himself of guilt before he dies; Claudius receives no absolution and seeks none. Claudius had a love for strength and power over his people like the love that he had for his wife or better yet his brother’s wife. He wasn’t going to attempt to be forgiven because he knew that once he did pray for forgiveness that he would lose everything that he had worked so hard for and that was being King.
The qualities that make Claudius a bad person are the same qualities that seem to make him a good King for the situation that they are in. Claudius is conniving. He covers up his actions with lies to make himself feel as if it never happened, and killing Hamlet would be the last string to cut before he would be free of the truth being known to everyone else. These are the characteristics of Claudius that makes him selfish. He does not think about how sad and hurt Gertrude may be that her son dies right after her previous husband or who cared about Hamlet.
He only thought about himself and what he needed to do in order to stay at the level of power that he had achieved through his selfish and evil ways. Shakespeare created his villains in a complex way. Claudius was manipulative enough to get what he wanted until the tables turned in the end. Hamlet was just as crazy as the King when it came to the actions that they did; the only reason that Hamlet was right was because he knew what he was getting into. Most of the other male characters is Hamlet were preoccupied with ideas of revenge, justice, and finding moral balance between themselves.
The old King prior to King Claudius supposedly was a great warrior while Claudius’s only way of manipulation was through is skillful language and making even the most twisted situations seem like a good idea for the people. Claudius is ultimately too crafty for his own good. This is especially evident as he basically states that he was glad that he wasn’t in the room with Hamlet when Hamlet found out about the death of his father while his wife, Gertrude, actually was in the room with Hamlet.
Claudius does not care about the well-being of Gertrude until someone makes note of it. It seems possible that Claudius married Gertrude as an act of sincerity, but it also seems more likely that he married the woman who used to be his sister-in-law after he killed his own brother as another act of manipulation in order to become the King rather than have the old King’s son, Hamlet, become the new King and have Claudius killed more than likely. His last act of manipulation happens in Act 5 scene 2 when Claudius instructs Laertes to harpen the sword when it was supposed to be dull, and to poison the blade in order to kill Hamlet. At last he orders poison to be put into a goblet of wine that was sent for Hamlet to drink. Nothing ends up happening as it was supposed to because Claudius couldn’t just kill Hamlet himself. Gertrude drank the poisoned wine and dies which finally gives the impulsive, melancholy Hamlet enough courage to kill Claudius. Claudius dies in the course of his own plan to kill his last enemy.
In the story of Hamlet, the new King, Claudius, becomes a manipulative master in order to get power over his people and his last enemy killed. He orders others to do his dirty work and is selfish. He has no idea the possible outcome of his plans. I believe that Shakespeare created Claudius and his villainous ways in order to show that revenge is problematic. I believe that Shakespeare’s theme for Hamlet is that revenge is not only problematic but also harmful to not only the person seeking it but those around him.
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