In the play Hamlet, I think that Claudius is the central figure in the play and that his attempts to govern well are hampered by his nephew Hamlet. Claudius is the most true to life character from the play. His character has many good points but has his bad points as well. This makes him more credible. He is driven by ambition, which is still very appropriate to our current way of life today. He is a very capable leader in addition to being a very loveable character to most people in the play. The most important activities in the play all seem to rotate around him.
Claudius always seems to be the most dominant in all the scenes while Hamlet mostly appears to be in the background sulking and in general being obstructive and troublesome towards Claudius. When we are first introduced to Claudius, he is at his wedding banquet. This is the first of merely a few times, when we can see and hear Claudius without Hamlet interrupting and being obstinate. This allows us to see enough of Claudius to help us realise that most of Hamlets views on him are extremely biased. Claudius is obviously a very able leader. He is very aware of the affairs of state and is decisive, clever and effective in dealing with them.
When there is a threat of war, he first uses diplomacy but still prepares force. He is extremely responsible with his power and shows clear judgement and control while being brisk and businesslike. “Giving to you no further personal power to business with the king, more than scope of these delated articles allow. Farewell and let your haste commend your duty “. He also shows us that he is fast thinking and a good administrator in his successful diplomacy with Norway. These all show Claudius to be very capable in his position as king of Denmark.
Simple everyday examples like these prove Hamlets judgment of Claudius being “a vice of kings” and “a king of shreds and patches” are very narrow-minded. He is obviously just trying to hold back Claudius’ attempts to govern well but Claudius still manages to govern well and be the perfect statesman. Claudius bends over backwards to try to put hamlet at ease and make him feel more at home. He is the typical kindly uncle. All he wants is for Hamlet to be happy and content in his home “Think of us as a father” and “remain here in the cheer and comfort of our eye” are all ways he tries to get Hamlet feel welcome in their home.
Claudius even ignores open snubs from his nephew “I shall in all my best obey you, madam. ” Hamlet’s uncooperativeness is another feeble attempt to hinder Claudius from doing his royal duties as king. Nevertheless, Claudius makes a good effort to reconcile his differences with Hamlet; he even nominates him to be successor to the throne by telling him that he is “most immediate to our throne”. However, Hamlet is still bitter towards him and later in the play, he gives a reason as to why he has such a strong dislike for Claudius when he says “Popped in between the election and my hopes”.
Is Hamlet just jealous and trying to sabotage Claudius being a good king? Hamlet puts on an antic-disposition in front of the king. We know that he is pretending when he says, “I must be idle”. However, Polonius, the kings adviser notices that there is a “method” to the madness. Claudius deeply loves Gertrude “She is so conjunctive to my life and soul”. However, Hamlet places him in a difficult position when he realises that “Madness in great ones must not go unwatched” and that he is a danger to the state “How dangerous is it that this man goes loose.
” Claudius again has to decide whether to choose the safety of the state and govern well or choose the love of his life and not be a good king. He chooses the safety of the state, which again proves that his attempts to govern well are being hampered by his troublesome nephew but he as the central figure in the play can overcome this to do what is right – protect the safety of the state. So again, hamlet loses out and Claudius again comes across as a very able leader. Claudius has the full support of the whole court “Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone with this affair along”.
They all believe and trust in him. He is charming and gracious to everyone in the court and remembers everybody in his speech. “For all our thanks”. He manages to talk about his marriage to Gertrude and the death of her husband (his brother) and make it seem natural. “With mirth in funeral, and dirge in marriage in equal scale weighing delight and dole. ” It is obvious from the natural ability he has at making stories plausible that he knows how to please his courtiers and as a result is a popular king and a central figure in the play.
Claudius shows great courage in the face of real danger when Laertes marches on the castle with a unruly crowd shouting “Laertes shall be king! ” This is where we get to see our most impressive view of Claudius. While under a great deal of pressure and death a real possibility he can still manage to calm Laertes. He calms him down by giving him his complete attention “Laertes (X5)”. When Gertrude stands between Laertes and him to try to protect him, he shows, a strong nerve and a cool head when he tells her “Let him go, Gertrude”.
Even while in great danger he is calm and soothing and manages to turn his most powerful enemy into a useful ally “my lord, I shall be ruled”. Claudius’ most admiral quality is perhaps his sense of conscience. “How sharp a lash doth give my conscience”. He may have killed his brother but at least he is full of guilt for his wrongdoings “My offence is rank”. After the Mousetrap, play Claudius goes to the chapel to pray. He admits is wrongdoings and is full of remorse “O bosom black as death! ” Hamlet on the other hand after killing Polonius says “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell! I took thee for thy better “.
Hamlet shows no remorse and is just sorry that it isn’t the king. When Hamlet is telling Horatio of how he sent Rozencrantz and Guilderstern he says, “they are not near my conscience”. If he feels no remorse for sending three people to their deaths then how could that, the kind of person be central figure in any play? I feel that Hamlet could not be the central figure in this play and that Hamlet was just trying to hamper Claudius’ attempts to govern well. Claudius is the only plausible central figure in the play. He may have his flaws but then so does everyone; they just make him more credible. “A limed soul struggling to be free”.