What is a good quote spoken by Claudius in Shakespeare's Hamlet that shows his manipulative and cunning nature?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Shakespeare's Hamlet, some excellent passages that show Claudius's manipulative and cunning nature can be found in Act 4, Scene 3. This scene takes place just after Hamlet has killed Polonius but refuses to say where he has stashed the body. Here, Claudius pretends he is sending Hamlet to England for Hamlet's own safety. He pretends he is protecting Hamlet from punishment, as we see when Claudius says, "Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety,-- / ... must send thee hence / With fiery quickness" (39-42). Earlier, he pretends to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he is sending Hamlet to England to prevent the courtiers from learning of Hamlet's madness since he is their favorite.

However, Claudius reveals his real intentions for sending Hamlet to England at the end of the scene. First, to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he speaks of everything being "seal'd and done," which refers to something he wrote in the letter he gave them to deliver to England. In his ending soliloquy, he refers to past skirmishes between England and Denmark, noting that England's "free awe / Pays homage to us," meaning that England is still afraid of Denmark (60-61). He feels this fear will motivate England to fulfill the request he has sealed in the letter, as we see when he speaks of his sovereign request, "By letters congruing to that effect, / The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England" (62-64). In other words, Claudius is saying in this speech that he has just written a letter to England requesting that they put Hamlet to death. Since he has just told Hamlet, Hamlet's mother, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he is sending Hamlet to England for Hamlet's own safety, we can see he has been lying and how Claudius's speeches in this scene reveal his true motives thus also revealing his manipulative and cunning nature.

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