Essay On King Claudius

Shakespeare's Hamlet Claudius Essay

Claudius of Shakespeare's Hamlet’s

G. Wilson Knight in "The Embassy of Death" interprets the character of Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

Claudius, as he appears in the play, is not a criminal. He is - strange as it may seem - a good and gentle king, enmeshed by the chain of causality linking him with his crime. And this chain he might, perhaps, have broken except for Hamlet, and all would have been well. But, granted the presence of Hamlet - which Claudius at first genuinely desired, persuading him not to return to Wittenberg as he wished - and granted the fact of his original crime which cannot now be altered, Claudius cannot now be blamed for his later actions. They are forced on him. As King, he could scarcely be expected to do otherwise. (n. pag.)

This essay, with the involvement of various literary critics, will consider Knight’s evaluation in light of others’, and will thoroughly delineate the character of King Claudius, show his place in the drama, and interpret his character.

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 father’s brother’s quick accession to the throne of Denmark. 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 (n. pag.).

Hamlet has also learned of the disturbing news of the new king’s “o’erhasty marriage” to Hamlet I’s wife less than two month’s after the funeral of Hamlet’s father (Gordon 128). The protagonist stands alone, with just about everyone allied with Claudius in his viewpoint on the rightness of the situation: G. Wilson Knight says, “Instinctively the creatures of earth—Laertes, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, league themselves with Claudius: they are of his kind. They sever themselves from Hamlet.”

It would seem initially that Gertrude, “kindly, slow witted” (Pitt 47), rather than Claudius, is to blame for the protagonist’s “violent emotions” (Smith 80); thus in his first soliloquy Hamlet cries out, “Frailty, thy...

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The Character of Claudius in Shakespeare's Hamlet Essay

2062 Words9 Pages

The Character of Claudius in Hamlet

Shakespeare presents Claudius as a character with many faces yet the audience can clearly understand his motives and ambition throughout the play. His character does however change and we clearly see how his evilness and weakness increases as his need to escape discovery and his clandestine nature in doing so, is revealed.

It is in Act one scene two that we are first introduced to the character of Claudius. The impression made by him is that of a powerful and controlled man who is respected by most. His mannerisms of speech are graceful and are nothing less than the words of a king, 'to bear our heats with grief, and our whole kingdom.' Claudius is presented to us by…show more content…

Hamlet is not convinced but Claudius's eloquent and graceful words are seemingly enough to win over the heart of Denmark. "Through yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death, the memory be green, and that it us befitted, to bear our hearts in grief."

Shakespeare uses the technique of giving Claudius's language a double meaning to portray to the audience his deceptive and two-sided character. Yet still, in these early stages on the play the audience is still yet to learn of the king's spiteful murder and in his speech he compares the body of his brother to that of "the first corpse" referring to Abel. It is unconscious but dramatic irony used here by Shakespeare as Claudius committed the same crime as Cain. Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony here engages the audience's interest and adds tension. Moreover, it makes Claudius seem vulnerable as his avenger is trying to out step him.

Unlike the procrastinating Hamlet, the king is straightforward "be as ourself in Denmark. Madam come." discreet and acts without hesitating although he usually incorporates the help of other characters of lower status than himself to do his deeds ' can you by no drift of conference get from him why he outs on this confusion?'

Hamlet has little respect for Claudius due to the circumstances of his mothers marriage and condemns him as a drunkard to

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