Hamlet: Presentation of Claudius

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  • Hamlet: Presentation of Claudius
    • reflection of Denmark
      • hinted at in his first speech of the corruption he shares with Denmark
        • Scene V: "foul and most unnatural murder"
        • Abrupt, incestuous marriage with the Queen - ethically corrupt, clearly unremorseful for Hamlet's death
          • Act I Scene II: "our sometime sister, now our Queen"
        • "with mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage" - deliberate juxtaposition hints to suspicious character
          • noun "mirth": amusement, laughter. Would not have been present at a King's funeral
            • fuelled by self interest, otherwise the marriage would not have taken place
          • noun "dirge": lament for the dead, sorrowful funeral music. Suggests there is something wrong with their marriage
            • fuelled by self interest, otherwise the marriage would not have taken place
        • GARDINER: "the principle source of rottenness which pervades Denmark"
          • Agree: Ghost refers to him as "that incestuous, that adulterate beast" Scene V.
          • Against: not absolutely cynical, only morally weak in the face of gaining power as he exhibits guilt later.
    • man of intelligence and capability
      • emphasises his character is not static, he is not only an antagonist
      • Aware of drastic change in government - could foment civil unrest
        • tactfully prevents unlawful allegiances and rebellions through first speech Act I Scene II
          • national unity: "The whole kingdom / To be contracted in one brow of woe"
            • inclusive language "us", "together", "our kingdom" shows solidarity with citizens - likeable and trustworthy - people can mourn whilst he attends to royal duties (or sinning)
      • DR Sean McEvoy uses political theorist Niccolo Machiabelli to assert Claudius is a strong monarch -
        • a King's secret crimes should be untried should they secure the safety of his country - Claudius is more attractive as a strong but corrupt leader than as a virtuous but weak one
          • he can take action even if those actions are laced in deceit
        • Gardiner: self interest.
          • Against: some actions in country's interest - Shakespeare alludes to Hamlet being a bad King
            • his "function is smothered in surmise"
    • multifaceted - morally weak but with feelings of guilt
      • Remorse for murder Act III Scene III: "O, what form of prayer / Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder?"
        • wishes to repent his sins - knows he did something wrong
        • unlikely out of change in character, feels guilt whilst recognising he still possessed "of those effects for which I did the murder [...] my crown, mine own ambition, and my queen"
          • soliloquy suggests he wants God's forgiveness but also to keep the benefits of his crime
          • capable of remorse and mercy, unusual in villains, but is content to trade his soul and humanity for material values
      • Harvey Granville-Barker: "the makings of a central figure of a tragedy"
        • inspired and is present in Macbeth - Macbeth is Claudius' character developed to the full potential as Hamlet is - Macbeth is a tragic human for feeling remorse for the benfits he reaps from his sins, unlike Claudius making him a villain

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