Hamlet's Characterization of Claudius Essay

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Hamlet’s characterization of Claudius isn’t fair and is biased as a result of his grief and the image he holds up in his mind of his dead father. He seems to be caught up in the differences between Claudius and Old Hamlet; he doesn’t see that for all his damning of Claudius, he is much more like the new King in personality and character than he ever was like his dead father who he elevated to status of god on earth. In Hamlet’s failing to see Claudius as anything but an underhanded, murderous tyrant, Shakespeare gives the audience an opportunity to see all sides of the new King through other characters and lets the audience make up their mind as to whether Hamlet is right or wrong. In a way, Shakespeare ends up showing the stark humanity…show more content…
Shakespeare continues to display Hamlet’s inflexible view as flawed through the prince’s own assessment of himself compared to his father. While Old Hamlet is the stout, brash warrior, he sees himself weaker, slower to act than his father. This is incredibly ironic as Claudius displays more of Hamlet’s qualities: he is also slow to act, and doesn’t directly deal with Hamlet until the last acts of the play preferring to at first reason with him, then set traps in an effort to make a decision on the overall danger Hamlet poses to the monarchy and his own person.

For all of Hamlet’s complaints against him, Claudius comes off as be a good king, at least in the view of those who would be expected to raise complaint should he live up, or live down, to Hamlet’s assessment of his character and reigning abilities. Should Claudius have been unfit to rule, it is plausible that the council would have voted against him. Shakespeare points out that the council did in fact support this decision and has Claudius include it in his speech: “Nor have we herein barred your better wisdoms, which have freely gone with this affair along” (1.2.14-16). It points out not only the council’s approval of Claudius as king, but of the council’s approval of the marriage that Hamlet so vehemently opposes and believes to be a stroke against Claudius’ character.

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