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How does Shakespeare shape the audience's response to Claudius in the play "Hamlet" ?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare shape the audience's response to Claudius in the play "Hamlet" ? The play starts with the audience ignorant to the fact that Claudius has murdered his brother and that his wife was his sister-in-law. This makes Claudius seem Machivellian, and completely amoral, as his speech is very formal as he addresses the court and lacks any type of emotion. Claudius' second speech is to Hamlet who is appalled at the way his way his mother and the rest of the court can move on from their grief so quickly while Hamlet still mourns for his father. Here, the audience may sympathise with Hamlet as the situation is shown from his point of view. He also detests Claudius as king and his father now, "A little more than kin, and less than kind." This is in reponse to Claudius addressing Hamlet as "son" as Hamlet is now, not only Claudius' nephew, but also his step son, and is "less than kind", meaning that he does not look kindly towards his uncle. We also enjoy Hamlet's wit and him disliking Claudius, especially when he says that Hamlet's grief is now "unmanly" as "it shows a will most incorrest to heaven, a heart unfortified, a mind impatient..." At this point in the play, the audience could see Claudius as being cold and heartless towards Hamlet amd may also show that his love fot his brother could nnot have been genuine, as he is willing to move on so rapidly, "But you know your father lost a father..." ...read more.

Middle

The play proper takes place in Act 3 Scene 2, and the audience have seen in the previous scene that Claudius is looking forward to it, but does not know the importance of his reaction to the play, as it could reveal all his guilt and lead him to admit to his crime, therefore proving the authenticity of the ghost's story. "The Mousetrap" is about a king and a queen who have been married for thirty years and love each other unconditionally. However, the king's health is failing and he thinks that after he dies his wife will remarry, she however says that such "love must needs be treason." Hamlet gives the king and queen a running commentary of the play and reveals to Claudius that Lucianus (villain of the proper play) is in fact the king's nephew, not his brother. By revealing this, I think the audience now feel that Claudius' response will not be as genuine if Hamlet had not told him, as now, Claudius may think that Hamlet wants to stela the crown from him or knows how he killed his father and wants him to be killed in the same way. This is shown in the play proper, Lucianus pours poison into the king's ear whilst he sleeps. This causes Claudius to rise and leave the court, the audience at this point may have mixed feelings about Claudius as we do not know why, or how much the play has affected him as he does not say anything. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, we also see Claudius' plans start to fall apart as he says "Stay give me a drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine; here's to your health." When Hamlet refuses the drink, Gertrude shows her loyalty to her son by drinking the wine for him, despites Claudius' attempts to stop her, "Gertrude do not drink." We can see her that it would depend on how Claudius' character was being acted as he could either be extremely calm and conceal any emotions or show more feling as he says it. Gertrude's defiance here show that her loyalty lies with her son, not with Claudius who is now proved to be the real villain of the play. As Gertrude warns her son of the poisoned drink, Laertes also betrays the king and says, "Hamlet, thou art slain...The king, the king's to blame." Hamlet now stabs Claudius who recieves no help form his court, which shows that everyone realizes he is the traitor and he dies. Here, Laudius dies due to the accussations of the fencing match, not through Hamlet avenging his father's death as that is not mentioned during this scene. The audience's response to Claudius' death is one of justice and satisfaction. However, I feel they have a degree of respect and admiration for him due to his calculating and shrewd ways. Shakespeare uses many different techniques to shape the audience's response, these include ; the other characters, and what their opinions are of Claudius, the tone of voice Claudius uses when he talks and what action he takes. ...read more.

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