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Hypocrisy of Claudius

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 03:07 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 56.9 
  • Words: 1712
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“‘Forgive me my foul murder’! That cannot be; since I am still possess’d of those effects for which I did murder-.” (III.ii.52-6) The hypocritical Claudius proclaims the aforementioned prayer, but is Claudius’ prayer superficial?   Shakespeare’s Hamlet is teeming with deceit, incest, and hypocrisy; all of which are clearly portrayed through Claudius. Shakespeare obscures Claudius’ sinister characteristics through hypocrisy, but as the play develops, Claudius’ Mephistophelian nature becomes evident.

In the early acts of Hamlet, there is no direct evidence of Claudius’ villainy.   Claudius’ first appearance depicts him giving a speech to Queen Gertrude, Hamlet, Polonius, and other attendants.   Claudius explains,

“Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death the memory be green, and that it us befitted to bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom to be contracted in one brow of woe…therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, the imperial jointress to this warlike state, have we, as ‘twere with a defeated joy, with an auspicious and a dropping eye, with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, in equal scale weighing delight and dole, taken to wife. Nor have we herein barr’d your better wisdoms, which have freely gone with this affair along.” (7)

The naïve audience is unaware of the truth of King Hamlet’s murder, therefore, are also unaware of Claudius’ hypocrisy.   In the beginning of Claudius’ speech, he implores the attendants to mourn deeply the death of his brother, the former King, Hamlet.   The underlying hypocrisy lies within his orders to mourn because Claudius is not actually mourning Hamlet’s death.   Claudius also misrepresents his marriage to Gertrude by providing seemingly sound reasons and downplaying its awkwardness. Noted critic Joseph Bertram also relates Claudius’ hypocrisy to his devilish tendencies by stating, “Elizabethans viewed it (hypocrisy) as a particularly serious character flaw.   The king’s hypocrisy is...

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