Hamlet by William Shakespeare,

A Note on the Character of Claudias in “Hamlet”

Write a note on the character of Claudias in “Hamlet”

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Claudius is one of the most complex characters in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. He is the brother of the late King Hamlet and the current King of Denmark, having ascended to the throne by marrying his brother’s widow, Queen Gertrude. Claudius is a deeply conflicted character who is motivated by power and self-preservation, but also struggles with guilt and remorse for his past actions.

One of the defining characteristics of Claudius is his ambition. He is willing to do whatever it takes to obtain and maintain power, even if it means committing murder. Claudius is not content to simply be the brother of the king; he wants to be the king himself, and he is willing to kill his own brother in order to achieve that goal. This ambition is what ultimately leads to his downfall, as it drives him to make increasingly desperate and morally questionable decisions throughout the play.

Despite his ruthless ambition, Claudius is not a one-dimensional villain. He is a deeply flawed character who is plagued by guilt and self-doubt. He is acutely aware of the evil that he has committed, and he is constantly haunted by his conscience. This is most evident in his soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 3, where he expresses his remorse for killing his brother and his fear of divine retribution:

“O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t,
A brother’s murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect.”

This soliloquy reveals a complex and conflicted character who is struggling to come to terms with his own actions. Claudius knows that what he has done is wrong, but he is unable to fully repent or atone for his sins. He is trapped in a cycle of guilt and self-loathing that ultimately leads to his downfall.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare,

Another important aspect of Claudius’s character is his relationship with Hamlet. Claudius is acutely aware of Hamlet’s potential threat to his power, and he goes to great lengths to try to neutralize that threat. He first tries to win Hamlet’s loyalty by treating him as a son, but when that fails, he becomes increasingly paranoid and manipulative. He hires Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet, and he even plots to have him killed. This antagonistic relationship between Claudius and Hamlet is one of the central conflicts of the play, and it ultimately leads to a tragic showdown between the two men.

In conclusion, Claudius is a complex and multifaceted character who is motivated by ambition, guilt, and self-preservation. He is a ruthless and cunning villain, but he is also plagued by inner demons that ultimately lead to his downfall. His relationship with Hamlet is one of the most important aspects of his character, and it is through this relationship that we see both his villainous and his sympathetic sides. Shakespeare’s portrayal of Claudius is a masterful exploration of the human psyche, and it remains one of the most iconic and memorable characters in all of literature.


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Written by Chhanda Kaity

Chhanda Kaity, Asst. Professor (Lecturer), Bishnupur Public Institute of Engineering completed his Masters from Vidyasagar University with First Class after graduating with honours in English Literature from The University of Burdwan. He also completed B.Ed from The University of Burdwan.


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