King Claudius: A Villain or Victim? Essay

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In the play Hamlet, Claudius is known as the villain of the play. He is the lead antagonist who is characterized as a cunning, incestuous, and vile, usurper. Many readers and critics of the play do not dispute this perception, especially after reading how Claudius became the King of Denmark; He steals the throne by poisoning his brother, the previous king, and quickly marrying Queen Gertrude his widowed sister in law (1.5.42, 60-74). The general reading of Claudius’s character paints him to be a corrupt, cowardly politician, in addition to being Hamlet’s (the protagonist) foe. This portrait engages first-time readers to judge Claudius immediately and although this perspective of his personality is proven to be true, it is limited. Claudius …show more content…

Claudius is devout to his country. He cares for the people of Denmark. His only desire is to maintain complete control and will avoid any confrontation that could possible jeopardize his status as king. He uses diplomacy to diffuse any issues rather than violence. For example he sent a letter to the uncle of Fortinbras requesting that he stop the army of Young Fortinbras that plans to attack Denmark. Claudius would much rather celebrate gaily about his succession to the throne: “The king doth wake tonight and take his rouse.” (1.4.9) Apart from his country Claudius cares for his friends and his family. This includes Polonius, Ophelia, Gertrude and Hamlet. However Claudius’s deepest feelings are set aside for Gertrude and Hamlet. In the play, he honestly appears to love them both. He holds Gertrude, his sister/wife, close as his partner and confidant. He tries to protect her from sights she may not want to see and still keeps her involved in the action. For example in act 3 scene i, while Claudius is preparing to see if Ophelia is the source of Hamlet’s madness, he decides to send Gertrude off. Sweet Gertrude, leave us too, For we have sent closely for Hamlet hither, Her father and myself (lawful espials) Will so bestow ourselves that seeing unseen, I shall obey

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