In the play "Hamlet" what are the signs that Claudius is in charge?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Claudius first appears as a potent monarch who eloquently defends his ascension to the throne and marriage to Hamlet's mother "in equal scale weighing delight and dole," so that the state will not be "disjoint and out of frame" and sets about dealing with the foreign problems with Norway, he also is the "something [that] is rotten in Denmark."  For, he is a clever "monster" who devises plots that hide his intentions.

To put these devious plots into action, Claudius manipulates Hamlet's old friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to obtain covert information about Hamlet; he uses Polonius to spy on a meeting of Hamlet and Ophelia so that he can control Hamlet; he arranges for harm to come to Hamlet by again employing the accomplices Rosencrantz and Guilderstern to take sealed letters to the English king calling for Hamlet's execution in England.

When Laertes returns from France, concern about public opinion regarding the hasty burial of Polonius and the removal of Hamlet from Denmark as well as Ophelia's madness certainly exacerbate the king's problems.  But, he handles all these problems by confronting the enraged Laertes, saying,"divinity doth hedge a king" (Iv,v,124).  He urges Laertes to let his wisest followers judge whether he, the king, has been involved in the death of Polonius.  He fabricates an explanation that no public inquiry was possible about Polonius's death because the queen so loves Hamlet as do the people and he did not wish to arouse either.

Finally, Claudius enlists Laertes in his plot to kill Hamlet and convinces Laertes to agree to a plan less straightforward and honorable than that of Laertes: "cut his throat i'the'church" *IV,vii,126).  Ultimately, however, Claudius is caught in his multiplicity that runs throughout the play.

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