Analyze the rhetoric used in Claudius's opening speech.

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Rhetoric is that art of persuasion. Therefore, to analyze Claudius's opening speech, we first need to understand what he is trying to achieve.

Claudius knows that he has acted with undue haste in marrying Gertrude , his brother's widow, so soon after his brother's death. He has done this...

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Rhetoric is that art of persuasion. Therefore, to analyze Claudius's opening speech, we first need to understand what he is trying to achieve.

Claudius knows that he has acted with undue haste in marrying Gertrude, his brother's widow, so soon after his brother's death. He has done this to legitimize his claim to the throne, but he realizes that such a quick marriage doesn't look reputable. He recognizes, too, that he is rushing past the period of mourning for his brother.

Claudius, therefore, has two goals in this speech. He wants to acknowledge that he is grieving for his brother. He is lyinghe feels no sadness over the death of the brother he murderedbut he understands that he needs to look like a caring human being. At the same time, he wants to move the court away from thinking about the dead king and orient them toward the future. He wants them to fully accept the new reality of his rule and forget the past.

Therefore, he uses the rhetorical device of antithesis, which is to put two opposing ideas side by side. Every time he mentions the dead king, he also mentions the present or future. For example, he states of the late king:

The memory be green [new], and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
Together with remembrance of ourselves
The first part of this speech focuses on the grief and sadness felt for his brother, saying they are all united as one in woe, but with the "yet" Claudius turns the subject to himself. He asserts that the "wisest" way for the court to channel its "sorrow" is to pair thoughts of the late king with equal thoughts of Claudius. He then tries to move his listeners to focus on his war preparations against Fortinbras as a way to divert them from the past to the future. What he wants is to rush them past thinking of the late King Hamlet, a move Prince Hamlet resents, to focusing on him.

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