King Claudius is one of the most interesting characters in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. He is a man who is always preoccupied with maintaining his own power, rather than protecting his country, Denmark, from danger. Act IV is one of the most significant acts in Hamlet as it shows us how Claudius really thinks. In this act, we get a taste of Claudius’s malevolent taste and his obsession with power. Claudius is thus one of the more significant characters in this act, as this is where we see how his mind works and how he goes to extremes to regain his control over his people and the events that have recently occurred.
One of the ways that Claudius maintains his power is by using other people to his own advantage, namely Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two indistinguishable courtiers who obey the Claudius’s every command. Claudius also uses them as his own personal spies, which is another good example of how he uses them to his own advantage.
Hamlet reflects upon this in one of the best quotes in the play that properly describe Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: Besides, to be demanded a sponge! … that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities:… when he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again.
1 In this quote, Hamlet describes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as “sponges. ” This is quite a good comparison since sponges soak up water and then are re-used once they are squeezed, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern gather up vital information for the king and then are re-used once their information is shared with the king. Another example of how Claudius attempts to regain control over the affairs occurring in Denmark is when Polonius is murdered by Hamlet.
When Claudius hears about the murder, he begins to think politically in the way that the murder might ruin his kingship. He realizes that to solve this issue without threatening his position would require much work and skill: “We must, with all our majesty and skill, / Both countenance and excuse. “2 Claudius, realizing that Hamlet’s original intent was actually to murder him3, decides to send Hamlet immediately to England in hope that the English king would murder him under Claudius’s request.
This can be considered as a good example of how Claudius is obsessed with maintaining his political power. Since Claudius is now aware of Hamlet’s vengeful state, sending Hamlet to England may be considered as a good way to keep Hamlet away from Claudius. Another good reason to why Claudius sends Hamlet to be murdered in England and not in Denmark is because of fear of losing his political power. If Claudius decides to kill Hamlet, both Gertrude and the people of Denmark will hate him as they both love Hamlet very much, and thus, his kingship will be at stake.
Yet must not we put the strong law on him: He’s loved of the distracted multitude, Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes; And where ’tis so, the offender’s scourge is weigh’d But never the offence. To bear all smooth and even, This sudden sending him away must seem Deliberate pause… 4 Another example of how Claudius regains his control over the events occurring in this act is when Laertes returns demanding to know who had killed his father. Claudius does not tell Laertes the culprit in front of Gertrude, fearing that she would turn against him.
Instead, he decides to tell Laertes behind her back. It is at this time that Claudius and Laertes are informed that pirates have returned Hamlet to Denmark, this gives Claudius a chance to strike a deal with Laertes: If Claudius lets Laertes kill Hamlet, then Laertes will be under Claudius’s command. This is a bigger advantage for Claudius as it gets rid of Hamlet without affecting his kingship, and it keeps Laertes under his command.
My lord, I will be ruled: The rather, if you could devise it so That I might be the organ. 5 Claudius thinks up a foolproof plan to murder Hamlet. He suggests that a fencing match be held between Laertes and Hamlet, with the exception of a sharpened sword given to Laertes rather than a blunt sword. He also adds that if Hamlet were to win, Claudius would give him a poisoned drink as congratulations to his victory. … And he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared him A chalice for the nonce; wherepon but sipping, If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck, Our purpose may hold here. 6.
This particular scene is extremely significant as it shows the reader how truly malevolent Claudius is and how far he would go to maintain his power. Claudius is one of the most important characters in Hamlet. He is a character of true power and hatred, who would go to any extreme just to maintain his power and his kingship. His obsession with absolute power is greatly portrayed in Act IV of Hamlet, making it one of the most important and vivid acts in the play.
1 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company Canada Ltd, 1988), IV.ii. 13, 16-16, 20-22. 2 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company Canada Ltd, 1988), IV. i. 31-33. 3 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company Canada Ltd, 1988), IV. i. 13 4 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company Canada Ltd, 1988), IV. iii. 3-9. 5 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company Canada Ltd, 1988), IV. vii. 69-71. 6 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (Toronto: Harcourt Brace & Company Canada Ltd, 1988), IV. vii. 160-163.
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King Claudius is one of the most interesting characters. (2017, Jul 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/king-claudius-is-one-of-the-most-interesting-characters-essay