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The Presentation of Claudius in Hamlet

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2011: 4

(ii) Claudius can be seen as both a heartless villain and a character with some redeeming qualities in the play, Hamlet. 4

Discuss both aspects of this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the text. 4

2011:

(ii) Claudius can be seen as both a heartless villain and a character with some redeeming qualities in the play, Hamlet.

Discuss both aspects of this statement, supporting your answer with suitable reference to the text.

Claudius is both a heartless villain and a character with some redeeming qualities, but these qualities do not redeem him of the foul crimes he has committed. We know he is not entirely heartless as he is troubled by his conscience, and his qualities as a skilled diplomat and leader are acknowledged and frequently admired, but it is his blend of heartlessness and redemptive qualities that makes him a fascinating and complex villain. Overall, however, Claudius’ heartless actions cannot be redeemed by his leadership skills or his qualities.

Not long before the play’s opening, Claudius murders his brother, King Hamlet, in the most heartless and dishonourable manner: ‘Murder most foul, as in the best it is,/But this most foul, strange and unnatural’. And his act is so vile and heartless that even the grieving Hamlet finds it difficult to believe The Ghost, his own deceased father. Claudius’ sin has ‘the primal, eldest curse upon it’. Not only has he murdered his brother and his king, he has murdered God’s repre...

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