Bloody Bawdy Villain!
Is there anything more to say about Claudius’s role and characterization in the play? Hamlet was written by William Shakespeare in the Elizabethan era. It is widely believed to be one of his greatest plays, although not everybody agrees, T. S. Eliot calls it an ‘artistic failure’ and contrasts the play to that of Mona Lisa, claiming that Hamlet is the “Mona Lisa of literature. ” Nevertheless, Hamlet has been debated over the centuries by the greatest scholars of the generations.
The play revolves much around the corruption of the State and Crown of Denmark; Hamlet calls Denmark “an unweeded garden”. Claudius is the central antagonist in the play, and is the focus of revenge throughout the play. Not only did Claudius commit regicide and patricide, but he also effectively stolen Hamlet’s God given right to rule and married his mother hastily after the death of his father. Millions of words on thousands of books and articles have been written on Hamlet.
They stand in ironic contrast to Hamlet’s final words “The rest is silence|.
The ghost of King Hamlet appears early on in the play and claims that his brother Claudius is responsible for his death, referring to Claudius as a ‘serpent’ which has connotations of poison and evil. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the twelve apostles to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. The Book of Revelations, however, implied a connection between the serpent of the Garden of Eden and Satan, and as a result the snake for Christians lost their earlier associations with wisdom and healing and became symbolic of evil.
Once the truth is revealed to Hamlet by the ghost, Hamlet swears an oath to avenge his father’s murder and becomes increasingly obsessed with exposing Claudius as a ‘bloody bawdy villain’ which results in the production of the ‘The Murder of Gonzago’ which clearly reflects the murder of his own father. Although Claudius attempts to repent his sins and prays to God for forgiveness, he only does so after he becomes suspicious of Hamlet, “madness in great ones must not unwatched go”. Hamlet decides not to kill Claudius at the chapel for while he is in a state of grace, he may be entered into heaven, which clearly would not be just revenge.
Although, Claudius cannot pray for he is still in possession of the rewards of his murder, the Crown and the Queen, “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go”. Therefore in order to repent and to be admitted into heaven, Claudius must give up his thorn and his wife, since Claudius is unwilling to do either the audience must assume that he is not truly remorseful of his crime. To add insult to injury, Claudius is married to Hamlet’s mother. Hamlet therefore doubts whether or not his mother had any involvement within the murder of his father considering their hasty marriage hereafter.
Not only has Claudius murdered his brother and the former king, he also attempts to kill his nephew and the rightful king of Denmark. Claudius becomes worried that Hamlet has discovered his secret and sends Hamlet to England for his death. However, when this fails Claudius cowardly attempts to persuade the melancholy Laertes to kill Hamlet in a duel with a poisoned sword. Claudius has committed a multitude of sins, his character is deceitful and cowardly. His greed caused the death of many and he was deceitful throughout the play all the characters.
What agitates me the most is the friendly attitude Claudius seems to display towards Hamlet “But now my cousin Hamlet, and my son” this to me seems extremely insensitive. At the end of the play, Hamlet achieves his revenge upon Claudius, but many innocent lives were lost in the process; Ophelia, Polonius, Laertes and Gertrude. Claudius says in Act 5, Scene 2 “Our son shall win”. Claudius is cowardly character is evoked until the play of the play, Claudius could have saved his wife from death, although he says “Gertrude, do not drink!
” He could have spared her life by declaring the cup was poisoned or by forcibly taking the drink from her, instead Claudius watches as his wife drinks from the poisoned cup which he had prepared, she died by his hand. It is not until Laertes proclaims “Thy mother’s poisoned- I can no more- the king, the king’s to blame” that Hamlet gains his just revenge. There are no positive qualities of Claudius evoked throughout the play. He is indeed a ‘bloody bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindles villain.
” Claudius deserved his fate, he was a tyrannical dictator who achieved his throne through bloodshed and dishonor. Hamlet remains one of Shakespeare greatest works due to the realism and diversity of the play. Shakespeare uses the image of rottenness in the play to suggest to the audience that a rotten king makes a rotten country and the greed and ego of one man can bring the country to its knees. Shakespeare achieves this by using metaphors; “unweeded garden” “serpent” and “maggots”, Shakespeare uses the theme of corruption to evoke to the audience that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
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