King Claudius

King Claudius

Shakespearean Character
Shakespearean Character Less

King Claudius

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King Claudius is a character and the antagonist from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. He is the brother to King Hamlet, second husband to Gertrude and uncle to Hamlet. He obtained the throne of Denmark by murdering his own brother with poison and then marrying the late king's widow. He is loosely based on the Jutish chieftain Feng who appears in Chronicon Lethrense and in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum.


Claudius is seen at the beginning of the play to be a capable monarch as he deals diplomatically with such issues as the military threat from Norway and Hamlet's depression. It is not until the appearance of King Hamlet's ghost that it is revealed that Claudius may have poisoned the old king in his sleep in order to usurp both his throne and his wife. During the play's progression he takes a turn for the worse by first resorting to spying, and, when that fails, murder.

It is in Act III scene 3, when Claudius forestalls Hamlet's revenge by confessing his sins to God in his own private chapel, that the audience can be sure of his guilt. He is shown to be discontent and unhappy with the events taking place. The young prince spies him brooding about his wrongdoings and trying to pray for forgiveness, but he knows all too well that prayer alone will not save him if he continues to benefit from his own sin. If he was to truly repent, he would have to confess his sin and give up all he achieved through it, which he chooses not to do. Despite his remorse, the King still...
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