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Claudius: A Good Politician Essay

1469 words - 6 pages

In the tragedy Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Hamlet’s archrival, and main antagonist, Claudius, is evidently displayed to the audience as an insidious, incestuous, and murdering usurper. However, despite his foul traits as a human being, Claudius exemplifies respectable characteristics of a successful politician. He demonstrates the ability to manipulate others into doing his biding, to keep democratic peace in his kingdom, and to put his kingship at the upmost importance. Shakespeare makes a point of showing his audience that it does not necessarily take a virtuous man to be a thriving king.
Shakespeare symbolically has Claudius pour poison in Old Hamlet’s ear to display Claudius ability use his corrupted words and manipulate the characters in the play. One of his first acts of manipulation, Claudius ultimately convinces the people of Denmark to forget the death of his brother, and has them focus on a common enemy, Fortinbras. Claudius’s influential actions are implied during his monologue to his ambassadors, Voltimand and Cornelius: “young Fortinbras, / Holding a weak supposal of our worth, /Or thinking, by our late dear brother’s death/ our state to be disjoint and out of frame” (1.2.17-20). Since the period between Old Hamlet’s death and Claudius’s inauguration is short, Fortinbras is within reason to suspect the Danish subjects to be still mourning their lost king. However, Claudius manipulatively influences them, by means unknown to the audience, to abandon prematurely the grieving of Old Hamlet, and restoring their faith in their new king. Moreover, in order to determine the cause behind Hamlet’s madness, Claudius manipulates two of Hamlet’s childhood friends to spy on him: “That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court/ Some little time 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” (2.2.13-18). Claudius tactfully takes advantage of his position as king to ensure that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern abide to his request; this is evident when Claudius continuously uses the royal “we” in order to emphasize his kingly and holy power. As a result, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “both obey/ and here give up [themselves], in the full bent/ to lay [their] service freely at [Claudius’s] feet” (2.2.19-20), despite being Hamlet’s long childhood friends. Ultimately, Claudius uses his manipulation to persuade Laertes to kill Hamlet; Claudius takes advantages of Laertes’s sorrow and anger for his own selfish purposes. By exploiting Laertes need to restore his father’s honour, Claudius convinced him to participate in a fatal duel against Hamlet: “That we would do,/We should do when we would, for this “would” changes/And hath abatements and delays...What would you undertake/To show yourself in deed your father’s son/More than in words?” (4.7.115-124). Claudius embeds the idea that in order for Laertes to...

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