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Abby Broadhurst

AP Literature
November 15, 2013

CSI: Hamlet (1.2.90-121)

In the play, Hamlet, Shakespeare presents King Claudius as a condescending man worried about

threats to his newfound position of power as he accepts the throne of the late King Hamlet. Indications as to

this pretentious nature are evident in the first interaction between Claudius and his nephew, and now son,

Hamlet. When Hamlet appears in the chamber, clothed in mourning colors, Claudius greets him in an almost

patronizing manner as is highlighted by the quick transition in the tone of Claudius’s words which are used to

address Hamlet. Although Claudius initially refers to Hamlet’s mourning as “sweet and commendable,” his

words quickly adopt an undercurrent of insults. This transition is indicated by the word “but” which signifies

Claudius’s intent to expound upon the nature of Hamlet’s grief. Claudius assails Hamlet with a barrage of

insults, the words and phrases he uses all having a clear condescending connotation. Insulting phrases such as

“impious stubbornness,” “unmanly grief,” and “a heart unfortified” collectively imply that Hamlet is simply a

child who will not accept consolation and who is too stubborn and uneducated to recognize and change his

behavior. Claudius’s scorn is clear in his words and it may be assumed that such harsh language is delivered

with the intent to validate his own position as king. The complex situation that has denied Hamlet rights to his

father’s throne prompts Claudius to emasculate his new son and protect his own interests. This self-serving

aspect of Claudius’s character is also evident later in the passage when he states to Hamlet that his going back

to Wittenberg “is most retrograde to our desire, and we beseech you to remain.” In addressing Hamlet in such

a calm and falsely placating tone, Claudius is once again establishing his own power, although in a much more

subtle manner. His use of the word “beseech” is ironic considering it is a veiled order that Hamlet is not to

leave Denmark. Although Claudius begins and ends his communication with seemingly pleasant words, this

only serves as a weak attempt to obscure the underlying malice. The condescending tone incorporated

throughout his speech and the weakly veiled intimidation highlight Claudius’s cruel and self-serving nature as

he attempts to undermine Hamlet’s position as he is the only other potential successor to the throne.