Claudius as Evil in 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare Essay

1029 WordsNov 10, 20045 Pages
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,…show more content…
Gertrude could not be persuaded to switch husbands without a little verbal trickery on Claudius' part, and that turns out to be his true skill: lying convincingly. Claudius manages to legitimize his ascent to the throne by diverting popular attention, away from the circumstances of his ascent, and to the impending attack by the young Fortinbras (I.ii.1-20). Claudius' propensity towards fabrications is in direct violation with the Holy Commandment Thou shalt not bear false witness; hence, he violates one of the pillars of Christian moral law. Claudius' lies are effective enough to persistently deceive to play's antagonist, Hamlet. Despite Hamlet's disgust with Claudius for marrying Gertrude, and his view of Claudius as "a king of shreds and patches" (III.iv.104), Hamlet suspicion of Claudius as a murderer is preliminarily nonexistent. The appearance of a spirit claiming to be Hamlet's dead father first alerts Hamlet to the actions of "that incestuous, that adulterate beast, /With witchcraft of his with, with traitorous gifts" (I.v.42-3). And yet still, Hamlet remains hesitant to believe that Claudius was the murderer, searching for complementary evidence. The play that Hamlet enacts -- designed to "catch the conscience of the king" (II.ii.562) --succeeds in revealing Claudius' guilt, but does not provoke instant action on
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