Mighty opposites; Hamlet and Claudius.

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Mighty opposites; Hamlet and Claudius:

In the play ‘Hamlet’, the drama is essentially a contest between Hamlet and Claudius, with the outcome inevitably being the death of one of them. Claudius is Hamlet’s uncle who has married Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother after the death of King Hamlet.

Both characters are presented in Act One. Hamlet is presented as a youthful, innocent and heroic prince sincerely grieving for the loss of his father. His grief for his father is the initial image we get of Hamlet which also corresponds to him being innocent and honourable.

In contrast to Hamlet who is genuinely distraught and bewildered, Claudius is introduced in his court speech as someone manipulative and in control. He is calculating as how he should appear, it is not emotional and he is using this image to mask the true situation, (i.e. killing his brother) and to gain acceptance from the audience. ‘’it us befitted to bear our hearts….that we with the wisest sorrow think of him’’. Thus our initial image of Claudius is that he is in power and also quite clever as he structures his speech so accurately to suspend any suspicions. However, towards the end of the play Hamlet’s character develops as we get to know him better and by the end he stops being the innocent, heroic prince he used to be and he also kills innocent people. Claudius’s character also develops into a much more cruel, villainous character as he plots to kill young Hamlet and anyone else who gets in his way. Claudius does not let emotion take over; he is more like a true politician. His Machiavellian qualities emphasis his evil and corrupt character.

Hamlet and Claudius’s characters have noticeable similarities throughout the play. They are both thinkers. Hamlet is a philosopher, he thinks and takes time to make his mind up, ‘’to be or not to be, that is the question‘’. Hamlet even questions the ghost, although he believes in it. ’’Angels and ministers defend us …..Thou coms’t in such a questionable shape…’’and although old Hamlet instructed Hamlet to get revenge by killing Claudius, Hamlet still thinks thoroughly before taking any action. In the prayer scene where Claudius was arguably seeking forgiveness, Hamlet had the perfect opportunity to kill Claudius but he still thought about its consequences and that it might lead Claudius to heaven rather than hell. ’’Now might I do it pat….And so a goes to heaven…A villain kills my father and for that I, his sole son, do this same villain send to heaven!’’. Arguably Hamlet thought more than needed and as a consequence took no action. The decision he makes is by putting his position above God as we acknowledge in the ‘prayer scene’.

Claudius is also a thinker. He is manipulative and knows how he should appear in his first speech. ‘our dear brother’s death’, he then moves quickly from the talk of his brother to political situation which suggests that he doesn’t want others to read into it. His speech is cleverly structured. His calculating nature becomes immediately apparent. Always conscious of appearances, of what seems to be. He speaks of Gertrude as ‘’our sometime sister, now are queen/Th’imperial jointress to this warlike state’’ and the addresses Hamlet as his ‘’cousin Hamlet and my son’’. He has considered his relationships to the state, to Gertrude, and to Hamlet in all the ways people might perceive them, and manages to cover himself entirely.

Fortinbras and Laertes are opposite characters of Hamlet and Claudius. Fortinbras and Laertes are rash in contrast to Hamlet and Claudius. Fortinbras is a man of action. Prince Fortinbras of Norway also seeks revenge for the death of his father, the king, but Fortinbras goes about his revenge in a different way than Hamlet. Fortinbras goes to war over a useless piece of territory simply to uphold the honour of his father. The honour of his family is as important to him as it is to Hamlet. The word ‘post-haste’ also emphasises the furious activities the young Fortinbras is up to. The single difference about the revenge of both is that Fortinbras doesn’t procrastinate like Hamlet does, again this shows the audience Hamlet’s careful approach to decision making. Also because Fortinbras is the man of action and doesn’t procrastinate he lives, Hamlet procrastination proved fatal not only to himself, but also to six other people.

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Claudius is a thinker but arguably he does not procrastinate like Hamlet does as he has killed the old Hamlet himself to make the throne wrongfully his own, however he isn’t rash, he thinks things through carefully and plans them rationally, but he still fails to take direct action as he sends a letter to Fortinbras and plots Hamlet’s death while he is in England and he also gets other people such as Rosencrantz  and Guildenstern, Polonius and others to spy on Hamlet and find out the reason of his madness, ‘’ And can you by no drift of conference ...

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