I'm finding Act 1, Scene 2 of Hamlet difficult on account of Claudius' long-winded speech. Anyone else find this? How can I get past it?
Yes, Claudius does seem to be long-winded here. In my opinion, when Claudius acts this way, he is putting on a show to cover up the obvious issue that he married Hamlet's mother far too soon after the funeral of Hamlet's father. This important part of the exposition can, in fact, be found in this first long-winded speech. Here is the most famous line from that speech that explains what I mean:
With an auspicious and a dropping eye, / With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage, / In equal scale weighing delight and dole, Taken to wife. (1.2.11-14)
In other words, Claudius is trying to prove that Hamlet's dad's death was met with both joy and sadness because Gertrude is now queen. Claudius urges all to look beyond the sadness to the joy of a new marriage (which is quite shocking, actually).
Earlier on in the speech, Claudius also reiterates the important fact that Hamlet is unable to find the joy because he is too upset by his father's death.
Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death / The memory be green, and that it us befitted / To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom / To be contracted in one brow of woe. (1.2.1-4)
Yes, this proves once again that even other characters notice that Hamlet is in fact melancholy in nature which can help explain his other ruminations, including his contemplation of suicide which appears later in the play. Furthermore, give the play some time and it's sure to get more bloody, sensual, and interesting! Ha!