The play Hamlet is one that brings out several themes the most common being revenge, treachery, incest and moral degradation among others. Claudius, the King of Denmark brings out these themes as the story goes on and develops the plot with his actions. In this paper, I am going to look at Claudius, a character in the play, and how his dialogue develops the plot. He brings out the themes of revenge, treachery, incest and moral degradation, the most prevalent being moral degradation. Claudius has corrupt morals and this can be seen in his dialogue, which is regarded as pouring poison in the ear. His dialogue is persuasive and this is enhanced by his good command of English therefore making his listener view him as an intellectual and makes him go further to follow his evil advices.
Claudius was King Hamlet’s brother, hence Hamlet’s uncle but he went ahead to kill King Hamlet and did not only seize his throne but also married his widowed wife (Timmins & Shakespeare 132). These two actions fuel Prince Hamlet’s anger and he vows to seek revenge. The details of King Hamlet’s death are revealed by his ghost, which goes further to instruct Prince Hamlet to avenge for its death. Claudius dialogue motivates the rest of Prince Hamlet plans of revenge. First, Prince Hamlet does not believe the ghost’s story and seeks to know the truth by staging a play whose theme was to show how his father died and therefore getting an opportunity to study Claudius’ reactions to establish the truth. As the play goes on, Claudius rushes out of the hall confirming Prince Hamlet’s suspicions. With this new truth, Prince Hamlet decides to avenge for his father’s death by killing Claudius but he is not able to immediately do so because Claudius mumbles incoherent words giving Hamlet an illusion that he was praying. This incident saves his life and gives him more time to plot on Hamlet’s death. Earlier on, Claudius had told two of Hamlet’s friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to investigate Hamlet, after Ophelia reported of his strange behavior, and report any strange behavior to him. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern later met their deaths in England as they tried to follow Claudius’ instructions.
When Claudius rushes out of the court, Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother and Claudius wife, seek an explanation from Hamlet for his strange behavior. During their conversation, Polonius eavesdrops and Hamlet stubs him thinking it was Claudius. To give justice to the bereaved family, Claudius decides to send away Hamlet to England but in his heart, he has a hidden agenda for Hamlet to die in the battlefront hence clearing his name. His plan does not work out and Hamlet returns to Denmark, which annoys him. In his dialogue with Laertes, he convinces him to take on Hamlet in a fencing match citing the appropriateness of avenging his father’s death and his sisters’ madness and her eventual drowning (Timmins & Shakespeare 97).
After Ophelia’s burial, Laertes and Hamlet went into the ring to battle each other. In his dialogue with Laertes, Claudius gave Laertes the option of doping his sword to make sure Hamlet died. Claudius went further to disclose to Laertes, that if Hamlet missed the sword, then he would not survive the poison he would put in his wine. This dialogue clearly shows moral degradation and how he was poisoning Laertes mind so that Laertes could poison his sword. This dialogue led to the actions that followed, which are as the fight went on, Hamlet was scratched by Laertes’ poisonous sword, Gertrude drunk the poisoned wine and Hamlet scratched Laertes with his poisonous sword. While dying, Hamlet avenged for his father’s death by killing Claudius through piercing him with the poisoned sword and forcing him to take the poisoned wine.
The symbolism of ears and hearing is also brought out through Claudius. Claudius caused King Hamlet’s death by pouring poison through his ear. This means that the dishonest words and advices Claudius gave King Hamlet caused his death and the ghost was warning that the same words would cause Denmark’s downfall, which they did.
Timmins, Samuel and William Shakespeare. Hamlet. London: S. Low, Son, and Co, 1860. Print.
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