Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius


Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius


Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius

Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius

Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius

Claudius is the antagonist of the play entitled ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare. Though in the account of Hamlet, he is a bloody, bawdy, remorseless, treacherous, lecherous and unkind villain, yet the dramatist Shakespeare has portrayed him with a smooth hand as a gentle, kind-hearted, dutiful, meticulous, repentant and politically efficient and sympathetic king. Nowhere in the play is he shown as a villain and coward. His only abominable crime is that he is the murderer of his own brother. What he has done in the play is only for his self-defense.  Let us illustrate his character  with reference to his role played in the play, as below:

First, though he is the murderer of Hamlet’s father and marries Hamlet’s widow mother, yet he is sympathetic towards Hamlet. Noticing Hamlet’s over remorse, he consoles him genuinely, as: 

”But you must know, your father lost a father

That father lost, lost his…”

Secondly, politically he is very discreet and dutiful. He sends his two councilors to Norway to persuade Fortinbras the Norwegian prince from invading Denmark. He nowhere shows cowardice and when Laertes and the mob enter the palace as revolutionaries, he confronts a dangerous situation with coolness and confidence. He consoles and softens racy Laertes by saying:

”They find us touched, we will our kingdom give

Our crown, our life and all that we call ours

To your satisfaction.”

Thirdly he is never over-credulous but meticulous. While Polonius reports about Hamlet’s cause of madness as “This is the very ecstasy of love”- Claudius seems not to be satisfied. He thinks:

”There is something in his soul

Over which his melancholy sits on brood.”

Fourthly he is repentant of his sin for which he asks for forgiveness. He utters:

(i)   Forgive me my foul murderer.

(ii)  Is there not rain enough in the sweet heaven

To wash it white as snow?

(iii) My words fly up, my thoughts remain below

Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

Besides this, he shows genuine anguish at Polonius’ death and Ophelia’s madness. Even his love for his ill-gotten wife seems to be quite genuine. When the end of his life is at hand, he is not insensitive but seemingly patient and unruffled. When he is stabbed by Hamlet, he coldly tries to make little of his death agony by saying: 

”Oh, yet defend me, friends

I am but hurt.” 

Though seemingly Claudius is gentle, wise, discreet, kind-hearted, and sympathetic yet he is not a tragic character. He is the villain, though he is mild in action. He has numerous weaknesses such as- he is a murderer, incestuous, drunkard, physically weak and morally degraded. His instinctive preference was poison. This was the means of his first murder and he returned to it while deciding upon the murder of Hamlet. Though in difficult circumstances he showed no cowardice, inwardly he was always in fear and he took every measure for self-defence. In brief, to say, he is the villain of the play but he is portrayed with conscious mildness. 0 0 0

Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius

Read More: Significance of Dream in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius

N. B. This article entitled ‘Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius’ originally belongs to the book ‘World Drama Criticism‘ by Menonim Menonimus. Shakespeare | Characterization of Claudius

Related Searches:

Books of Literary Criticism by M. Menonimus:

  1. World Short Story Criticism
  2. World Poetry Criticism
  3. World Drama Criticism
  4. World Novel Criticism
  5. World Essay Criticism
  6. Indian English Poetry Criticism
  7. Indian English Poets and Poetry Chief Features
  8. Emily Dickinson’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  9. Walt Whitman’s Poetry-A Thematic Study
  10. Critical Essays on English Poetry
  11. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: Return of the Spirit-An Analytical Study
  12. Tawfiq al-Hakim’s Novel: ‘Yawmiyyat Naib Fil Arayaf’-An Analytical Study
  13. Analytical Studies of Some Arabic Short Stories
  14. A Brief History of Arabic Literature: Pre-Islamic Period
Previous articleShakespeare | Characterization of Hamlet
Next articleRenaissance Elements in Doctor Faustus
I am Menonim Menonimus, a Philosopher & Writer.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here