Character Analysis of Claudius from the Play Hamlet by Shakespeare
In the play, "Hamlet", Shakespeare needed to devize an evil character, a villain that is ambitious, and has the ability to scheme to get what he wants. The character would also have to contain some good qualities, such as kindness and contriteness. These good qualities make the character seem more human and thus, more believable. Claudius is this character. Shakespeare uses Claudius in his revenge theme in this play. Without the acts of Claudius, this theme just would not be. The entire play revolves around what Claudius has done, or will do.
The evil traits of Claudius by far outweigh the good things he does. He is very ambitious, perhaps too ambitious. Claudius wanted to be king so badly, that he murdered his own brother to achieve his goal. This is how the revenge theme is weaved into the
play. Hamlet, the dead king’s son learns of the act from a ghost,
"A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abused; but now that noble youth The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown." (Act I, Sc. V, Lines 42-46)
Claudius not only wanted to be the king of Denmark, he also wanted the queen that came with it. In Act I Sc. II Lines 8-14, Claudius has just recently been crowned king and is addressing the court. He shows in his words how happy he is to be married to Gertrude, the Queen.
"herefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
Have we, as ‘twere with a defeated joy,
With an auspicious, and dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
Taken to wife; ...."
The ambition of Claudius lays the foundation for the theme of revenge. Without his need to be king and his willingness to do anything for it, the play would be completely different. This evil trait is, in part, what in the end kills Claudius.
Claudius’ other evil trait, his scheming, also leads to his death. An example of one of Claudius’ many ‘plans’ was when he summoned Rozencrantz and Guildenstern to do some spying on Hamlet to find out what was ailing him.
"Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of hamlets transformation,... ...so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus
That, opened, lies within our remedy."
(Act II Sc. II Lines 2-5, 14-18)
Another time Claudius creates a plan in which he manipulates to get what he wants is when he sends Polonius to Gertrude’s closet, where he’ll hide and listen to Hamlet as he tells her everything.
My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet.
Behind the arras I’ll convey myself