Analyze the character of Claudius in Hamlet.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Claudius is obviously a villain, but he does have some redeeming qualities. Shakespeare may have given him these redeeming qualities in order to make it seem just a little bit harder for Hamlet to bring himself to assassinate him. Claudius has a guilty conscience, as we can see in the scene where he is trying to pray for forgiveness. He is religious. He loves Gertrude sincerely. He tries to treat Hamlet with kindness for Gertrude's sake, although he doesn't trust Hamlet and wants to keep him a virtual prisoner in the castle to prevent him from trying to stage a coup. Claudius seems like a competent ruler. He handles his responsibilities efficiently. He is obviously intelligent. He has feelings, as seen with his reactions to the death of Polonius and the mental breakdown of Ophelia. Yet he cannot be forgiven for murdering his own brother in order to steal his throne and his wife. He is a complex villain.

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