What are examples of bitter dramatic irony in Claudius's speech to Hamlet, and can you please explain them for me? Act I.ii

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gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A bitter dramatic irony occurs when Claudius says to Hamlet that "You are the most immediate to our throne" when, in fact, Hamlet was the Crown Prince and the direct heir to the throne after King Hamlet, until, of course, Claudius assassinated him and married the Queen, thus gaining the throne.

Two more occur back-to-back when Claudius is trying to persuade Hamlet to remain in Elsinore: "remain / Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye, / Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son." It is bitter dramatic irony that hamlet cannot be cheered or comforted by Claudius, both on account of his mother and on account of the Ghost's communication. It is also a bitter dramatic irony that Hamlet cannot be his "chiefest courtier" or his son because Hamlet is going to slay him in a revenge killing.

nkyra | Student

Hamlet’s mother Gertrude is the character who I have the most sympathy for and whom Hamlet has the most desire for. She is placed in such an odd situation in which she tries to be a mother to Hamlet while still being a loving and caring wife to Claudius. This is represented when the king asks Gertrude’s opinion about the cause of Hamlet’s condition, she sensibly says: “I doubt it is no other but the main/His father’s death and our [o’erhasty] marriage” (2.2.56-57). Gertrude is a resemblance to the game tug of war in which she is being pulled from one end to the other. Instead of one person winning the game at the end, in Gertrude’s game no one wins. Hamlet’s feelings toward his mother are expressed in his first soliloquy when he speaks of how he felt when he saw his mother with other men: “Must I remember? Why should hang on him/ As if increase of appetite had grown” (1.2.43-44). Hamlet speaks of his father and Gertrude and remembers how they were much in love. Now that Hamlet cannot take the place of his father he is again having those repressed thoughts about his mother. Hamlet is so full of resentment toward his mother’s marriage that he insults her sexual relationship with his uncle: “In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed, /Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love/Over the nasty sty” (3.4.91-93). This response toward his mother’s sexual encounters is improper and down right rude. In today’s society, you would not find many men describing yet alone discussing sex with their mother at all. This reaction simply supports that Hamlet is dealing with an Oedipal Complex. He also feels that his mother is too old to love anyone he states: “You cannot call it love, for at your age” (3.4.69). Who gave Hamlet the right to make the judgment of what age is too old to love. Hamlet feels that since he cannot have his mother to himself she is too old to be in love with anyone. Hamlet grows madder when he decides to describe the sexual encounters of his mother more in details: “Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed, /Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse, /And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses, /Or padding in your neck with his damn’d fingers,” (4.1.182-185). This description of Claudius and Gertrude having sexual encounters exposes Hamlet’s repressive thoughts about his mother. The way Hamlet is describing how King Claudius is touching Gertrude suggests Hamlet’s own fantasies about his mother. Hamlet describes how Claudius touched her and felt about her shows that Hamlet placed himself as Claudius, in a way a child would towards their cartoon hero. In today’s society we usually refer to boys and men similar to Hamlet as a “momma’s boy”.

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