What are 5 adjectives that describe King Claudius from the play Hamlet?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would add the few following adjectives to the other commenter's list:

Murderous: Claudius is quick to jump to murder as a way to solve his problems.  First, he murders his brother because he covets his brother's title and power, as well as his wife, Gertrude.  Then, when Hamlet starts to get on his nerves, he devises a plan to have Hamlet murdered too.  

Deceptive: Claudius deceives Gertrude about the death of her first husband, his brother, the old King Hamlet.  He also deceives her about his feelings toward her son and his nephew, Hamlet.  He very much dislikes and distrusts Hamlet, but he hides those feelings under a facade of fatherly concern and care.  For example, when Hamlet asks permission to return to school in Wittenberg, Claudius denies his request because he seems to want to keep an eye on him, though he tells Hamlet it is because of Claudius's love for his new step-son.  

Dishonorable: Claudius murders his brother while he is sleeping, even before old Hamlet has had a chance to atone for his sins; worse than murder, at least to the ghost, is that he now has to spend time in horrible Purgatory, burning off the sins with which he died.  Further, Claudius and Laertes come up with a plan to murder Hamlet by having Laertes challenge him to a duel where they will tip Laertes's sword with poison; this way, if he even scratches Hamlet, Hamlet will die.  Just in case that doesn't work, Claudius also poisons a cup that he plans to offer Hamlet when Hamlet gets hot from the duel.  He will not challenge anyone outright, in any kind of dignified or fair way.  Instead, he chooses these dishonorable ways of getting rid of his enemies.

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ambitious:  He craved the throne, and went to great lengths to obtain--and keep--his position as king once he gets it.  No one would murder and connive quite so much unless they were ruthlessly ambitious.

Manipulative:  Claudius is able to manipulate other people to do what he wants them to.  Take for example Polonius, who does his bidding all of the time.  Also take Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; they used to be trusted friends of Hamlet's, but under Claudius' manipulation turn into spies and potential murderers.  Then, Laertes is cunningly manipulated into challening and intending to kill Hamlet.

Selfish:  Claudius takes what he wants, with no concern for others.  He murders his brother and woos the queen, all to obtain the kingdom.  Whether this hurts people in the process is of little concern to him.

Conflicted:  One telling scene in the play shows Claudius on his knees, praying, tormented by his sins.  So despite his crimes and cunning nature, he still has a conscience that afflicts him occasionally.

Clever:  Even though Claudius is able to take the throne and manipulate people, he is very smart in how he does it.  He is aware of his position and popular opinion, and works around it very well.  Instead of having Hamlet killed for Polonius' murder, he sends Hamlet away on a ship, ordering his death away from the kingdom where people might rebel.  He carefully arranges for Hamlet's death to look like it had no connection thi himself.  He is smart, clever, and uses that gift to his benefit.

I hope that helped; good luck!

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Hamlet

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