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Unmatched Foes?Is Claudius a poor foe for Hamlet?  Why would Shakespeare not create a...

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:31 PM via web

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Unmatched Foes?

Is Claudius a poor foe for Hamlet?  Why would Shakespeare not create a more savvy adversary? 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 20, 2008 at 7:49 PM (Answer #2)

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Yes, I have always though Claudius was a poor excuse for a foe for a traditional hero, but Hamlet was lucky he was or he might never have attempted to exact his revenge. I think that Shakespeare wrote the Hamlet character to be sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent, and not at all the type to jump to action when the cause calls for it. He knew this about himself which was why he was so envious of Fortinbras' ability to take action when it was needed and go to war. Had Claudius been a really tough villain Hamlet might truly have shied away, perhaps he would have simply accepted his lot in life and dealt with the king as his new father. Writing Claudius the way he did actually made him the perfect foe for young Hamlet.

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 20, 2008 at 8:31 PM (Answer #3)

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Yes, I have always though Claudius was a poor excuse for a foe for a traditional hero, but Hamlet was lucky he was or he might never have attempted to exact his revenge. I think that Shakespeare wrote the Hamlet character to be sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent, and not at all the type to jump to action when the cause calls for it. He knew this about himself which was why he was so envious of Fortinbras' ability to take action when it was needed and go to war. Had Claudius been a really tough villain Hamlet might truly have shied away, perhaps he would have simply accepted his lot in life and dealt with the king as his new father. Writing Claudius the way he did actually made him the perfect foe for young Hamlet.

   You  may be right, but wouldn't you like to see someone of Hamlet's capacity spar with him?  He has no one to match his wit or intellect.  I like critic A.C. Bradley's fantasy that Hamlet meets Iago "in which the prince would see through Iago in a moment and thendrive the Satatnic villain to suicide by incessant satire and ironci mockery."  As Bloom (I know, there I go w/ the Bloom again!) says, "When the prince speaks of "mighty opposites" he is only being wistful" (Poem Unlimited, 64-65). 

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted February 20, 2008 at 8:47 PM (Answer #4)

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I don't know, you make some good points, but I just don't know if Hamlet would have followed through with a more worthy adversary. I mean I'm sure he would have been capable, but I'm not so sure that he would have had faith in his capability to follow through. I think he would have done his signature over-think and not followed through on the off chance that he might not be victorious and then where would he be?

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted February 21, 2008 at 4:58 AM (Answer #5)

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I don't know, you make some good points, but I just don't know if Hamlet would have followed through with a more worthy adversary. I mean I'm sure he would have been capable, but I'm not so sure that he would have had faith in his capability to follow through. I think he would have done his signature over-think and not followed through on the off chance that he might not be victorious and then where would he be?

   Alive?  :) 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 21, 2008 at 8:10 AM (Answer #6)

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Call me crazy and completely off base, but could Hamlet be the male Antigone? So his father wasn't also his brother, and he didn't have dead siblings. But don't they have similar motivations--justice for the dead? Is Claudius another Creon? Antigone outargued Creon at every turn, and Hamlet does the same with Claudius.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 21, 2008 at 7:09 PM (Answer #7)

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Claudius is too worried about people finding him guilty...Hamlet is a popular prince and Claudius doesn't want to be in bad graces with Gertrude and the people of Denmark.  Had he been a more formidable enemy, Hamlet would have been dead much earlier in the play? 

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