There are many kinds of people in the world. Some people are kind, generous, caring, etc. But there are the kinds of people who are selfish deceiving and very cruel to those around them and only puts themselves before other people, these are characteristics of a Machiavellian character. In the story of Shakespeare, Hamlet, shows a great example of a Machiavellian character Claudius. Claudius is the type of man who is willing to go to the extremes in order to keep high position of power. He doesn’t care for the well being of others and only cares about himself. In Hamlet Claudius faces many threats to his position of power that has brought out his Machiavellian characteristics. Some of which are his willingness to kill and end the lives of other people, being very deceitful and trickery to those around him and manipulates and uses other people without thinking about the negative consequences it might have on the people he is using, all for his high position of power.
One of the characteristics that make Claudius a Machiavellian character is his willingness to end other people’s life for his own gain whether it is directly or indirectly. In the beginning of the play the previous king hamlet is bit by a snake and dies, as the people were told. The truth is Claudius, the previous king Hamlet’s brother murdered him married his wife and gained the title of the new king. Claudius admits to his murder in the play in a form of a soliloquy, “Thanks, my dear lord/ O my offence is rank, smells to heaven./ It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,/ a brother’s murder. Pray can i not./…Can serve my turn? ‘ forgive me my foul murder’?/ That cannot be since I am still possessed/ Of those effects for which I did the murder/ May one be pardoned and retain the offence?/… Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!/ all may be well.” (Shakespeare III. III 38-75).
In this scene Claudius admits to the audience through a soliloquy that he had murdered the previous king Hamlet and has gained a lot of things through the murder and he is not sorry for what he has done in order to gain his new title as the king. This shows the Machiavellian side of Claudius because he selfishly made the decision of killing someone just for his own selfish gain. There has been more than one time where Claudius shows his Machiavellian trait of trying to end someone’s life in order to keep his high position and power. In the play Claudius sees Hamlet as a threat to his life and safety. So Claudius arranges an execution for Hamlet in England. “… And, England, if my love thou holdest aught-/
As my great power thereof may give thee sense/
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red/
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe/
Pays homage to us- thou mayest not coldly set/
Our sovereign process, which imports at full,/
By letters congruing to that effect, /
The present death of Hamlet. Do it England,/
For like hectic in my blood he rages/
And thou must cure me. Till i know ‘tis done,/
However my haps, my joys were never begun.”
(Shakespeare IV. III 64-74).
The previous quote is said by Claudius. Claudius shows his Machiavellian side through this quote, in this quote Claudius shows his true intentions of why he is sending Hamlet to England which is to get him executed. The reason why is because he feels threatened about Hamlet’s existence and is in the way of his plan in keeping his seat as the king of Denmark. Claudius has many more characteristics that label him as a Machiavelli. Besides killing people directly/ indirectly he also deceives and betrays those around him in order to cover up his true intentions. In the play, Hamlet, Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius who was hiding behind the curtain in the queen’s room, thinking it was Claudius. Hamlet finds out it wasn’t polonius and soon people in the palace found out what recently took place and Claudius feeling threatened plans on sending Hamlet to England. Claudius tells Hamlet “Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety,/ which we do tender, as we dearly grieve/ for thou hast done – must send thee hence/ with fiery quickness.
Therefore prepare thyself/ the bark is ready, and the wind at help , thy associates tend, and everything is bent for England.” (Shakespeare IV. III 43-49) in this scene of the play Claudius tells Hamlet he is sending Hamlet to England in order to reflect upon himself and his actions, but his true intention is being hidden which is Hamlet’s execution in England. This proves that Claudius is a Machiavelli because he is very deceitful to and disloyal to Hamlet by lying to Hamlet telling him that he is getting a sometime away from the kingdom in England for his own benefit but is actually being sent off to get executed just so Claudius can keep his position of power and his life. There is more than one time Claudius has shown his Machiavellian traits through trickery, betrayal and lies. One part in the play Claudius says to Laertes: “To thine own peace. If he be now returned,/ As checking at his voyage, and that he means/ No more to undertake it, I will work him/ To an exploit, now ripe in my device,/ Under the which he shall not choose but fall./ And for his death no wind no wind of blame shall breathe,/ But even his mother shall uncharge the practice/ And call it an accident.” ( Shakespeare IV VII 66-73).
During this quote the story has progressed to which Claudius’ first plan to get hamlet killed has failed and Hamlet has come back from England. In these lines Claudius reveals that he is going to trick Hamlet to which will bring hamlet to his certain death to Laertes. Later on in the scene Claudius plans to trick Hamlet to drink a poisoned drink and to sabotage the fight between Laertes and Hamlet by poisoning the tip of Laertes’ blade.
These actions that Claudius is making proves that he is a Machiavellian because Claudius is using tricks and deceit in order to get what he wants, which is Hamlet’s death. Other than using deceit, direct and indirect murder Claudius also shows his Machiavellian characteristics through manipulation and tricking other people to do things in order to cover up his true intentions and to keep him out of harms way and he doesn’t think of the negative consequences it might have on other people. Claudius shows a perfect example of this through the use of Laertes in order to kill Hamlet. “Not that I think you did not love your father/
But that I know love is begun by time,/
And that I see, in passages of proof,/
Time qualifies the spark and fire of it./
There lives within the very flame of love/
A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it./
And nothing is at a like goodness still./
For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,/
Dies in his own too-much. That we would do,/
We should do when we would, for this “would” changes/
And hath abatements and delays as many/
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents./
And then this “should” is like a spendthrift sigh/
That hurts by easing.—But to the quick of th’ ulcer:/
Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake/
To show yourself in deed your father’s son/
More than in words?/
(Shakespeare IV VII 122-138).
In this line Claudius tricks Laertes into falling into his hands allowing him to be manipulated. Claudius tricks Laertes to fight Hamlet with a poisoned sword not thinking about the negative consequences it might have. In the end of the play hamlet gets slain by the sword but Laertes ends up dying with his own sword as well. This is proof that Claudius is a Machiavelli because of using his cunning mind in order to trick people into doing his dirty deeds for him.
Another point in the play where Claudius uses the art of manipulation for his benefit is when he uses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to accompany Hamlet to England for hamlets execution. “Follow him at foot.tempt him with speed aboard,/ delay it not. Ill have him hence to night/ away for everything is sealed and done/ that else leans on the affair. Pray you make haste…/” (Shakespeare IV. III 60-63) In the previous quote Claudius is ordering Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to follow Hamlet to England not knowing the letter they were carrying for England’ king decided their fate.
Claudius thinking that Hamlet might not read the letter for his execution, actually did read it but then rewrote the letter and changed it so that Guildenstern and Rosencrantz will be executed in his place. Throughout the whole play Claudius has constantly used Guildenstern and Rosencrantz as his spies for Hamlet. Hamlet realizing this lost all trust and faith towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern leading them to their downfall. Knowing this Claudius still pursued in using Guildenstern and Rosencrantz for his own benefit without realizing the negative consequences it might have on them.
Claudius is a Machiavellian who uses deceit and trickery, murder, and manipulation all for his own benefit. He shows these through the murder of his brother numerous attempts to kill hamlet by using other people and manipulating the people around him to keep his title as the King of Denmark. By doing things that will cause others pain and suffering for your own benefit may help you gain what you want in a short while but for the long run it will bring you to your downfall for no good deed goes unpunished.
Courtney from Study Moose
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