Claudius, the former ruler, husband of his sister and brother of the recently perished king gives a speech at the beginning of Act I. II of Hamlet. Shakespeare’s use of literary devices allows the reader to comprehend the intentions behind Claudius’s figurative language within his coronation speech.
The opening scene in Hamlet portrays Denmark to currently be critically unstable and with militaristic chaos; however, in Claudius’s speech he disposes that idea and conveys confidence in the stability of the nation. This chronological set up introduces the theme of appearance vs. reality as Claudius efforts to manipulate the kingdom into trusting that he has everything under control is carried mischievously yet successfully throughout his speech.
Aware of the presence of the rightful king, young Hamlet, Claudius commences his speech with an ambiguous line that strikes the attention of Hamlet. Once he is aware of young Hamlet’s attention, he continues to approach the courthouse. He seemingly shows a state of grief as he acknowledges his dead brother. “ My dear brother’s death” the use of alliteration makes us aware that Claudius has used that line several times before in order to show a sign of loss.
He wants to appear that has suffered too from this death, he mentions that “ the memory be green” this metaphor is placed to represent the idea that the memory is fresh and it has not been long since he perished, while also leaving a gruesome image of the old kings decomposing body. His first use of anti-thesis is then exposed in line 6, when he mentions “ the wisest sorrows” in that line he is understanding those in grief but reminding them to think of themselves and the future of Denmark instead.
After respectfully mentioning the death of Hamlet, and expressing his condolence to the kingdom he deceitfully moves on to the second important announcement: his wedding. Uneasy, Claudius is trying to go about his speech like a metaphorical obstacle course hoping there is no interference or opposition, while still being able to appear as confident. Efficaciously, he presents his marriage “ Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, Th’ imperial jointress to this warlike state.
” Using the state of war as his alaby to the marriage of his brother’s wife he is able to convince the courthouse that it is for the greater good and that his actions are a form of self-sacrifice for the nation. Continuing to justify his marriage as a cause and affect matrimony instead of acts of incest he mentions the “ mirth in funeral ” and “dirge in marriage”. This literary device is important within his speech because it is his second antithesis, and a paradoxical clause. In this he is suggesting that he brought happiness to this sad event for the benefit of his people.
“In equal scale, weighing delight and dole” Claudius is trying to banish the aura of unsteadiness and declares balance. He makes up for the sorrow of his dead brother, by marrying his sister. Even though it is an obvious unusual event, Claudius reflects enough confidence as king and successfully manages avoid any opposition. A good strategy used was his the frequent use of “ we”. This indicated that the king was not only speaking for himself, but he was speaking for everyone like a good statesman would.
In reality however, he was doing so to make everyone aware that it was of “ better wisdoms” to agree with him, and that those with worst wisdoms would not face good consequences. Claudius gently expresses his supreme control over Denmark and threatens anyone who dares oppose him in a non-aggressive way. He later finalizes the topic of marriage by dismissing the awkward topic of the table like a typical political “ For all, our thanks” As king, Claudius then addresses the issues with Norway. Assertively, he informs the kingdom of his plan of action.
He repeats the line “ dear brother’s death” giving it little sentimental value. He then quickly states that Norway believes that Denmark is “ disjoint and out of frame. ” He assures the courthouse that the case is not so, and that they will successfully deal with Fortibras. The irony behind that is that Denmark is weak, regardless of what Claudius wants his people to believe. In order to seem like a man of action Claudius puts his future plan forward “ Thus much the business is we have here writ to Norway, uncle of young Fortibras.
” By doing that he convinces many that he is a potent king. Writing to Norway makes him seem like he is aware of what he is doing and that the nation does not need to worry. To complement his assurance he appoints two messengers to deliver a letter, this is significantly important because his objective is to prove to the court that he trusts his officials, ironically thought, he is purposely sending two people incase of a betrayal. Claudius’s speech had a successful outcome. He was able to gently hide his inner insecurities and expose himself as a good statesman and valiant leader.
His word usage was essential to the deliverance of his speech as it allowed him to get his awkward points across like unusual marriage to his sister. His use of antithesis did make the reader question the sincerity of his grief, but it did not seem to affect the opinion of the courthouse. He showed clear superiority over everyone within the courthouse, especially Hamlet, while making himself clear that he would not tolerate any disagreement of his coronation. Most importantly, he put an action plan forward and proved himself as king.
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