Title-Explore how the audiences perception of Claudius alters throughout the play, with particular reference to the prayer scene. Needs more textual evidence. Word Count 2062. Includes Bibliography.

Essay by capslockB+, February 2004

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Claudius is one of the most important characters in Hamlet. He is the current king of Denmark, murdering his own brother, and marrying his stepsister to claim the ultimate achievement, the throne. Hamlet finds out early in the play when the Ghost of his father tells him "The serpent that did sting thy father's life / Now wears his crown." As the play develops, Claudius becomes quite disturbed by Hamlet's madness, fanatically spying on him and devising various plots to ascertain his motivations, at one point asking Hamlet's old friends to spy on him, "so by your companies... gather / So much as from occasion you may glean" asking them to gather information on 'his madness' from talking to them. When it becomes obvious to Claudius that Hamlet knows of his crime, Claudius plots repeatedly to have him killed, which, in the end, leads to his own demise.

He is regarded as the villain of the play, Hamlet's antagonist, yet he is similar in character to Hamlet in many ways. Claudius is thoughtful and pointedly acts early on in the play. Later, he resorts to more varied methods measures, extravagant and somewhat bizarre means of spying on Hamlet and ultimately ending his life.

The first scene in which Claudius is included is Act I Scene II. It is set in the royal court of Denmark, the public viewing place of royalty and their observers. The way in which Claudius behaves in this scene, compared to more private scenes later, can be used to create a theory of a public and private side to Claudius. His words show deep political intelligence and reveal his most important personality traits in the play, his seeming obsession with espionage and spying on Hamlet, his manipulation and handling of certain characters, and his...