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What is your opinion of the way Shakespeare presents Claudius in Hamlet?

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Introduction

''Claudius makes a good king. He is a careful ruler and a loving husband, providing stability for both his country and wife.'' ''Murderer of the rightful king, Claudius is the play's hateful, lying villain.'' What justification is there in the text to support these to views? What is your opinion of the way Shakespeare presents Claudius? From reading these statements it is clear that they both show contrasting views on the presentation of King Claudius. The first view sees Claudius in a very good light, saying he is a diligent ruler and an affectionate husband, where as the second view describes Claudius as an unpleasant, deceitful villain. Even though there is a contrast in views, there is evidence in the text for both of them. When Shakespeare was writing Hamlet, he based Claudius on the Jutish chieftain Feng who appears in Chronicon Lethrense and in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum. According to Saxo, Feng and Horwendill were the sons of Jutland's ruler Gervendill, and succeeded him as the rulers of Jutland. R�rik Slyngebond, king of Denmark, gave his daughter to Horwendill and she bore him the son Amleth. ...read more.

Middle

Claudius aware of young Fortinbras' intent to forcefully reclaim land lost to Denmark, Claudius dispatches ambassadors to Norway with a letter instructing the King to suppress young Fortinbras' (Prince of Norway) advance. This certainly shows that Claudius is a very capable king and leader, he is thinking of Denmark. There may be 'something rotten in the state of Denmark' but there will be no external threats to the state because of Claudius cunning leadership. One could argue that Claudius shows genuine affection for Hamlet 'How is it that the clouds still hang on you/ 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature Hamlet.' Here we see that Claudius is worried about Hamlet and his depression, and wants to help him by making him stay in Denmark instead of going to Whittenburg. However it often said that Claudius just want to make sure Hamlet is not up to any vengeful antics. One can argue that Claudius' act of fratricide was as motivated by his love of Gertrude as it was by his love of power, and so label the murder an act of passion. It could be that he wanted to win Gertrude's love and take Hamlet under his wing as his own son. ...read more.

Conclusion

But even though he feels guilty Claudius is ultimately too crafty for his own good. In Act V, scene ii, rather than allowing Laertes only two methods of killing Hamlet, the sharpened sword and the poison on the blade, Claudius insists on a third, the poisoned goblet. When Gertrude inadvertently drinks the poison and dies, Hamlet is at last able to bring himself to kill Claudius, and the king is felled by his own cowardly machination. Claudius although has a moment of reflection for what he has done, he still has to go too far in his slyness. It is this presentation of Claudius which make the character so appealing, he is different from all the other males in the play with hi deceitfulness masked by his professional language and lies. To conclude I have to say that both of the given views on Claudius are represented in the text, however the view that Claudius is a villain has significantly more evidence to back it up. Frederick Boas agrees with me on the presentation of Claudius- 'Claudius is the quintessential villain, he is a sly deviant masked by the beauty of Shakespeare's manipulation of the English language.' Hame ...read more.

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